May 2, 2013

Letters to the editor: Story paints Chechens with broad brush

I feel compelled to write to you and let you know how disappointing I found Tom Bell's article titled "Maine's Russians: Don't lump us with terrorists" (April 20).

click image to enlarge

Luba Gorelov, above, a Kazakhstan immigrant interviewed for an article about Maine Russians’ response to the Boston bombings, should have been asked why she described Chechen culture as “blood for blood,” a reader says.

2013 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

In a time when the world needs all the understanding and actual information related to complex geopolitical issues it can get, the article -- ending with the broad generalization "Chechens have a culture of vengeance, (Luba) Gorelov said. 'It's blood for blood,' she said" -- was a great disservice.

I am neither Chechen nor Russian, just your run-of-the-mill "Heinz 57" American. But I understand enough about the world to understand that the Russian and Chechen people have a long history of conflict.

I also understand why people are feeling nervous and unsure about how they will be categorized. Yet having one person speak for all Maine Russians or to categorize all Chechens is, in my opinion, both bad journalism and irresponsible.

No group of people should ever be described with that sort of blanket statement. If an individual makes such a comment, I believe it is the newspaper's responsibility not to repeat such things or further clarify with that person why they are making such a statement.

When there is no further explanation or opposing view, the reader is left to believe that such a statement must be true or at least generally accepted.

At these moments, in which people are wounded and tender, words have extra power, and I am saddened that the words printed in this article continue to divide us rather than add to our understanding of one another.

I hope that in the future, more care will be taken to ensure that what is written in the paper does not blindly continue to represent whole groups of people with such broad strokes.

Judy Colby-George


Risk of gun violence makes new legislation imperative

Americans are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence.  

Every year, more than 30,000 people will die in a gun-related fatality. This is comparable to the 35,000 to 40,000 people who will be killed by breast or prostate cancer this year.

Gun violence primarily affects the young, and therefore, the public health impact of these deaths is substantial.

Maine is not exempt from this epidemic.  

It would surprise most Maine citizens to learn that they are more likely to be killed by a firearm than are citizens of New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, but this is the case.  

In New England, only Vermonters are more likely to die from a gun than Mainers, and we are more than twice as likely to be killed by a firearm than citizens of Massachusetts.

Most firearm fatalities in Maine are related to suicide. While this may make some of us sleep a little better, it should not lessen our resolve to do better.

The medical community in Maine needs to do more to address this issue.  

Physicians need to talk to patients about the risks of gun ownership, and we need better resources for mental health. In addition, we need to enact sensible gun legislation.  

The Maine Legislature is currently considering legislation requiring background checks at gun shows, restricting firearm access for citizens hospitalized with psychiatric illness, and requiring safety training prior to the purchase of a firearm.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people in states with stricter gun laws -- those same states mentioned above -- are less likely to take their own life by firearm suicide.  

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