One of our most charged topics

Douglas Thom’s letters to the editor are insightful, educational and well-written. I’ve often thought I’d enjoy a discussion with him over coffee or a beer. However, I believe that his most recent letter (“Perspective and the right to vote,” May 13) wasn’t up to his normal standards.

Abortion is a complex, difficult and highly charged issue. There are many well-meaning, smart people on either side. His invitation to discuss/vote on the issue extends to all women, but only to those men who have given birth, etc. For various reasons, not all women have experienced childbirth. If their opinion matters (it does), he may need to re-think his reasoning for excluding men.

Debate shouldn’t exclude whole segments of society. Should we only allow gun owners to discuss and vote on gun control? The NRA might like that, but the answer is obvious.

My experience with birth and the womb, along with many others I have met, started with the nine months I spent there during my mother’s pregnancy. Using reasoning similar to Thom’s, this experience should allow me a voice in the discussion. Of the people I know that were born, not many are upset with their mother for giving birth to them.

But the invitation’s most substantial exclusion … the approximately 60 million children aborted since 1973. What would they say if they had a voice? Who should speak for them?

Finally, isn’t it a bit ironic that a man is voicing his opinion on a topic in which his opinion is that a man’s opinion shouldn’t be heard?

STEPHEN COOPER

Lynchburg

It was a compliment

For the past few months, there has been much heated debate about a picture of a white man in blackface. It is alleged to be Gov. Ralph Northam.

To understand the practice of putting on blackface, one needs to review the not-too-distant history.

From the 1920s until the 1950s, most social life was centered around schools and churches. They put on plays and musical shows. One popular event was called the “Negro Minstrel.”

Let us consider what Webster’s Dictionary has to say. Minstrel show: A variety show, formerly popular in the United States, in which performers, some in blackface, sing, dance and tell jokes, often reflecting a travesty of negro life.”

And once each week, all activity stopped for people to listen to a radio show. It was called “The Amos and Andy Show.” Two white men pretended to be Negros. They used the dialect of the people they were trying to mimic. Dialect: A regional variety of a language distinguished from other varieties by pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary.

Now is a good time to consider an old axiom: Mimicry is the highest form of praise. I would like to think I have lived my life in a manner that others would want to mimic.

If people of the past accepted and enjoyed minstrel shows, why is it not acceptable now? The last minstrel show that I attended was at the Hurt school in the 1950s.

The white man has copied the black man’s music, menus and dress style. Why do we not hear complaints about that?

Our nation has problems far more important than someone wearing blackface. Let us direct our efforts and energies toward solving our greater problems!

ANDREW J. SHIELDS

Altavista

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