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Family preservation defended, circus no life
DuBois and change.
FAMILY PRESERVATION IS IN CHILDS BEST INTEREST
To justify his attack on family-preservation
programs, Dr. Richard Gelles righteously barks out that "To hold
children hostage as part of some perverse experiment to see if this time
drug-rehab will take, is wrong" ["The Childrens Crusaders,"
May/June]. For a college professor, and head of the nascent Childrens
Group, Dr. Gelles shows an alarming lack of understanding of why we should
work to keep families together. Preservation programs struggle to solidify
families, not for the good of the parents, but for the best interests
of the child.
Ripping a child from its
mother and/or father can cause severe psychological trauma to the child
by destroying the parent-child bondsan injury, which, although invisible
to the naked eye, can cripple the child for life. Dr. Gelles "damn-the-parents"
attitude will ultimately lead to the unnecessary and deeply debilitating
removal of children from their families.
I agree with Dr. Gelles and
his colleagues that we must focus more attention on the child-welfare
system and take significant steps toward making it work better for the
children in its care. However, to succeed at this daunting and sacred
task, we will need to think more carefully and less self-righteously than
Dr. Gelles does.
Executive Director, Urban
CIRCUS LIFE SAD AND LONELY FOR ANIMALS
"Travels with Tarzan:
A Documentary Odyssey," by Robin Rosenthal C76 [May/June],
perpetuates a romantic, idealized view of the circus, focusing on the
hardships and accomplishments of the spirited human performers and staff.
However, Rosenthal only reveals one facet of circus life; the piece mentions
only in passing the animals who perform in the circus. In fact, life in
the circus is anything but romantic and exciting for the animals, who
lead sad, lonely lives and die prematurely. Circus animals are kept chained
up for most of the time they are not performing, and are transported for
long periods in train compartments that are stifling in summer and freezing
in winter, without food and water. They receive little veterinary care
and are forced to perform even when severely ill. Cruel methods such as
beatings and jabbing with meathooks are used to train circus animals to
perform the unnatural acts that appear so amusing to some people.
As if the abuse were not
bad enough, circus animals pose a threat to the human members of the circus
as well as to the general public. There have been several incidents in
recent years in which stressed-out and mistreated elephants have run amok,
killing and injuring several people. Several circus tigers have also attacked
and mauled their trainers out of frustration, causing more deaths and
Many wonderful circuses,
such as Cirque du Soleil, do not use animal acts. They dazzle the public
with thrilling acts performed by humans, all of whom have made the conscious
choice to participate in the circus. There is no reason why animals should
be exploited to provide cheap thrills to humans.
HOW MUCH CHANGE?
I suspect Dr. W.E.B. DuBois
would be amazed and indeed gratified at the change in the political and
academic climate between the time when I last saw him when he addressed
a small gathering at the Ethical Society in Rittenhouse Square (in the
late 1940s?) and now, as witnessed by the conference recently held in
his name ["Gazetteer," May/June].
One thing he spoke of then
that has always stuck in my memory was his sadness in revisiting Philadelphia
and finding that so little had changed for the better so far as the black
population was concerned since his days there 50 years before. I wonder
what his assessment would be today were he to gaze over the vast social
wilderness of North Philly and other disaster areas in Penns Green
MAGIDS IMPACT WAS PROFOUND
I was startled to see the
photo of Nora Magid in the Gazette ["Alumni Voices,"
May/June]. She was an avid (Polaroid) photographer, but a very unwilling
I read the article with keen
interest and pleasure; I was one of the lucky students who took Noras
expository writing class. Although I pursued a career in business, not
journalism, and hold two business degrees, no course had a more profound
impact on my life and career than Noras. The writing skills I learned
are invaluable; and I use them every day. Right now, as I write this letter,
I wonder what Nora would do to it. Which sentences would she extract and
have dissected on the chalkboard? Is it just right, or are there superfluous
words I could eliminate?
I miss Nora very much and
wish I could share my appreciation for her with her. Instead, I edit this
letter for the last time and share it with you.
Kathy Sklar Ordan
Let the May/June "Notes
From the Undergrad" ["Is This Love That Im Feeling? Warning:
Material not suitable for Penn parents"] also be a warning to
potential Penn benefactors that donations may well end up providing
a roof for hit shows like MTVs Loveline. Described as "a
mixture of entertainment and education
laced with] the f-word," the show was held, rather appropriately
these days, "on the eve of [Saint] Valentines Day."
A slightly older generation
might have enjoyed a similar evening with the likes of Howard Stern and
Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Going back even further, Lenny Bruces star
once shined bright. In any case, perhaps the Annenberg and Zellerbach
families, whose names honor the complex that housed the recent sell-out
performance, now may be just as happy to have their gifts rechristened
as the Jenny Jones Center and the Jerry Springer Auditorium, respectively.
After all, that brand of entertainment has become as American as apple
Cyrus J. Sharer
St. Davids, Pa.
