Letters to the Editor - July 30

July 30, 2011

We might be more charitable to 'federal rights'

To the editor:

I write in praise of Art Callaham's July 10 column in The Herald-Mail on the importance of remembering the lessons of the Civil War. His righteous advocacy of states' rights is the sort of clarion call needed to overcome such rights-denying monstrosities as the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit states from regulating abortions.

Callaham's admitted bias for the South's perspective on the Civil War leads him to several all-too-common historical errors about states' rights. Prior to the Civil War, the pro-slavery forces were strongly against states' rights. The pro-slavery forces insisted that U.S. Marshals enforce the federal fugitive slave laws in all states.

They insisted that slaves taken to northern states were still slaves, regardless of the laws of that state. The pro-slavery forces asserted that all U.S. territories must allow slavery. And when the pro-slavery forces set about to create their own confederacy, its constitution (Article 1, Section 9, Subsection 4) required that all confederate states make slavery legal.

Maybe in Texas they teach children that the pro-slavery forces in the South favored states' rights, but it's not true.

As much as one might prefer a weaker federal government, "the lessons" of the Civil War seem to require an acknowledgment that, for better or for worse, the rights of all American were greatly expanded and are today better protected as a result of the coercive, violent and, in some cases, tyrannical actions of the federal government during and following that war. While war is very costly in lives and property and generally not the preferred method for expanding or protecting rights, this is what happened after our Civil War. No pre-war or post-war preference for states' rights can deny that history.

It is true that, following the Civil War, some Americans in some states lost the previously held "right" to enslave others, to assault them, to rape them, to lynch them, to sell them, to exclude them from the protection of the law and to otherwise deny them all of the basic human rights enjoyed by other Americans. These states also lost the right to prohibit their own citizens from advocating for the abolition of slavery. This diminution of states' rights seems to be a good thing.

On this and every Fourth of July, I hope Callaham is thankful for those liberties that are enhanced and protected by a federal government strong enough to overthrow slavery, to require equal treatment before the law in every state and to protect those individual rights enumerated and not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.

Joel Garner
Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Stop the abuse of handicapped-parking spots

To the editor:

First let me say I understand the need for handicapped parking and I agree handicapped people should be allowed to park without paying the meters.

The problem is that handicapped tags and placards are being abused; they must be very easy to get because a lot of people have them. I watch the parking lots and see how many of the people who get out of "handicapped cars" are handicapped and about half of them are in better shape than I am.

I guess these tags or placards are for dear old granny who just didn't happen to make the trip. So just like every other worthwhile idea (recycling bins for instance), we have to sit back and watch as these few selfish people turn up their noses and laugh at the rest of us who try to do the right thing.

It would be interesting to know how many people have been cited in the state, county or even the city for abusing this privilege. I'd bet there haven't been many. I strongly believe we need these programs — I just think that we need better enforcement of the abuses.

If someone is found taking advantage of the program, fine them a few thousand dollars. Hey, maybe they could then donate all the fines to local handicap charities. That would sort of put things right.

Larry Naugle
Falling Waters, W.Va.

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