Letters to the Editor

Monday's letters to the editor

The strong, the good resist temptation

When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, legendary English mountaineer George Mallory answered, "Because it's there." If Tiger Woods were asked why he had encounters with so many women, he might have said basically the same thing, "Because they were there." Both had the occasion, opportunity and where-with-all to accomplish what they were inclined to do. All that was left for them was to choose to take action.

The same could be said of others. Politicians in a position of power can misappropriate funds, favor cronies and abuse interns simply because they are there, because they can. Clergy can take advantage of others because of their proximity and relationship to children and vulnerable penitents and counselees. They have the opportunity, and it is merely up to them what action they will take. As we know, too many have chosen the inappropriate action.

But on the other side of the coin, it takes strength and courage, when you have power and opportunity, to not use it irresponsibly. That is, while they might be tempted, the strong don't all beat up on others, the rich don't all use their money in harmful ways, the beautiful don't all make it apparent that others are less so, and the talented often use their talents for the benefit of others, not to their dismay.

One who is blessed with bountiful opportunities, talents and characteristics is constantly facing the temptation to take advantage of those assets for selfish interests. The discipline to resist takes fortitude and grace.

If you had no power or opportunity (if you were weak, poor, ugly and untalented), there would be a lot less temptation, and you really wouldn't have much choice between good and evil. While your life might be difficult in many ways, without surreptitious opportunity lying at your feet, it would be simpler since you would never even have the need to decide.

We spend a lot of time lamenting those who have abused their good fortune and have fallen from grace. Perhaps equal time should be given to rejoicing in all those upright and courageous men and women of good fortune who have stood the test and not done selfish things just because they could. While the former will be forgotten, the latter are the people of legend - the heroes, saints and figures we revere throughout history. These are the people we want to emulate with whatever power, wealth, beauty and talent we might possess.

TOM DORSEL

Psychology Professor Emeritus

Francis Marion University

Florence

Ban of texting while driving not enough

What part of driving and cell phones do these guys at the State House not understand? Are Sens. Shane Massey and Creighton Coleman afraid they can't wean themselves off the cell phone while driving? Even Sen. Jake Knotts says he now understands how important the seat belt requirement is and that it saves lives.

Maybe they can explain how a law enforcement officer will be able to prove that a person was texting on the phone and not just using the cell phone for a conversation. The first one to be stopped and fined $25 (That'll really put a stop to it, especially with no points attached to the ticket.) will probably take it to court - another waste of time and taxpayers' dollars.

How about we make both texting and talking on cell phones while driving illegal, fining the offenders and putting a few points on their drivers license? That would go a much longer way toward protecting all of us, including even the gutless ones who just want to be re-elected and have forgotten their jobs are to keep our best interests at heart, not them.

JUDI SARVIS

Columbia

Driver distractions not easy to eliminate

The Legislature is debating a bill to ban cell phone texting while driving. This is a topic worth debate as more and more people use these phones for texting, Twitter(ing), e-mail, talking and more. The argument for the ban is that texting is a distraction and, if left unchecked, will result in increased accidents. I'm sure that someone has actual facts to back up this claim. Don't they? Regardless, I do believe it is not smart to text while driving.

However, if we are really concerned with distracted drivers, then we must expand the debate to include other potential distractions. Driving while reading a newspaper or book or putting on makeup are just three that come to mind. What about driving while drinking hot coffee? Dropping a hot cup of java in your lap just might cause a distraction. I suspect that dropping a nice hot sausage muffin with egg and cheese on that nice new leather seat might draw your attention away from the road. Spilling a "Big Gulp" sized cold beverage in the floorboard is sure to make you look away from the road. So let's ban eating and drinking while driving.

Will we the people be prohibited from texting but still be allowed to use laptop computers? Will government agencies be excluded? Pushing buttons on that dash-mounted GPS device could be considered a distraction. Let's ban that too.

Let's have that debate on what constitutes a driver distraction. My question to the Legislature is, where do you stop?

THOMAS B. WILDS

Blythewood

Cutbacks hurting neediest children

I think the Feb. 8 letter, "Other people's children," was right on the money. I am the executive director of Palmetto Place Children's Emergency Shelter, and our mission is to provide a safe and nurturing emergency shelter while providing a broad range of services for children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

In 2009, we provided services for 120 of South Carolina's neediest children, ranging in age from 5 months to 17 years. Our primary funding source is a contract with the Department of Social Services. Because of statewide budget cuts, this contract has been reduced by more than 8 percent for 2010. However, we still are devoted to providing the highest level of care to our children.

