Letters to the Editor

Must Camille turn her blade on her own community? Plus: Fighting the "Babywise" bible; was Pope Pius XII a Nazi pawn?

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 3, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Feinstein for president! Buchanan for emperor!


Camille Paglia's column is both eloquent and razor sharp, yet I can't help wondering why there are so many victims left bleeding in her wake. With all the external homophobia in our culture, her stab-and-run approach appears to be adding to the body count with internalized homophobia as the bloody dagger.

Matthew Shepard is certainly not the "ideal image of the gay man to be
projected to the mass audience," any more than there is an ideal or perfect
image of any lesbian or gay man, or heterosexual person for that matter. My
sister was one of Ted Bundy's first victims, and while one could argue
endlessly about her internal goodness or human frailties, what is inarguable
is that she was savagely brutalized and murdered, as was Matthew Shepard.
That my mother or Judy Shepard could be "all-forgiving" is a testament to the
human spirit and its amazing ability to survive the unimaginable.

To defend rough-trade cruising that results in a heinous murder as free thought, an
essential part of gay male sexuality and an inalienable gay right is the
equivalent of standing on the San Francisco bathhouse steps at the beginning
of the AIDS epidemic, demanding that the doors fly open, and supporting a
continuing practice of multiple, anonymous partners and unprotected sex.
Neither position speaks to accountability, responsibility or the sometimes
horrible and unknowing consequences of cause and effect. To offer this as an
inherent part of the gay male sexuality is insulting and, in my opinion,
perpetuates the myth of homosexual lovemaking as perverse. I would submit
that it is this position that is "castrating" -- not the support of hate crimes.

As much as I admire and am moved by the frequent mention of
Paglia's partner, Alison, I would hope that someday Paglia could support, rather than
attack, the need for all human connection within the gay/lesbian community, between mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers and all their male counterparts. There are enough vicious attacks from the outside, without having more anger and dissent implode the fragile gains from
within. Whether it's Judy Shepard, Cher, Betty DeGeneres, or Ellen and Anne,
why stab the messenger when the message is so vital?

-- Lacey L. Lewis


Camille Paglia, in her latest column, lambastes the "academic
establishment" for de-emphasizing the acquisition of hard knowledge, and
cites an earlier work titled "The Corrupting of the Humanities in the
U.S." Can we please stop equating the academic establishment with
humanities departments? As someone with two degrees in physics, I can
assure Paglia and her readers that parts of academe still respect the
acquisition and even the expansion of hard knowledge. Moreover,
postmodernism and deconstructionism never come up -- except as the butts of
an occasional practical joke.

-- David J. Edmondson


While I applaud the author's call for the regulated legalization of
drugs, I would suggest that her views about employer drug testing need
to be revised. Because of the body's metabolism and storage of
chemicals (especially in fat), it is quite possible to test positive for
drugs, e.g. marijuana, days after use and days after the psychotropic
effect has worn off. If employers wish to test for impairment, they
should test for impairment with appropriate tests of coordination,
cognitive functioning, etc. Impairment comes quite easily from legal
medications and medical conditions that drug tests will miss. Drug
testing in the workplace is often inappropriate and punitive, and not a
means to "protect" the public.

-- Glenn Martin

Does Camille Paglia expect Salon readers to join her in "hailing"
Rush Limbaugh's tremendous intellectual influence, or be impressed
that she did? For the critical thinker, Limbaugh's only intellectual value is as a running
brain-teaser, with listening to him an exercise in identifying the
fallacy. Why would Paglia, champion of the humanities, hail the
intellectual influence of a man whose poisonous tirades give
the indication that he's never read a single book that wasn't published by
Regnery Press -- whose idea of great music is the Mannheim
Steamroller playing "Deck the Halls"? How can she attack the lockstep
mentality of the liberal media but praise the intellectual influence
of someone whose admirers call themselves "dittoheads"?

-- Charles Brower

Will someone please tell Camille to put down the
damn thesaurus and write in today's English? While I like some of her
articles, it pains me to have to keep clicking on the damn dictionary just to
understand her! We believe she is smart; she doesn't have to keep trying to convince us.

-- Darrell Hampton

High noon for nurturers


People who advocate "chastisement" of little children like to quote Bible
verses in support of their theory. However, the verses they quote are all
from the Old Testament and from a time when life in general was rough and

If they studied the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow, they
would find no such encouragement for violence. He commended parents who gave
their children what they asked for: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread,
will give him a stone? ... So in everything, do to others what you would have
them do to you."

When people tried to keep children out of the way, Jesus indignantly
exclaimed, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."
He even told a story about a man who didn't want to answer the door because
"my children are with me in bed." Hardly a case for letting them cry
themselves to sleep!

