Letters to the editor

More sympathy for parents with disabled children Plus: What about pro wrestling's contribution to television?; Why did Susan Brownmiller vote for a "rapist" -- twice?

Published January 7, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

I can't hate the Kelsos


Hear! Hear! What Mitchell wrote was harsh and angry and absolutely right-on. My own son was destroyed by a botched delivery (in my city's best hospital), leaving him severely brain-damaged. Back when his long post-natal hospitalization was wrapping up, we were never asked if we were up to the task of taking him home. We didn't know what tasks lay ahead. And so we brought him home, fed him through his stomach tube every two hours, took him to physical therapy several times a week. The theme of our lives became his care, his troubles, his sad condition -- all with little evidence that he was even aware of us.

While there are some options for institutional care, you're right that there aren't many. And we always felt that we were viewed as selfish for even thinking of those options -- not by our dear therapists, doctors, and nurses, and certainly not by our friends who wondered how long it would be before we cracked. But the agencies handling our case simply didn't consider the idea that such a child shouldn't be a constant burden to his parents and siblings.

After months and years, our poor son died. And when I read a piece like yours, I can't help but wonder if he did it to rescue us all from our lot. Our burden was never like yours continues to be. My heart goes out to you. If only you could feel more support and sympathy from those who know only what they've seen in TV movies.

-- Miles P.

Anne Mitchell has it exactly right. The hospital had no business calling the law. The Kelsos would have retrieved the boy when they had a few hours to think. Nobody who has cared for a disabled child can understand the real willpower showed by the Kelsos. They need support from their community, not condemnation.

-- Joel Smith

I cannot imagine the Delaware police and court system arresting and detaining the Kelso parents. It is so easy to see that they were looking for good help for their son and were exhausted. I don't know how parents go on without cutting off the respirator. What do we expect of these people? Far more than most of us could do. I have always said we should teach young women to leave babies in the emergency room instead of garbage cans if they felt they had to dispose of them. How hypocritical are we that we force people to take care of any child when they are saying they need help?

There is truly something wrong with the whole system that it would try to "hurt" the Kelsos for leaving their child in such good hands. I had to laugh when I saw some social services type say they were going to place him in foster care. They can't even find homes for kids with no problems -- who could take care of him? It would take a hospital to replace his mom and dad -- certainly no other untrained mortals.

My best wishes to the whole family and to others who had the same burdens with such little help. We now have a judge who believes they should have no contact with their son. How is that in the best interest of any of the parties? I live in Delaware and I am embarrassed by our judicial system.

-- Martha Brown

Although I have never been in the Kelsos' position, I can't begin to imagine the toll such 24-hour care must take on the parents. Although everyone talks about the resources available for such parents, my guess is that it's not so easy to find. Any parent who has cared for a sick child housebound with a cold, ear infection, measles or chicken pox knows how grueling that can be. Multiply that by a number incomprehensible to most of us and think what it must be like. I just wonder why they didn't seek help or a residential facility before taking such a drastic step. My heart goes out to the parents of those children who are never free from the care and responsibilities. I'm sure they can't call a babysitter or family member to take over. The rest of us can't begin to know what it's like so we shouldn't judge them.

-- Nanci Weber

Twenty ways the '90s changed television

I agreed with Joyce Millman's article for the most part, but how can you leave off professional wrestling? I think its rise to popularity over such "traditional" sports such as football was a clear demonstration of the resentment many felt toward professional sports this decade. As the world of "real" sports has become more about entertainment and marketing than the product on the court or the field, people found wrestling's lack of pretension refreshing. Sure the matches are scripted and the performers' conduct is outrageous, but after watching many of the things that transpired this decade, (Latrell Spreewell, the Dallas Cowboys, Holyfield vs. Lewis I), the same can be said of professional sports. At least with pro wrestling you know it's all an act.

