MUGGER: After reading Frank Rich's July 3 op-ed piece "The Summer of Matthew Shepard" in The New York Times, I researched your columns containing the words "Frank Rich." You must induct this man into your permanent shit list. Rich examines with exaggerated sensitivity the consequences of intolerance toward homosexuals. His impassioned defense of gay rights?a tutorial on meta-ethics?unfairly associates anyone who opposed appointing James C. Hormel ambassador to Luxembourg with the horrific murder of Mr. Shepard. Has The New York Times taken it upon itself to police the boundaries between natural law and politics? Trends advocating infinite autonomy for man are, historically, in the American experience, partly engendered by a healthy but bitter reaction to old Puritanism. Puritans viewed human nature as fundamentally wretched, a set of brute instincts and desires that cannot be disciplined from inside by the conscience, but can only be repressed from outside by imposed social mores. The theoretical basis for Rich's position is the 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 no distinction between the metaphysical essence of man (free will, responsibility for the conquest of freedom, etc.), and the particular nature (proclivities, weaknesses, etc.) and existential condition (ignorance, mental health, etc.) of each one. Enlightened thinking disconnects the intellectual, moral and spiritual dimensions of human life. But that's not all. In order to appease modernity, some Jewish and Protestant thinkers?Grotius, Kant, Locke, Hermann Cohen, Moses Mendelssohn?made craven concessions to Enlightened moralism, compromising religious principle. They wanted to appear less than parochial, and to avoid de rigueur charges of obscurantism and fanaticism. Thus ensued 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 and most enjoyable reads I've experienced lately. I so hope you're correct in your belief that the Democrats have much to worry about in the 2000 elections, because if ever there were a bunch of dogs that deserved to be sent packing to their proper place under the American front porch, the Democrats are it. They have shamed themselves and their once-great party with their partisan defense of Bill Clinton during the impeachment hearings, and they should be banished to the outhouse for their failure to remove him from office. Thank you for shoring up my sagging spirits and giving me renewed hope that we will yet see real leadership restored in the United States of America. Perhaps we'll have a president we can 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, simply brilliant. Can't you find some rich friends and buy Harper's or The Weekly Standard, or even The American Spectator? They need you. Paul Almond, Los Angeles Let the Man Go Through I was in New York a few days ago and happened to pick up NYPress, and I'm delighted to find out that 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'm glad 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 creepy house on weekends growing up, and the subject of that horrid book Der Struwwelpeter came up less than a month ago. My grandmother (a first-generation American from a long line of Prussian sadists) owned it. Hell, I think she wrote it, 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 great delight in terrorizing us with it. The goddamn lanky tailor with those pinking shears snipping off the thumbs of the bawling little kid. Blood spurting from the stumps... A childhood full of fucking night-terror from that story... I'm glad to know it's back in print too late to psychically scar my 18-year-old twins. However, my cousin and my younger brother both have children under eight years of age, and we might yet be able to emotionally damage another generation of Harrisons. We've gone and opened a channel into those hideous memories stored deep in the cerebral cortex. I hope the tailor stays out of my dreams tonight. Good find on your part, sir. Gerard Harrison, Port Washington, NY