Instead of trying to make children over with harsh discipline, the hero of
the New Testament admonished people, "Unless you change and become like
little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (All references quoted are from the New International Version.)

I feel those who teach that spanking is a Christian method of raising
children are misrepresenting the truth.

-- Kathleen McCurdy

What's going on here is not a slight difference of opinion in parenting styles. The facts
are that when people institute Gary and Anne Marie Ezzos' horrible
advice, some of the babies go to the hospital, malnourished, dehydrated
and failing to thrive. Newborns are diagnosed with failure to thrive
because of the rigid feeding schedules and demands of parents that
babies eat when food is offered or suffer the consequence -- waiting
another three to four hours. Sometimes feeding tubes are necessary to keep the
infants from dying. Babies are left to cry unattended for long periods,
sometimes until they vomit, sometimes until there is blood in their
mouths. Some babies stop making eye contact with their mothers. Can
you blame them? The object of the Ezzos' practices is to break the child's
will and spirit, and, by golly, it does.

-- Peggy McGonigle

Bum rap


Lawrence Osborne doesn't seem to have read the book. Eugenio Pacelli had no problem at all standing up against communist atrocities and was quite willing to put himself on the line for that. Also, Osborne is ignoring the single most crucial point: that Pacelli completely dismantled the German Center Party (a Catholic party), which was at the time the strongest opposition party in Germany to the Nazis before they really came to power.

The church before the concordat barred Nazis from receiving the sacraments of the church. Hitler specifically signed this concordat to get Pacelli to declare this political opposition by Catholics wrong and to forbid the church and its members from denying the sacraments to members of the Nazi Party. After this, Hitler's primary opposition was completely dismantled; Catholics considered this the church's official approval of the Nazi party and many joined the party in droves.

Pacelli said nothing condemning specifically the massive Jewish genocide going on, of which he had full knowledge. Several documents uncovered by the author indicate Pacelli's own anti-Semitism as well as the connection he saw between Judaism and communism, which he saw as a far greater threat to the world than fascism or national socialism. He just made two very vague statements denouncing the unfortunate suffering of people during the war due to their race -- without even mentioning Judaism specifically. He did nothing at all to stop the deportation of the Jews of Rome when he was clearly in a position of influence to do so. Hitler wanted to take over the Vatican, but the Roman head of the SS sent a letter explaining exactly why this was completely unfeasible, as it would have enraged the world's huge Catholic population and turned them against the Nazis.

This is not an author who started the book with an ax to grind but, as he makes clear, a devout Catholic who intended to write a completely different kind of book, but could not after confronting the facts, for which I congratulate him. As a Catholic who finds it extremely important that the truth about these matters be addressed and confronted, I find this whole article sickeningly offensive.

-- Cathy Witalka

Most of the reviews of the Cornwell slander
against Pius XII have been naively or maliciously favorable. But Lawrence Osborne
understands how weak the argument is that Pius' centralization of the
Catholic Church weakened the will of German Catholics to resist Hitler.
There was no such German Catholic will to resist Hitler. Pacelli did
have a disagreeable personality and he did expect to be treated more like
an idol than the successor of a flesh-and-blood
Simon Peter. But Pacelli was no anti-Semite and no lover of Hitler. He was
just too much a diplomat and too little a Christian pastor. Cardinal
Tardini reminded Catholics after World War II that Vatican
diplomacy originated with Simon Peter's denial of Christ. Blackening Pius
XII has become necessary for leftist Catholics and for some Jews; but he
was not the worst of popes, though surely not the best.

-- Norman Ravitch

Professor of history

University of California, Riverside

Lawrence Osborne's review cites the slaughter of the Dutch Jews in 1942 to
underline the Nazi response to any Catholic criticism of the policy of
annihilation. But this situation can't really be compared to what happened in
Rome in 1944, since the German position in Italy at that time was much more
precarious. The Allied advance was inexorably coming closer to Rome -- and a
prominent papal response to the Jewish round-up, one which might even have put
the Nazis in the position of actually having to physically imprison the pope,
would have tied up precious resources. It was a classic
negotiating situation, and that Pius XII didn't do anything is a grave blot on
his name -- especially when examined alongside the welcome and protection he extended
to Croatian war criminals, who were Catholic, after the war.

