Regarding Ron Kraybill's June 14 opinion piece "Based on Hollywood image, would you trust America?": I think we're between a rock and a hard place here. Freedom of speech is especially precious to the citizens of this great republic.
With regret, I note that "popular" entertainment tends to cater to the lowest common denominator. There is a rush to the bottom of the scale of "good taste," not because there is any sort of message to be had but only in the search for a large audience. I deplore the trash that is sent around the world via TV and the movies. But we can't deny that the same trash I deplore is very popular around the world. Also, an important part of the "American Dream" is the opportunity to make a huge profit - all in the pursuit of happiness. Do I wish it were different? Yes. Would I get that result through censorship? No. Truly, the horns of a dilemma.
Only individuals can choose to censor their own watching and reading habits. The only way to combat the onslaught of bad programming would be to protest by not watching or supporting the TV programs, by not going to the movies, or by a public outcry through letters and phone calls. Demand better.
I believe that America has a heart when push comes to shove. It behooves parents, teachers, and caretakers to promote the values on which this country was founded.
Rocky River, Ohio
In a science-fiction story I read years ago, Earth is visited by aliens who assumed all communications expressed truth. Reading books in libraries on Earth gave them bewildering and sometimes contradictory information because they did not understand the concept of fiction. Have we overlooked the possibility that the cultures of some peoples outside the United States inhibit their ability to understand that the American movies and TV shows they see are works of fiction intended only for amusement?
Understanding cultural perceptions and working with this understanding would be better than restricting the export of Hollywood's product.
Curtis L. Katz
Regarding your June 15 article "It's no longer a (traditional) zoo out there": Having grown up in India, I have known elephants all my life. They are magnificent, bright, fun-loving, and thoughtful, and elephant mothers and aunts are totally devoted to their young. Captivity reduces these animals to windup toys, but unlike plastic windup animals, they must bear the pain of separation from their families; the loss of independence and control over their own lives; and restrictions in movement, behaviors, and even in choosing their mates. Thanks to the Detroit Zoo for starting these elephants on their long walk to freedom.
Ingrid E. Newkirk
President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Zoos of the world spend billions of dollars a year on capturing, transporting, feeding, housing, and providing veterinary care to zoo animals. If the zoos would combine these monies instead, then they'd have enough money to buy the wild lands where those animals naturally live and make them sanctuaries. There would also be enough money to hire an ample number of rangers to protect against poachers. If we really love animals, then we must spend this money to do what's really best for them - let them live in freedom in their native lands.
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