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Letters to the editor

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AshRyan
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Some of the best activism in which young people, particularly college students, can participate, is writing letters to the editor. Sometimes it seems that you're not really reaching anyone, and while I have been an avid and regularly published letter writer for some time now, I've often felt like that; but I'd like to share an example that convinced me that perhaps I was wrong, and maybe I'm reaching more people than I thought.

I live in Utah, which, as you may know, is pretty much controlled by the LDS (a.k.a. Mormon) religion. The largest newspaper in the state (the Deseret News) is owned by the LDS church, but often publishes letters to the editor on many different sides of a given issue (I think this is because some very leftist people have managed to infiltrate the generally right-wing paper's editorial board).

They published one of my recent letters that I wrote in response to attacks on atheism, which can be found here (although slightly edited and with a title that's not mine). A couple of days later, this letter was published in response to mine--a letter from Florida, stating that the paper was read all over America by those interested in the religious/political scene, and that my letter was appreciated. (This is consistent with the fact that letters from people out of state are published by the paper with some regularity.)

So, while I thought that the only people who were reading my letter were those who belonged to the dominant religion here and had closed their minds to rational persuasion and lived by dogmatic faith, it turns out that my audience is apparently both wider and more sympathetic than I had suspected.

So don't give up! Be an activist in any way open to you, and it may have results beyond what you can immediately see. :)

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  • 10 months later...

I can't be the only person on this board who writes letters to the editor (at least I hope I'm not), so I thought it would be a good idea for people to post their letters here (either in this thread, or in the "Activism..." forum more generally--perhaps threads could be created for people to post their letters on particular topics, or something like that).

There are two main reasons for this. First, if you post links to letters that you have had published, other board members will be able to see some activism succeeding on some level, which can help keep us all motivated to keep up the effort. And second, people could even post their letters here that haven't been published, so that at least other people here could read them and writing it won't have been just for practice. :) And in either case, other board members can then offer comments, suggestions, etc. about the letters posted.

I'll start off with the last letter I wrote, which I submitted to my local paper (The Deseret Morning News) on Tuesday the 23rd (but which they have not yet published):

The front-page stories on the 22nd and 23rd about the death of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin keep reminding us that he is a "wheelchair-bound...spiritual leader."  But they fail to mention that he has been behind many terrorist attacks and is personally responsible for the deaths of many Israeli civilians, and that he called for Muslims to "threaten Western interests and strike them everywhere" (as reported in the NY Times, Feb. 7, 2003).

The world should rejoice at the death of this monster, and thank Israel for having the moral courage to kill him.  The fact that it doesn't is just so much the worse for the world.

Please feel free to comment, post your own letters, offer suggestions about this idea, etc.

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  • 2 months later...

Here is a column I wrote for the Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper at Iowa State University.

The US was not founded as a Christian nation

It was faily well received, being picked up by U-wire, which is the AP equivalent for college papers. ISU typically has a strong religious community, and I expected some sort of angry repsonses, but I received none ;) .

I encourage people to write letters. It can be fairly rewarding, and with all the crap that is usually published these days, it is crucial that the Objectivist view gets heard. College papers are especially good because usually students have fairly good access, and you can start up lengthly debates through the paper which thousands of readers see.

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For the last two semesters I wrote a bunch of letters to the editor of the Daily Texan (www.dailytexanonline.com), and at least one a week was published. This may have been due to the unique voice of Objectivism, or due to the fact that one of my roommates was an associate editor.

But now, I may have finally landed a position as opinion columnist. And at that point my letters will no longer be published.

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Here is a column I wrote for the Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper at Iowa State University.

The US was not founded as a Christian nation

Good article, Spano. It does a very nice job of putting the lie to the idea that America was founded on Christianity. It should probably include a little more about why they wanted separation of church and state, rather than just that they did, but I suppose that is a topic for a separate article, eh?

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Thanks.

It should probably include a little more about why they wanted separation of church and state, rather than just that they did, but I suppose that is a topic for a separate article, eh?

Yeah, its that annoying 800 word limit. I'm amazed at how I struggle to make the minimum word requirements when I write things for classes which I don't have much interest in, but when trying to express my position on a topic I care about, it becomes a matter of cutting words.

Hopefully I can get a weekly column, that would give me plenty of space to work with.

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Perhaps. I think I would have preferred a trial first.

God, that's #$*&! malevolent or totally clueless.

