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Dear Ann Landers

Most of us have had the mixed blessing of getting irritated enough to write a letter to a newspaper in response to something that we read and the relief in not having it published. This is a letter which I wrote to the Philadelphia Inquirer in response to one of Ann Landers' syndicated columns which appeared on 10/22/93. It was not published; I suppose that I had hoped so since I signed it with initials rather than full name (I did include my full name and address!) Nevertheless, here it is:


Dear Ann Landers,


Some thoughts for D. D. (Roseville, CA) and others who are "childless by choice": There have been at least 25,000 human generations before our own. We are born in debt to those multitudes of unknown ancestors who made reproductive choices resulting finally in the birth of each of us. Just think: if any one of our direct ancestors had chosen differently, I or you or D. D. would not be here! In genetic terms, a deliberate decision not to have children is a declaration that your phenotype (the expression of your genetic makeup) is effectively sterile, just as surely as if you had been stillborn or died in infancy of an inherited disorder.


Furthermore, that decision questions the validity of all of the choices made by your forebears and denies the value of your genetic inheritance. Surely even the most jaded and superficial persons have good traits which should be kept alive in this celestial dance. Thus, I can think of no debt more inescapable than the implicit obligation to have children. Life is a loan not a gift: Pass it on!


J. B.

King of Prussia, PA


However, here is an earlier letter to the editor, concerning an intended nomination to the Supreme Court by President Clinton, which was printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer (6/25/93), much to my satisfaction:

Dear Sir:


You and political cartoonist Tony Auth just don't get it! Your depiction of the sacrifice of would be (Supreme Court) Justice Breyer's possible nomination to the god of Nannygate (Inquirer 6/15/93, p.A20) carries the underlying message that character doesn't matter. Is it not relevant that a judge evades the law? How would you react if your accountant cheated on his income tax, your psychiatrist had sexual intercourse with other patients or your minister sent anonymous hate letters?


Character does matter: like glass or diamond, it can be rendered worthless by a flaw. In the absence of moral objections, not paying a tax due is refusal to meet a just debt; not the conduct of a person of good character. And this flaw is especially egregious: non-payment of Social Security taxes due on a household worker's wages not merely evades the law but punishes a presumably loyal servant by denying earned future benefits.


In a currently popular formulation: It's character, stupid! Always was and always will be! Technical qualifications are important and necessary prerequisites for occupancy of any position of public trust but hardly sufficient in the face of evidence of a flaw in character. Prior conduct, either private or public, is diagnostic of individuals' moral attitudes and thus is quite relevant to their selection and nomination for public office.




Jonathan Black