Contents: UU World Back Issue


UU World CoverKimberly French's cover story on modern-day slavery elicited six responses out of a total of thirty-three letters. Reader Eileen Dare was disappointed that the article failed to identify corporate offenders. "Was this piece tempered by the consideration of libel or slander because there seems to be little mention of which companies are committing these crimes." Marjorie Loring of Newbury Park, California, felt that French was trying to compare historic American slavery with current forms of slavery, to no good end. "What is to be gained by quantifying the horrors perpetrated by slavers at any time in history and comparing them?"

Peg Duthie's article "Was Jefferson One of Us?," which examines the question whether all of the famous people we claim as UUs would actually consider themselves as such, also generated debate. Writes the Rev. Wells Behee of New Madison, Ohio, "The formulators of the UU list [of famous Unitarian Universalists] have done a serious disservice to the truth. These list makers were most cavalier in creating a list of everyone who remotely may have had any idea or belief of a Unitarian or Universalist nature."

Two letter writers castigated Nancy Wood for rejecting the rigors of a woodburning stove ("Cold Stove"). "Writing from a warm house in a cold state," observes Edith Rylander of Grey Eagle, Minnesota, "I assure Ms. Wood that you do not have to be either young or masochistic to stay warm with wood."

The letters in the "other" category touched on a variety of issues. M. Thomas Long of Seal Beach, California, argues for the removal of the "under God" clause from the Pledge of Allegiance; Mary M. Fuller of Las Vegas, Nevada, advocates for a reference book covering the world's religions for our clergy; and Ellen Sarkisian of Cambridge, Massachusetts, writes of her delight in discovering that Equal Exchange chocolate is "superior," providing solace to both her taste buds and her conscience.

-- Jane Greer



Your excellent article on slavery ("Bitter Harvest," November/December) prompts me to write for two reasons. First, the UUA Com-mittee on Socially Responsible Investing is trying that time-honored and ineffective technique of "changing the system from within." It certainly does require the "patience of a snake" to really change the direction of mega-corporations. Remember that those corporations have the rights of an individual and the power of fantastic (and obscene) wealth that allows for the constant search for new loopholes.

The real issue is the rampant, obsessive consumerism that possesses the modern world. As long as we are willing to believe the next generation of software, cars, or (my favorite) pens and mechanical pencils will make our lives more whole, we will all be complicit in slavery issues, not to mention a myriad of other social ills.

When we stop buying the newest and best, stop believing technology will save us, and stop thinking we can buy better lives, we will be on the road to ending slavery and human misery. The real message to corporations needs to be: "Enough profit, enough taking from the earth, enough abuse of people, enough advertising, enough of all of it!"

Phil Wentz
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Your article on slavery missed the mark. By focusing on horrific conditions and far away places, you missed the opportunity to call for local action. We must "Think globally, act locally."  

During the past twenty years undocumented workers have been recruited to work in southwest Missouri industries, resulting in a tremendous increase in the Latino population. Few of these workers are in debt bondage as described in your article, but they are exploited and threatened with deportation if they resist. Very poor rural counties have been overwhelmed by this growth and in some communities the percentage of Latinos is now one third or more. Local schools, health and social services, and law enforcement cannot cope with these numbers, the language barriers, and mutual suspicion. Ethnic tensions are increasing, and southwest Missouri has seen an increase in Ku Klux Klan activities.

Since 9/11, fear has blocked any meaningful legislation to assist immigrants. The media and politicians remain silent, and they have failed to call for any comprehensive plan to assist these workers and the communities where they reside. As UU congregations, we must study these issues locally, increase public awareness, and work toward social and economic justice.

Doris Ewing
Springfield, Missouri

I find Kimberly French's depiction of black slavery in the Americas oversimplified and partly incorrect. French understates the number of Africans enslaved. According to her article, only 13.5 million Africans were enslaved in the Americas. Even conservative estimates say 15 million Africans survived transport to the Americas (high-end estimates claim as many as 50 million). Further, French asserts that slave owners had financial incentive to feed and house their slaves well. That seems logical, but reading any of the dozens of antebellum slave narratives disproves this. In his 1845 Narrative , then-fugitive-slave Frederick Douglass documents the deplorable living conditions of field slaves and details routine beatings and unpunished killings of blacks.