-- Matt Jones

While I found Millman's article to be right on the money in most aspects, I just want to point out that she missed one show. NBC's "Law & Order" has been the consistently best cop/attorney show on television bar none. I agree that "Homicide" was also fabulous, but without "L&O" opening the doors for thoughtful crime drama, "Homicide" would never have been possible. "Law & Order" has shown us the law (and the way it's twisted by players on both sides of the bars) as moral touchstone for many years now. Millman says in her article that "Homicide" was hanging on by its fingernails year after year and I agree that that says more about our current willingness to accept truly challenging entertainment than it does about the show. However, just because "Law & Order" has been accepted by the critics and public alike does not mean that it's not influential and meaningful.

-- Terry L. Welch

Joyce Millman's review of the '90s is astute, discriminating and continuously interesting. But she underrates "Northern Exposure." I was one of the few in on it from its summer beginning and never missed it. Now that it reruns every day on A&E, I've been watching its cycle through five days a week with increasing amazement and delight. It not only continues to hold my interest -- its characters become remarkably real people, growing and changing before your eyes.

I rank "Northern Exposure" right up there at the top of the all-time list, followed by "All in the Family," "MASH," "Hill Street Blues," "Twin Peaks" and "Naked City." Given the fate of David Lynch's aborted series for ABC, I doubt that we'll see another "Northern Exposure."

-- Gerald Trett

Twilight of a Feminist


While I find it refreshing to hear a feminist such as Susan Brownmiller criticize Bill Clinton, I am baffled by her tolerance of a person she believes to be a rapist holding the office of president of the United States. At her Web site, Brownmiller states that she believes Juanita Broderick's accusations against Clinton, but she also tells us she twice voted for him and would not call for his resignation. If committing rape is not enough reason for a president to step down, what is?

-- Robert Franklin

Feminism is not about a war for equal rights, but a war on all rights, like its analogues, African national socialism and Christian fundamentalism. As much as Brownmiller postures about separating herself from the visible insanity of feminism, it is the logical consequence of her earlier work. She cannot now claim 'But this is not what I meant' without repudiating the foundation of her movement's misanthropy. Like Bolshevism before it, feminism's greatest harm has been to the group whose interest it claims to support.

-- Richard Henkus

Naked Eye

Daniel Sieberg's story was an annoying whine of a read. He felt "violated, angry, afraid," after a hacker broke into his home computer. He claims he was "trolling" soft-core sites on the Net for a graduate school research project when he was victimized by a Trojan horse.

Are we really supposed to sympathize with someone who feels great fear because someone hacked his computer? This diminishes acts of crime that truly merit great fear: rape, child abuse, nuclear proliferation, the starvation of millions of people, the degradation of the environment.

After reading his article, I admired the Australian hacker. At least the hacker had some kind of discernible character and sense of humor, despite his prudishness. He turned the image on the author's monitor upside down, and sent a sound file of his voice saying, "Well, g'day. I'm your friendly hacker in Australia." The first human-sounding, confidently written words in the story came from the hacker!

-- Todd Ojala

False Memory Syndrome

Cheers to Kevin Giordano and Salon for publishing his excellent article on false memory syndrome. I am delighted Valerie Jenks was able to get on with her life in spite of the truly abusive treatment she received in therapy. I am a mother who has been accused by my son. His early recovered memories were of sexual abuse. Now he doubts their accuracy, but they have so contaminated his feelings about me that he insists upon no further contact. His world and mine have been turned upside down. We are both heartbroken.

-- Irene L. Miller

The suggestibility of memories and of hypnotized patients is a very serious issue, but your article far oversimplified the situation. I have several friends with dissociative disorders (of which "multiple personalities" is the most widely known). Some have had years of therapy, some have had none, some have been diagnosed with bipolar or depressive conditions and treated for that. Many of them have no memory whatsoever of their childhood.

I have been a good listener and expressed understanding of their condition. Many people have suggested they are lying to me, but I doubt that for many reasons. The most convincing reason to me is that they exhibit many similar behavioral patterns that I have not read anything about in the documentation about this disorder -- behavior that they would not know to do if they were "faking" it.

I hope that the abuse of hypnotic therapy can be separated from the real problems of people with dissociative disorders and not prevent them from getting help.

-- Merriam L. Anthony

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