Most people who utter this today are environmentalists (this is my term for the feminist/racist/socialist/pacifist/animalrightsist/tree hugger). They mean: mass murderers should be let go, innocent people should be butchered.

A few confuse law enforcement in a civilized society with the conduct of a war. Consider the following two examples.

(1) It's 2am in Harlem, NY. A store burgler alarm is going off, and there's a black man running down the street carrying a TV on his shoulder. The police chase him. He runs into a building. They call in an airstrike, which destroys the building and all the people inside it.

(2) It's Iraq. A terrorist fighter shoots two rockets at a group of US Marines, killing two and severely injuring several more. He runs, and the other Marines chase him. He enters a building. The troops surround the building, and using megaphones, demand to start negotiating his surrender. There is a standoff for hours, until homemade rockets from the rooftop kill dozens more Marines and cause the rest to run away in fear.

Both of these scenarios were handled exactly wrong.

In a civilized, peaceful society, law enforcement MUST NOT risk any harm to innocent people. This is a higher mandate than anything else, including capturing the criminal.

In a war, soldiers MUST NOT lose the battle or their lives. This is a higher mandate than anything else, including avoiding harm to "innocent" enemy civilians. In general, going out of the way to harm civilians does not help prosecute war, and so rational military forces don't blow up school buses, rape all the women in a village, rob the farm houses, burn them down, etc.

These principles can only be grasped in context. The purpose of law enforcement is to protect the individual rights of life, liberty, and property. It would be an obscene contradiction to attempt to do so by recklessly injuring or killing innocent people.

The purpose of rational country in waging war is to wipe out an enemy country which threatens it as quickly, and cheaply, and low-risk as possible. Pausing to smell the roses--or trying to avoid death to a civillian--can and does cause death to one's own soldiers. The rational field commander values each individual Private, Second Class more highly than the lives of all the "innocent" people in the enemy country. If their deaths, en masse, can save the life of one of his troops, he makes the trade without hesitation, and without guilt. If not, either he's a traitor or else the war is not proper.

The next error in demanding a trial for enemies captured or killed in battle is that one ought to be confident that they are guilty before one starts the war. Never drop the context that many lives have been lost on both sides before one gets to an enemy leader. If there was any doubt, one should not have engaged the war.

This leads to the next question. Is it doubt that Hamas is a mass-murdering terrorist organization that leads to calls for a trial? Or is it desire for the farce of granting "constitutional rights" to a mass-murderer in the hopes that he can game the system and live to kill another day?

"Mercy to the guilt is treason to the innocent."

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If Israel has declared war, then you are correct. I do not mourn or regret the death of this individual, I simply would have preferred a judicial process first. If that was an impossibility, so be it.

Remorselessness in pursuing and distroying the enemy during a war, is a moral act. However (and this is really a different topic from the one we are addressing), there can come a time in a conflict--for example, when a war has been all but won--where violence, especially against the civilian population of the soon to be conquered nation, becomes gratutious or sadistic neither of which can be justified. I offer the fire bombing of Dresden as an example.

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To return to the subject of this post. I agree that letters to the editor are a good way of speading the Objectivist message. I would also like to hear some sane voices in some of the call-in sessions on C-Span. If reasonable voices are needed anywhere, it is there.

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If Israel has declared war, then you are correct.  I do not mourn or regret the death of this individual, I simply would have preferred a judicial process first.  If that was an impossibility, so be it.

Israel is in a de facto state of war. They are surrounded by savage mentalities who physically seek its destruction. Israel should be free to take whatever steps are necessary to protect themselves, and there is no reason to expose their troops to harms way in order to attempt a capture when they can destroy that murderous enemy directly. I would only wish that Israel was more aggressive in this sort of action, not less aggressive.

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  • 4 months later...

I haven't been in the board much lately (for the past month or so), and a big part of the reason for that is because, with the elections approaching, I've been busy involving myself in various forms of activism. One of those is letter writing, and in the past month I've had several letters published in my state's two largest newspapers--the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune--as well as my university's (the biggest and best school in the state--I know, that's not saying much <ahttp://forum.objectivismonline.com/uploads/emoticons/default_smile.png' alt=':)'> ) daily paper, the Chronicle. They've been on a wide range of topics from animal rights protestors (here and here) to the erroneous fear of depletion of natural resources (here) to, most recently, the Bush administration's outrageous concession that they would allow a Shiite theocracy to come to power in Iraq by "free elections" (here and here, in the Sunday edition of the Tribune). The unedited versions of those letters, and probably a few other letters I've written lately, are available at my club website.

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