"Better Than a Saint" and "Big Brother Is Watching You Read"

Readers respond to a new book on Lincoln's goodness and a story about how the government wants to know who's reading what.

By Letters to the Editor
Published February 15, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Read "Better Than a Saint"

Ms. Miller is like so many white authors who make excuses for the racism of our past politicians. Racism, like murder, is wrong in any age, and there is no contemporary revisionism for doing the right thing. If it was right for Fredrick Douglass to fight for freedom in the 1800s, it would have been right for Lincoln to abolish slavery as well. Lincoln was a racist who believed that keeping the Union together was more important then freeing people in bondage. He only did what he did to ensure that whites could stay together and control this new land that had so much potential for riches.

All one has to do to show how racist and supremacist Lincoln was is to read his correspondence with black leaders of his day. He did not believe Africans were anywhere as intellectual as whites, and the same goes for Jefferson. Instead of making up crap to justify Lincoln's moral incompetence, just let us see the good and the bad. Blacks and whites -- all people of America -- are smart and sophisticated enough to handle the truth. Lincoln did not care for black folk. Freedom may have arrived sooner for African people because of his act of self-preservation, but African-American freedom was eventually going to happen because of brave black men and woman.

-- Reuben D. Eckels

I'm sure that Lincoln was not a substance abuser, of course -- but that doesn't mean he wasn't affected by substances. Recent scientific investigation, reported in Discover magazine, suggests that Lincoln may have been affected by mercury poisoning from everyday substances that he forswore in 1862, reporting afterward a great improvement in his disposition.

-- Brian Nelson

Ms. Miller's review of Mr. Miller's book, "Lincoln's Virtues," is a breath of fresh air. Our bored culture's hell-bent urge toward historical revisionism frequently misses the point. Admittedly, history often tends toward mythology and a pasteurized version of events, which ignores the redeeming and humanizing warts of its subjects. Many history textbooks, compared to books by Bernard Devoto (to name one author who celebrated greatness and flaws), are frequently found wanting.

Our pathological urge to run down the living has reached a point where we now gleefully run down the dead. Any flaw is expanded to be a total flaw. All those who like to criticize or discount this great American republic and those who built it, should read Mr. Miller's book. Then they can move on to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. They can ponder the stunning beauty of these documents and be satisfied that, no matter how flawed its authors may have been, their unique greatness lives on in the institutions and people of this nation. Flawed people can produce tremendous and beautiful things; one flaw does not a total failure make. In fact, far from being demonized, flaws should be enjoyed for the richness they contribute. Beauty and greatness, when weighted with certain flaws, remain undeniably great and beautiful.

-- Dirk W. Sabin

Read "Big Brother Is Watching You Read"

What's the big deal? If you're buying any kind of "naughty" book, and you're smart, you're going to use cash. Who's going to be able to find out anything?

-- Ken Zirkel

Seems to me like the obvious solution to this problem of the government trying to pry into personal reading habits is for the booksellers to quit keeping records of personal information.

I know, it's more important for Amazon.com and others of that ilk to present me with what they think I'll buy than to protect my privacy. That's why they'll never get my business!

-- John Goodner

The problem is that lawyers and cops don't know how people read. They think that there is a correlation between the subject of the book and the reader's real life or real interests. But many of us use books differently -- as ways to explore other people's lives and ideas, for example. And then there are books we read because they are artful. If I read "The Cantos," does that make me a fascist? If you read "Moby-Dick," does that mean you have it in for cetaceans?

-- Jimmy Smith

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