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Life During Wartime

Posted 12/22/2004

Your otherwise fine article on post-traumatic stress syndrome among troops (“A Tale of Two Soldiers,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 15) lacked a key word: “Iraqis.”

If a third of U.S. troops may face mental ailments and increased suicide risk after they come home from the war, what about the 24 million people whose home is the war? They don’t receive honorable discharges from living amid gunfire and explosions in a wrecked society. Not one American I’ve heard or read about has mentioned PTSD when considering whether our invasion was a good thing for the Iraqi people.

Is it wise to do things known to boost suicide rates to a society where the preferred suicide method (and to many, the only religiously allowed method) is by car bomb? In the Vietnam era there was a poster reading, “War is unhealthy for children and other living things.” That’s actually true. And we should remember that unhealthy Islamic societies breed America’s worst threats.

Alan M. MacRobert
Bedford, Mass.

Freedom vs. Cleverness

Brian Morton tries the usual journalistic shtick of condensing a wide-ranging, complex study or report—in this case, the Pacific Research Institute’s “Economic Freedom Index” report (Political Animal, Dec. 8)—into sound bites that titillate or create the basis for argument.

Morton’s spirited defense of high-taxation urban areas and disdain for the states rated as high in economic freedom remind me of the liberals who, after the recent election, couldn’t understand how Bush won, as they didn’t know anyone who had voted for him. For the record, I can name five friends—three individuals and a couple—who have left Maryland for Virginia or the Carolinas, based almost exclusively on Maryland’s taxation and “cost of living/doing business”—in other words, the very factors studied by PRI for its study.

A cursory study of the data posted at PRI’s web site, combined with data from the Census Bureau (as listed in The World Almanac) sheds far more light on the situation. The rate of population growth in the study’s top 10 “freedom” states from 1990 to 2000 averaged 16.8 percent, while the rate in the bottom 10 states averaged only 7.1 percent. Perhaps it would be fairer and closer to Morton’s points to compare the top metropolitan areas in these states—my back-of-the-envelope figures from my World Almanac show a rate of increase averaging 28.3 percent for the top 10 areas in the “free” top 10, versus 6.3 percent for the top 10 areas in the “bottom 10” states. Just because you don’t know anyone fleeing to Idaho (up 28.5 percent) doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Morton also seems to find it disingenuous or hypocritical that Libertarian activists like Nick Gillespie would choose to live in an urban area in a “blue” region. I suppose Morton would prefer instead even further division of the country into “red” and “blue,” with never the twain ever meeting; he should go assist the politicians that gerrymander political districts.

I choose to live in Baltimore in spite of its steep economic and psychological costs, in spite of its horrid kowtowing to one political party, and in spite of the feeling that I’m riding on the edges of a massive whirlpool trying to suck the city down into the bowels of Hades. I do it in part because I see myself in much the same role as missionaries in the jungle, or Jewish settlers on the Gaza Strip—we non-Democrats have a mission, and the only way to win converts to another way of thinking is to go forth and preach in hostile turf. Sure, I could lock myself away in the conformity of suburbia, but what fun is that? It’s more fun, albeit challenging, to convert others, one at a time, to seeing that there are alternative ways of approaching a social problem besides throwing government money at it. It’s just admittedly damn hard not to let the bastards wear you down in the process.

Incidentally, I suggest you go back and check over the past decade of City Paper’s annual Best of Baltimore Readers Polls. You may well find that the most popular “Best Reason to Live In Baltimore” by your readers was “Inability to Leave.” After all, I don’t know a single person that hasn’t put down that answer year after year—for all that’s worth.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV

Editor Lee Gardner responds: We have only asked our readers for their Best Reason to Live Here in our Best of Baltimore Readers Poll for the past five years. “It’s cheap” or “It’s affordable” swept the category four out of those five years.

While I agree with Brian Morton’s argument that we get far more out of taxation and regulation than Libertarians would have us think, it was distressing to see that his best argument was an all-too-typical, East Coast, elitist view that rural states are bland places devoid of culture and populated by hicks and idiots.

Of course, Mr. Morton is right that there is no Broadway or Guggenheim in Huntsville, Tex. But then again, they aren’t in Cumberland, Md., either. What Mr. Morton fails to address is the question of why we must accept his view that one way of life—urban, East Coast, elitist—is inherently good, while the other—pretty much anything else—is dull and worthless.

Also unclear is if Mr. Morton has any real exposure to places like, say, Texas. No, Dallas isn’t New York. Then again, neither is Baltimore. But just as Baltimore isn’t so bad, can Dallas really be the desolate place that Mr. Morton implies it is? He mocks the public education in Texas, but surely its schools produce at least some good students. (Indeed, perhaps he forgot that US News and World Report puts the University of Texas ahead of the University of Maryland!) While I’m sure that my own public schooling in Oklahoma puts me far behind Mr. Morton intellectually, I like to think that I at least know a few things.

And finally, is Morton really right that people are flocking to the culturally enlightened blue states while leaving the vapid red states behind? Sort of, except that Censuscope lists both Utah and Idaho in the top five states in population growth since 1990. Maryland? It’s at 23.

While I’m not suggesting that Mr. Morton would love life in Utah or Idaho (or even Oklahoma), I am suggesting that there’s a better case for his argument than the one he presented. Indeed, insulting those you are trying to convince is a poor tactic.

Lance Allred

Thanks for the Memories

Thanks so much for the appreciation of the late Dawn Culbertson, and especially for the picture of her with her faerie wings (Mobtown Beat, Dec.8). I didn’t get to know her personally but met her at many different cultural events and admired her very much. Just wanted to add that a significant contribution she made to the local scene was her all-night classical music radio show years ago (on WJHU-FM, if I remember correctly).

Jean Lall

Dear Dave

How deeply moving it was to see not just one photo of our son in your Nov. 24 edition (page 7), but also a second photo accompanying Van Smith’s appreciation (“Dave Desmarais,” Mobtown Beat).

To have known David is to have loved him. This was clearly evident to everyone who attended his memorial service on Nov. 20. Permit me to quote the lines accompanying Rachel Albrecht’s photo: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Not to worry, David.

He is sorely missed not only by his immediate family, but by everyone who had the good fortune to have made his acquaintance during his all-too-brief lifetime.

Kenneth J. Desmarais

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