I implore the citizens of our state to advocate and give locally. Take to heart the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian: "The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."

AMY W. SCHOFIELD

Columbia

Troubled youths need care, compassion

I was very touched by Jim Jeffries' letter ("A decent society is worth paying for," Jan. 28) regarding the closing of the Carolina Boys Home. His compassion and concern for the children who live in youth homes was deeply felt through his words. Having worked as a social worker in a prison, and now at the Dickerson Center for Children (serving abused children), I can tell you that Mr. Jeffries' concern that troubled youth will land in prison without proper intervention has already come to pass for many, many years now in South Carolina.

There are so many good people in our community working hard to help children in trouble, but the budgets are tighter than ever, and I can honestly say that no donation is too small. Even $5 can purchase office supplies, paper products or crayons for children to play with while waiting to be seen. Imagine how many children could be helped through youth homes, after-school programs, shelters and therapy programs if everyone had the compassion and good will of Mr. Jeffries.

TRACEY WATERS

Columbia

Christians support poor directly

In his letter Thursday ("The government and 'Christian values'"), Ed Aylward suggested that real Christians would be happy to pay higher taxes to support the poor. But this country is multicultural and has people practicing many religions. It is not the prerogative or responsibility of the government to impose Christian values on the people.

Being a Christian gives the individual the opportunity to donate as much of his or her time and money as he or she sees fit. Mr. Aylward should wholeheartedly practice what he preaches. If Christ could walk among us, he would want to help those who want to help themselves, and he would admonish those who only want the society to support them.

ERUCH T. TATA

Lexington

Sun already shines on District 5 government

In a recent letter, Kim Murphy said she has offered her videos of Lexington-Richland District 5 School Board meetings "free of charge" so they can be posted on the district's Web site and suggested she is providing a public service by "fully opening the meetings."

Ms. Murphy's letter is typical of the misinformation a few critics have been pumping out about District 5 for years. In this case, the misinformation is by omission. Murphy left out that board meetings are already "fully open" to the public, that audio recordings are free and available over the Internet and that complete board information packets and presentations can be downloaded from the district's Web site.

Board briefs and minutes are also available to the public, and District 5 has been open and honest about all construction projects.

Taxpayers demonstrated confidence in the district when they passed the recent school bond proposal by a landslide.

Several years ago, interim Superintendent Tec Dowling described the atmosphere created by a small misguided group of bond opponents and self-appointed watchdogs as a "witch hunt." Most have since recognized the needs of our schools and the will of the people. Many are now working with the district in the interests of our children and taxpayers. As a result, the atmosphere in District 5 has improved, and there is a spirit of cooperation. Unfortunately, Ms. Murphy still seems to be on that witch hunt.

PAUL DuPRE

Columbia

Stop the insanity, change funding of school system

For seniors, "downsizing" often is code for "I own the house, but with my retirement income and Social Security, I can't afford the property tax."

Those who cannot afford to own a home pay even more because rental property is taxed at a higher rate than owner-occupied homes. Landlords must pass this cost on to the tenant.

Many of us who can afford a new car don't buy it because we choose not to pay the county a thousand or more dollars a year for that privilege.

We shouldn't still be using property taxes to fund education because it contributes to a great diversity in quality of education by county, which hampers development in poorer counties, making it impossible for schools there to compete. This is not consistent with the state mandate to provide quality education for all.

Rich counties tend to be wasteful while poorer counties struggle and economic development is hindered, and rather than competing with other states for the highest-quality folks in education, we compete among ourselves.

If South Carolina is to provide an equal quality education to all of its children, it must change the structure. We need to increase the state income tax and eliminate all school property taxes; have one school district per county; set, as with state employees, pay ranges for all employees - teachers, aids, counselors, principals -regardless of location; set guidelines for school size and physical plant. (If all schools are built with the same plans - think Hardees, McDonald's, subdivisions - we could save on construction costs.) And then fund all the schools equally - after all are brought up to standard.

I remember when the first 1-cent sales tax was supposed to make us first in education. I have seen us saddle the poorest segment of our population with a tax called the lottery in the name of education.

I am 71 years old, and I have already downsized and have seen my property tax bill go to six times the amount of my state income tax. I have six grandchildren in school, and I want for them the very best educational opportunity possible. I have no problem in paying my fair share of whatever that costs.

It is time we stop the insanity and restructure the school system and its funding.

BILL DuBOSE

Lexington

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