NON-ALCOHOLIC SOCIAL OPTION: VOLLEYBALL
The Penn administration-appointed
task force goal of "altering the culture of alcohol use" ["Gazetteer,"
May/ June] is simplistically sophomoric and as naive as selling 3.2 beer
in 1933. Penn students are violent beneath apparent studiousness, so be
realistic: provide vigorous, healthy social violence like men-women volleyball
on Fridays. (Serve free cola to thirsty combatants.)
Susan Dexter Moesel
When your March/April
issue managed to wend its way across the Atlantic to reach me here in
Russia, I was interested to see the piece by Lisa Hayden C85 G89
regarding her experiences here ["Other Places: Russian Lessons"].
I must say that I was also
somewhat disappointed. Hayden mentions in passing the fact that she was
in Russia during the "bombing" of the Russian White House, but
doesnt give any details. She says that she met friends shell
"keep for life," but doesnt tell us anything personal
about them. She spent an extremely long period in residence, but doesnt
offer anything like an explanation of why she did so, of what attracted
her to remain for so long in the Russia which she depicts as insanely
violent, poisoned by radioactivity and generally hopeless. She gives a
brief, if somewhat addled, explanation of what "drew her to Russia"
in the first place, but really no information at all about why she stayed.
Although no American living
in Russia could avoid sharing many of her general negative impressions
about the character of life here, there are many people who choose, for
various reasons, to live that lifeand have plenty of good reasons
for doing so. Whats the point of writing about an important and
misunderstood place like Russia without exploring them? I must say, moreover,
that, having lived in New York for three years, I dont see much
difference between the kind of violence that goes on there and that which
she describes in her article. Also, I havent heard any stories recently
about schoolyards full of children being mown down by automatic weapons
fire, as I repeatedly do from the United States, or of babies being killed
in their cradles by stray fire from drug shoot-outs (a regular occurrence
in New York the last time I checked).
I often felt quite nervous
riding on the New York subway, but I ride the St. Petersburg metro at
any time of the day or night, in any area of the city, without the slightest
I must also say that I tend
to doubt Hayden would "keep" her "friends for life"
in Russia if they saw the article. Having "world-class concerts"
and speaking Russian isnt much of a review of their country after
spending half a decade there. Nor is having "no nostalgia" about
leaving it. Nor is "finding yourself" by being submerged in
"death and violence."
Finally, as someone whos
lived in Russia for three years outside of Moscow, I have to point out
that life in Moscow doesnt resemble, in any respect, life in any
other part of the country. Moscow now is like a Fellini-esque Xanadu,
whose population is as representative of Russia as New Yorks is
of the United States. I lived in the city of Kursk for two years, for
example, and never once saw a corpse.
I was left wondering, since
I wasnt told, why Hayden chose to live in Moscow rather than the
northern city of Archangel she often visited, or any other place.
In short, Russia cant
be expected to make the transition to a new way of life following 10 centuries
of autocracy in any smooth or reasonable way, and although it shows no
signs of any progress just now and may indeed destroy itself in the attempt,
it is not a land without redeeming graces and ought to be understood in
all its dimensions. America took a century and a half to give women the
vote, a century to free the slaves and only recently elected a professional
wrestler governor of a state. Russians have never been blessed with a
George Washington and will probably need much longer to solve their own
problems, if indeed they ever can.
On the whole, therefore,
I found reading this article an empty and unsatisfying experience that
left me wondering why Id bothered. I hope other readers didnt
share my view, or if they did, that they wont draw overly simplistic
conclusions about Russia therefrom.
Andrew C. Miller
St. Petersburg, Russia
VISITORS MAY FEEL GOOD, BUT
DONT DO MUCH OF IT
As a native of Guatemala
(born of North American parents) with numerous years of living in Guatemala,
Mexico and Paraguay, as well as other parts of the world, I was intrigued
by Susan T. deLones account of visiting persons she calls Mayan
women in Guatemala ["Other Places: Guatemalan Diary," Mar/Apr].
Several problems with her report stand out:
Sending a yoga instructor,
a tai chi teacher, a psychologist and a massage therapist for a
visitshe doesnt say for how long, but it was probably
briefmay make the visitors feel better but will have little effect
on the women in that country. Can a psychologist who must rely on
an interpreter from the dialect (Mayan is not spoken, but many indigenous
languages exist) into Spanish and then into English help anybody?
Subsistence dwellers do not need the luxury of massages; they need tools
for their skills and markets for their products.
Also, deLone describes breakfast
with only tortillas. Nobody in Guatemala eats only tortillas for breakfast.
Beans and tortillas will provide a diet for the day. Chickens are
common in that region. Fruit is plentiful. Coffee comes from the highlands.
Finally, if she was in the
highlands, where the indigenous population predominates, these people
could not have had their complex destroyed by Hurricane Mitch. I visited
Guatemala in December; the damage from the hurricane was in the eastern
Privileged North Americans
who make touch-and-go visits to depressed areas of the world may believe
they do good; they themselves probably feel better. The inhabitants are
gracious and, in some cases, astute enough to allow them the deception
of offering aid.
Robert G. Collmer
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