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'Odd Priorities' Should Fall Into the Hands Of Society, Not Big Brother

The editorial ''Military Exemptions,'' Feb. 2, expressed concern over apparent odd priorities of a government more disposed to funding ''high-tech weapons'' than ''low-tech soup kitchens.''

We've become a transient society less inclined to get to know and keep the peace with our neighbors. If we can't care for our neighbor across the street, the government cannot mandate and legislate compassion for our ''neighbor'' 3,000 miles away. Charity does indeed begin at home. So long as we expect government to do our job, we can expect a snowballing of local problems (crime, etc.) for which we further look toward Big Brother to solve.

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The odd priorities are ours, not the government's.

Thomas Colburn

Pembroke, N.H.

Invest in NEA, not prisons

Recently a group of American theater enthusiasts crossed London's Waterloo Bridge amid showers and blustery winds to tour the Royal National Theatre. We were thrilled to see this three-theater complex, a multifaceted treasure in form and function.

Its history shows the struggle, since 1904, for a permanent national theater home, which developed tangibly only after Parliament voted for financial support in 1949. If the United States Congress would sustain the National Endowment for the Arts as generously as the British do their Royal National Theatre, it would be a better investment in people's lives than building more prisons for jailers and inmates.

Anne M. Hofflund

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San Diego

Balance the budget now

If a balanced budget is so critical, those in favor of a balanced-budget amendment (the Republican Congress) should take responsibility and balance it now before passing an amendment that does not go into effect until 2002. This would provide an opportunity to observe how the process works before trying to incorporate economic policy into the constitution.

Richard Barsanti

Western Springs, Ill.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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