Birth of a Nation
Bob Deans' insightful perspective in the cover package "America at 400" brings some reality to our national self-esteem and makes us better for it [May 7]. If Deans were to author every American history book in our nation's schools, students would eagerly anticipate history class. His intelligent, humorous and bluntly honest account of our colorful, tumultuous journey as a nation is written in a witty, often self-deprecating style that is typically American. Our forebears stumbled, triumphed and persevered with glorious and sometimes tragic results, and they prevailed, shaping the nation we are today. Deans could make any schoolchild feel pride in our ancestors' struggle to create that nascent and scrappy nation called America.
Stephanie DePrima, SALEM, ORE.
Sandra Day O'Connor went right to the heart of democracy in commenting that "teaching civic responsibility involves connecting a child's life to the greater community." The Founding Fathers reminded us of democracy's purposes: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The meaning of these principles needs to be taught every day in classrooms across America. Over centuries of trial and error, democracy came to fruition through war, hardship, political intrigue and education. Do we really believe that we can inject the principles we have learned over four centuries into Iraqi culture in a half-decade or even 100 years?
Joseph P. Hester, CLAREMONT, N.C.
When the British arrived in Jamestown, Va., the settlement of New Mexico was 67 years old. Florida's St. Augustine was 42. Even if we date America's birth from the establishment of the first European settlements, it is long past time for us to abandon the Manifest Destiny concept that American history is solely the story of how the English arrived on the East Coast and triumphantly moved West.
David Bamberger, CLEVELAND
As a woman of color, I believe Professor Orlando Patterson oversimplified the state of race in this country. While it is true that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senator Barack Obama have accomplished feats previously off-limits to African Americans, the success of these two individuals cannot be used as evidence that "it is now incontestable that [blacks] belong to America as America belongs to them." What about Katrina or the nearly 25% of blacks who live in poverty? I highly doubt that people in these circumstances believe America belongs to them.
Monique Robinson, PASADENA, CALIF.
I liked your article, but the name of our country is the United States. Where is it located? In America. I have a middle-school textbook at home titled Our American Neighbors. It contains stories of Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru and Panama, to name a few. The people of these countries are identified as North and South Americans. At what point did we decide to adopt the name of an entire continent? It's no wonder many people of the world who otherwise admire us nonetheless look at us with a raised eyebrow.
William Stout, SAN FRANCISCO
The Future of Guns
As a 57-year-old longtime N.R.A. member and gun-rights advocate, I have to admit, grudgingly, that Jeffrey Rosen hit the nail on the head in discussing how the Virginia Tech shootings revived the issue of gun control [May 7]. Given today's demographic and social trends, I foresee a day when firearms will be banned or at least severely restricted. The best the pro-gun side can hope for is to delay the inevitable, when Congress finally ends legal gun ownership in America. I already own just about all the guns I ever will in my lifetime, and future generations will have to settle this issue after I am long gone.
Leonard Martino, TAMPA, FLA.
You can't legislate against mental illness, and you can't legislate against narcissism. But you can legislate against the manufacture and sale of firearms. I don't understand why it is legal to manufacture automatic, semiautomatic and concealable weapons. If there are protections in the Constitution, drag that document kicking and screaming into the 21st century by amending it. Let the military and the police have their weapons, and let legitimate hunters and farmers have their long guns. But everyone else? Just let them try to club or stab 32 people to death in one go.
Marc Kramer, TORONTO
Phony or for Real?
RE Joe Klein's piece on the person he called the "no baloney candidate" [May 7]: We need someone like John Edwards as President of the U.S. He will say what he means and mean what he says. Most candidates beat around the bush on controversial topics like health care. Does the nation want more surprises like our current Administration's zany ideas? I don't. Bush has been making the world more unstable with his decisions.
Daniel Swain, PLYMOUTH, N.C.
I read Klein's assessment of Edwards with amazement. It was naive, to say the least. Edwards is without a doubt the most phony-baloney candidate out there, Democrat or Republican. He is the model of political self-interest. Edwards has been carefully grooming himself for political glory ever since he finished milking the health-care industry for every cent he could as a trial lawyer specializing in personal-injury litigation. His conspicuous baby kissing and do-gooder track record clearly indicate he's an ego-driven man purely in it for himself and will do whatever is politically expedient to achieve the highest elected office in the country.
Jeremy Dreyer, MATTHEWS, N.C.
Forget It, Pal
TIME reader Cole Russo complained that Joe Klein's use of the term fuhgeddaboutit was "an ethnic slur" [May 7]. Are we Americans of Italian descent all of a sudden becoming touchy? Let's relax. What harm can that supposed slur cause us, whose immigrant ancestors came from a country that produced Leonardo, Michelangelo, Verdi and Saint Francis? What apology is needed in the face of Italian Americans' many positive contributions to our great country? Fuhgeddaboutit!
Louis Miccio, SAN DIEGO
Healing Earth, Healing Ourselves
Your article on Darfur clearly spelled out how climate change can generate conflict [May 7]. I don't understand why it is so politically incorrect to say plainly that the world is becoming overpopulated and more people must use birth control. And if the oceans are rising even as various regions lack potable water, why isn't there more discussion about building desalination plants around the world? The U.S. National Security Council and the U.N. always respond to crises like Darfur by sending peacekeepers and money. Why don't they try the more viable solutions of birth control and water desalination?
Linda Smith, FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.