Osborne scores debater's points by turning Cornwell's argument into the
position that the church, under Pacelli, could have stopped the massacres
cold. That argument would, of course, be ridiculous. But the
much more interesting argument has to do with whether, in some places and at
some points during the war, the church could have operated differently so as
to save Jews. The corollary to the proposition that they could have is to
show that, due to internal political issues within the Vatican, they didn't
take their opportunity. Since we know this to be the case with other
governments -- notably, Horthy's in Hungary -- Osborne's rejection of it seems

Furthermore, the case against the Vatican is strengthened by the Catholic
role in some other places, like Croatia, Slovakia and perhaps Hungary.
Slovakia was officially headed by a priest; and the situation in
Croatia, in which Serbs and Jews were killed in astonishingly high numbers,
was supported by many priests. Because the church was much more concerned
about communism than fascism, it did sanction collusion in these cases.

If nothing else, Cornwell's book makes a strong case for the Vatican opening
up its records on this period in history. It also makes it plain that Pius
XII was no saint.

-- Roger Gathman

It is indeed unlikely that Pius could have swayed
Hitler's policies toward European Jews (or Gypsies,
homosexuals and Catholic dissidents). However, I
disagree that this absolved Pius from his moral
responsibility to speak out. Silence about
totalitarianism is tacit approval, and in the case of
someone in Pius' position, collaboration. We can
guess, in hindsight, that Pius could not have changed
the course of events, but it's wrong to conclude that he need not have tried.

-- Bill Ravdin

Oakland, Calif.

Snake eyes

All the anti-gambling "studies" touted by opponents can't refute the ongoing
seven-decade study that's Las Vegas. It's the most successful city
created since the turn of the century -- full of churches, free of state
income taxes, with virtually full employment, terrific education, world-class entertainment, good housing and a round-the-clock economy -- what's not to like?

Tunica and Biloxi, Miss., are but two of many examples (since
Atlantic City) of how gambling has revived impoverished sites around the country.
Sure, there are economic inequities and corruption, but no more than taint
cities without gambling. Anyone who doubts the efficacy of state-regulated
legalized gambling need only visit the reality of Vegas to recognize the
hypocrisy and denial behind its opponents' dark prophecies. Viva Las Vegas!

-- Robert Glass

The mysterious mind

Neuroscience will fail to explain "how the mind works"
less because it "lacks a unifying insight" into its various data than because its
subject of study (if it is, indeed, the mind) is not a datum. Unlike
neuroscience, other sciences limit themselves to theoretical explanations of
observable phenomena. Correlations of various types
of subjective experience to observations of the brain don't count as an
explanation of the mind, because there is no satisfying model of the causal
link between the behavior of physical things (including the brain) and
subjective experience.

If sensations were observable to third parties as
just one more kind of physical object, then linking certain sensations to
specific kinds of brain activity would go some way towards providing us with
a satisfying explanation of the mind. Unfortunately, the most interesting
fact about the mind -- the one that arouses our greatest curiosity -- is
the very fact that will prevent any empirical science of consciousness from
succeeding: Sensations, thoughts and consciousness are not empirically
observable even to those who have them (having sensations and knowing that
we have them is not the same as seeing, touching or measuring a sensation).

This is not to say that neuroscience has no proper object of study: It is the brain, but not the
mind, that neuroscientists explain when they correlate various kinds of
experience to specific brain-states. Yet it is unhelpful to conflate the
explanation of one with the explanation of the other, as Horgan does even in
the title of his book.

It's tempting to the scientifically exuberant to identify objectivity (in-principle scientific
explicability) with existence in general. But there's no hard evidence in
favor of doing so; for all the discomfort it may cause us, there is nothing
inconsistent about the existence of both objective phenomena (including
those having to do with the brain) and subjective experience along with
their strong correlation and causal inexplicability.

-- Wes Alwan

Arthur Allen's statement that "some recent studies have shown Prozac to
be no better, on average, than a sugar pill in treating depression" is a ludicrous statement. Further,
the argument that Peter Kramer's book had anything but the slightest effect on Prozac's dramatic rise in popularity is equally daft. The reasons Prozac is so popular are a) it works, based on the summation of all controlled experiments, as computed statistically by meta-analysis,
(as opposed to a single individual's misguided opinion), and b) because drug companies deploy massive marketing machines to support those drugs that work particularly well.

-- Neal J. Roese

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

Northwestern University

Evanston, Ill.

Brains for hire


Applying the term "compassionate conservative"
to William Bennett is a bad joke. Bennett
has been a leading hit man for the extreme right-wing for a long time. And I haven't heard anything compassionate
in Bennett's political proposals: His only answer
to the drug problem is to build more jails. His only
answer to school problems is to further weaken public
schools by supplying vouchers to private schools.
He is a prime proponent of the Republican proposals
to reduce taxes for the wealthy and cut benefits for
the poor.

-- Morton Wachspress

Woodmere, N.Y.

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