MUGGER: After reading FrankRich's July 3 op-ed piece "The Summer of Matthew Shepard" in TheNew York Times, I researched your columns containing the words "FrankRich." You must induct this man into your permanent shit list. Rich examineswith exaggerated sensitivity the consequences of intolerance toward homosexuals. His impassioned defense of gay rights-a tutorial on meta-ethics-unfairly associatesanyone who opposed appointing James C. Hormel ambassador to Luxembourg withthe horrific murder of Mr. Shepard. Has The New York Times taken it uponitself to police the boundaries between natural law and politics? Trends advocating infiniteautonomy for man are, historically, in the American experience, partly engenderedby a healthy but bitter reaction to old Puritanism. Puritans viewed human natureas fundamentally wretched, a set of brute instincts and desires that cannotbe disciplined from inside by the conscience, but can only be repressed fromoutside by imposed social mores. The theoretical basis for Rich's position isthe Enlightenment idea that all would be just fine if Human Nature were not repressed, and were left to its own inclinations. In that vision there is nodistinction between the metaphysical essence of man (free will, responsibilityfor the conquest of freedom, etc.), and the particular nature (proclivities,weaknesses, etc.) and existential condition (ignorance, mental health, etc.)of each one. Enlightened thinking disconnectsthe intellectual, moral and spiritual dimensions of human life. But that's notall. In order to appease modernity, some Jewish and Protestant thinkers-Grotius,Kant, Locke, Hermann Cohen, Moses Mendelssohn-made craven concessions to Enlightenedmoralism, compromising religious principle. They wanted to appear less thanparochial, and to avoid de rigueur charges of obscurantism and fanaticism. Thusensued a quasi-religious adherence to the norms of secularity by the illuminated.A Faustian bargain that, if history lessons are learned, culminated in the Holocaust and the continued vulnerability of the state of Israel. Marco Oliva, Tegucigalpa, Honduras Clintonite Nausea MUGGER: Excellent article,sir! Quite one of the best andmost enjoyable reads I've experienced lately. I so hope you're correct in yourbelief that the Democrats have much to worry about in the 2000 elections, becauseif ever there were a bunch of dogs that deserved to be sent packing to theirproper place under the American front porch, the Democrats are it. They haveshamed themselves and their once-great party with their partisan defense ofBill Clinton during the impeachment hearings, and they should be banished tothe outhouse for their failure to remove him from office. Thank you for shoring upmy sagging spirits and giving me renewed hope that we will yet see real leadershiprestored in the United States of America. Perhaps we'll have a president wecan look up to with pride, rather than one we can scarcely stand to look at. Linda Cromeans, LaGrange, KY We'll Make 'Em Dailies MUGGER: Once again, simplybrilliant. Can't you find some rich friends and buy Harper's or TheWeekly Standard, or even The American Spectator? They need you. Paul Almond, Los Angeles Let the Man Go Through I was in New York a fewdays ago and happened to pick up NYPress, and I'm delighted to find outthat Soul Coughing's M. Doughty writes the "Dirty Sanchez" music column.That's neat. Soul Coughing has always been one of my very favorite bands. I'mglad you're letting Doughty write for such a prestigious paper.
Steve Harbaugh, Zanesville, OH Demon Closet John Strausbaugh: Good God!My cousin and I were just reminiscing about being dumped at Grandma's creepyhouse on weekends growing up, and the subject of that horrid book Der Struwwelpetercame up less than a month ago. My grandmother (a first-generationAmerican from a long line of Prussian sadists) owned it. Hell, I think she wroteit, or owned a signed first edition or something. The words were in German,but the illustrations were self-explanatory: the universal language of horror. Grandma would take greatdelight in terrorizing us with it. The goddamn lanky tailor with those pinkingshears snipping off the thumbs of the bawling little kid. Blood spurting fromthe stumps... A childhood full of fucking night-terror from that story... I'm glad to know it's backin print too late to psychically scar my 18-year-old twins. However, my cousinand my younger brother both have children under eight years of age, and we mightyet be able to emotionally damage another generation of Harrisons. We've gone and opened achannel into those hideous memories stored deep in the cerebral cortex. I hopethe tailor stays out of my dreams tonight. Good find on your part,sir. Gerard Harrison, Port Washington, NY