December 28, 2012

Letters to the editor: Arming our teachers: Two views

The slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary stunned the nation. Now that there is time for rational thought, it's being buried under a sea of emotional reporting and political agendas.

click image to enlarge

Parents leave a staging area Dec. 14 after being reunited with their children after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Among the issues raised by the shootings is whether teachers should carry firearms at work.

2012 File Photo/The Associated Press

We hear everything about the grieving relatives, but little about exactly what happened or why. Those answers will take time, time for thought certain parties don't want us to have. They want action now, yet they resist the idea of letting teachers carry firearms at their place of work.

Let's consider the teacher's work environment. The teacher knows most of the people who belong in the school and where the doors, windows and exits are. Even the police who would respond to an emergency don't have that kind of detailed knowledge.

In a lower school like Sandy Hook Elementary the bulk of the innocent bystanders are much shorter than adults, allowing quick identification and clear lines of fire. Distances are short, allowing the use of light, low-penetration expanding bullets that don't pass through walls with killing force. If only a quarter of teachers decided to exercise what used to be their right to carry a weapon, an attack of this kind would likely be cut very short.

We trust teachers with our future, literally; why won't some people trust them with firearms? Because a simple, inexpensive method of improving the safety of our schools is politically unacceptable, even as a stop-gap measure.

So who gets to die next? Not the people who have made careers out of gun control, that's for sure.

Charles Shaw

Lyman

The recent obscenity in Newtown has sparked a conversation about gun control. As the conversation evolves, we must ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in.

Many wish for an outright ban on assault weapons and further restrictions on handguns, while others advocate arming school personnel to prevent another massacre.

On balance, both sides appear to have reasonable positions, but on closer examination, a basic difference in philosophy appears.

It is as if the city-states of Athens and Sparta were vying for our affectations. A militaristic, Spartan society would arm its teachers and train kids to master self-defense techniques, while the citizens of Athens would seek to lessen the evils of their society with studied self-examination and discourse, coupled with action.

Our country pays enormously every day due to the violence that is endemic throughout the land -- gang shootings, domestic murder-suicides and attendant mayhem.

Arming school personnel may prevent a shooting somewhere in the country, but at what cost to our national character? Is that the best solution we can offer to the innocent children?

The city-state of Athens placed a statue of the goddess Athena on the Acropolis to shine outward to the sea -- a beacon that aided mariners on their journey home to that democratic state where reasoned discourse was held in highest regard.

Conversely, Sparta left children exposed to the elements in an effort to weed out inferior stock, all the while continuing to arm their society in a mad reductio ad absurdum quest to confront evil.

How we respond to the massacre of innocents will tell us much about the country we live in and what we want to be in the future.

Peter Mayo

Bowdoinham

For those hit by recession, fiscal cliff talk stirs anxiety

I always used to hear about unemployment in this country, but never thought too much about it because I always had a job. "As long as I'm employed and receiving a paycheck every two weeks, it's really not my problem," I used to think. It's amazing how quickly things can change.

Now I find myself out of work and scared. I never thought I would be in this position, but here I am. I have to figure out how I'm going to pay my bills and, most importantly, how I'm going to get back to work.

However, I find it even more alarming that as I sit here unsure about what the future holds for me, members of Congress are bickering with each other as the "fiscal cliff" draws closer with each passing day.

We simply cannot afford for our leaders to play chicken with our economy. Being unemployed is bad enough, but if they cannot quickly come together and figure out both our short- and long-term economic problems, I am afraid we will begin to lose even more jobs, lowering my chances to find employment anytime soon.

As I was searching for answers on how to best confront these problems, I came across a movement called the Campaign to Fix the Debt. It's focused on ensuring our leaders are immediately confronting these issues so that the country is on a responsible fiscal path.

I would urge you to join me and the other 300,000 concerned citizens who have already signed the campaign's Citizen's Petition at FixTheDebt.org.

Justin Brownwell

Portland

All this talk about the fiscal cliff and cuts to programs for the neediest of the needy has created serious anxiety among the mentally ill.

Some of these folks live on as little as $800 a month, and as one man reported to me, he would take a $160 reduction in his income should he be required to absorb a 20 percent cut in the program he needs for survival.

"Where am I going to find a place to live and eat on $640 a month?" he asked.

The irresponsible talk in the media and in Washington is doing great harm to people who have already been harmed. Attention, media and Washington, please stop hurting the defenseless among us.

The Rev. Dr. James M. Young

retired United Methodist pastor

Portland

Local entrepreneur should make product in Maine

I enjoyed the story in the Sunday Telegram about the reusable fabric gift bags being made in South Portland ("Earth-loving way to give," Dec. 16). However, my joy evaporated when I read that the entrepreneur had started working with a factory in India. I will only be buying bags with a label saying, "Made in Maine."

Janice Doctor

South Portland

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