Love/Hate Mail 

The truth about pencils

The truth about pencils

Jonathan Harwell Jr.’s use of the true story about pencils shipped to Cuba by Healing Hands International as the starting point for the fictitious list of “donations” (List, Jan. 25) makes for amusing reading, but I’m afraid he gave readers the wrong impression of what the organization is all about. The pencil shipment, definitely an interesting phenomenon (and important to children in Cuba), is certainly not typical of the organization’s activities.

Healing Hands International, based in Nashville, is a humanitarian relief organization that distributes aid worldwide. In most cases, that aid comes in the form of money, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, food, clothing, and agricultural assistance. Right now, for example, HHI is responding to the earthquake in El Salvador with money and medical supplies. HHI learned of the need for pencils in Cuba by accident. In a shipment of medical supplies to Cuba from HHI in late ’97, boxes of pencils were used simply as packing material around the supplies to stabilize and protect the load. HHI later learned that the “packing material” pencils were viewed as an important gift when Cuba’s largest newspaper ran a major story about their arrival. A Cuban health official soon asked for more pencils.

I guess it’s hard for most people in this country to believe that pencils could be such a big deal, but in a country that doesn’t have pencils, they are a big deal to young students.

Jim Sparks (Nashville)

Aborting moderation

President Bush, who presented himself as a moderate on choice for women, couldn’t wait to backhand women around the world who need reproductive health care. The gag order against medical professionals in overseas health care clinics offering counseling to women about options in family planning is retro-Republican oppression. Thousands of women and children will suffer and die because of this obscene order.

Whether you agree about having an abortion or not, that is your decision, depending on your beliefs and your situation. Women are not stupid and murderous monsters intent on killing babies, but that is the way the pandering politicians of the extreme right portray us. Women do not generally approach abortion lightly; neither do we approach giving birth and raising a child lightly. Many men tend to be much more casual about the situation.

I have never seen a politician mention that the impregnators should bear responsibility for abortion statistics. Too many of the sleazy politicians—oops—uh, our esteemed public servants—have sent their pregnant mistresses for Mexican abortions. Wealthy people will always be able to get safe abortions. Low-income women have always borne the burden of lack of resources for their health and for their children’s health.

I have four dear children, three boys and a girl. I am pro-life. I am pro-choice. It’s the American way.

Elizabeth Barger (Summertown)

Restrict government

I take exception to Phil Ashford’s characterization of anti-income-tax Tennessee citizens as “ignorant...nincompoops” (“Chickening Out,” Jan. 18). This is a typical example of leftist rhetoric that proclaims that anyone who disagrees with the party line is retarded. As this nincompoop didn’t major in journalism in college, he was forced to take math and business courses that mass communication students typically avoided like the plague. Consequently, I reject the logic that the solution to our problem is to increase revenue at any cost. The power of government to coerce a revenue increase, once granted, has no effective limits. Further, the ability to raise unlimited funds does not solve budget woes; the more you give them the more they want to take. Are Connecticut, New York, California, et al, offering rebates or tax cuts to their citizens to reflect skyrocketing tax revenues in the past few years? Let’s not be silly.

The increasing militarization of our police and the racist escalation of minority incarceration rates clearly illustrate the danger of allowing unrestricted government power in any sphere. The Bill of Rights was not written in blind faith of the trustworthiness of government; our constitution wisely restricts governmental power, and we would be insane to weaken the protections that still remain.

Mark T. Gibson (Murfreesboro)

A Hobbsian argument

Again, Mr. Ashford’s characterization of a “crisis” in the state’s budget is a fabrication (“Chickening Out,” Jan. 18). I suggest he read Bill Hobbs’ article in The City Paper from a couple of weeks ago if he wants the facts.

It’s funny how the pro-tax side views a $125 million shortfall as a “crisis” and a $200 million tax increase in the form a lottery as a “drop in the bucket.”

Can’t we cut the budget by one drop?

Joey King (Nashville)


Last week’s classical music preview about the Nashville Opera’s production of The Mikado incorrectly stated that the Nashville Symphony would be providing the musical accompaniment for the production. The Symphony was unavailable, so contract players are performing the music.


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