Contemporary slavery is a wrong that we as UUs should work to right. However, it is a different problem than the system of chattel slavery that existed in the U.S. that found authority in a belief in racial inferiority strongly linked to interpretations of the Bible. We should not conflate terrible, but distinct, practices.

A . G . "Jerry " Wemple
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

I want to express my deep appreciation for both the uu&me! insert and the sidebar on Vivek Pandit's antislavery work. The students and the staff at the Bhonga Shala schools also have asked me to tell you how grateful they are for your commitment and support. As a result of your stories, we have already received several contributions from UU religious education classes as well as individuals. In addition, several UU congregations have informed us they are including the Maharashtra schools in their Christmas giving, either through alternative gift programs or a holiday collection.

Kathy Sreedhar
Director, UU Holdeen India Program


I was thrilled to find "Dancing through Life" by Frances Cerra Whittelsey about Ric Masten in the November/December 2004 issue of UU World. I first met Ric at the Rowe Camp and Conference Center where he was leading a weekend workshop. I probably have almost all of his books and later discovered his Web site and weekly e-mail list.

This write-up in UU World is superbly and beautifully done. Thank you Frances Cerra Whittelsey and Cara Weston. And special thanks to Ric Masten for sharing so much of himself with all of us.

Sherry Swezey
Littleton, Massachusetts


The elections are over, and some are happy and some are not. However it is not a time for victors and losers; it is a time for lessons to be learned. No matter which side of the election you were on, our UU principles speak to the inherent worth and dignity of every person, even those we disagree with. They speak of justice, equity, acceptance of one another, and the use of our democratic process within our society. These principles are more important now than ever.

Julie Ann Sullivan
McMurray, Pennsylvania


As a university instructor in occupational health and safety, I was pleased to note an article devoted to overwork by William J. Doherty ("Let's Take Back Our Time," September/October 2004). I was, however, disappointed with the result.

Doherty does acknowledge that individuals in today's society are overworked, overstressed. Our time is stolen from us. Yet he goes on to repeat a myth that "our social class group [the middle- to upper-middle class] leads the way in the social pathologies of overwork and overscheduling."

I would like to see his evidence. It is now acknowledged in study after study that it is the working class that is overworked and overstressed, not the higher-ups on the social class ladder. It always was and still is.

That old mole Karl Marx gave a concrete historical survey in his political economy opus Capital. His son-in-law Paul Lafargue gave it biting humorous criticism in The Right To Be Lazy. The socialist and artisan William Morris made it key in his envisioning of a fundamentally different society. The radical unionists of the IWW gave it practical expression in the demand for a four-hour work day.

Doherty's conclusions remain at the individual's level-a point of powerlessness. Those noted above saw it as a fundamental problem by a system driven by profit and the exploitation of labor.

Len Wallace
Windsor, Ontario


In medicine, as in everyday life, the questions are, and should be, "What works? For whom? Under what circumstances?" Whether one is treating depression, arthritis, high cholesterol, or another illness, there are multiple treatments and multiple medications because what works for one person does not work for another. The issue is not, and should not be, this one is the best or the only one.

Unfortunately, when it comes to discussing the treatment of addictions, both the Twelve-Step proponents and the cognitive proponents make "authoritarian, final-judgment statements" (Letters, January/February). Each puts the other down trying to prove their treatment best; each tries to sell their program to others. Why can't we get rid of the rhetoric and denigration and accept that different people need different programs and be supportive of them getting treatment, whatever it may be?

Jean M. Alberti
Lombard, Illinois


Thank you for your article on theological diversity in the November/December 2004 issue (Congregational Life). What I most want to hear, however, is how churches successfully foster and promote theological diversity within a single congregation. As our denominational leadership promotes a language of reverence, some churches, like mine, are moving from a theology primarily for nonbelievers to one for believers. Either approach risks marginalizing certain members, or worse, letting them walk away from the church. I ask, beg, and plead for more stories from and about congregations that are successfully experiencing theological diversity.

Robin Toewe
Chicago, Illinois


I appreciate Kris Fikkan's article ("Still Hungry," July/August 2004) and in many ways it matches my own frustration when she says, "I'm still trying to work out a faith for myself that is something more than just a way of fending off the faith of others." But something else she said of her childhood bothers me now, months later: "The Seven Principles . . . did not define a faith to me." I disagree. Great progress can be made by declaring that the Principles do define a faith, that they are our UU doctrine and creed.

For the fourth year I am exploring the Principles with fifth graders at our Fairfax, Virginia, congregation. I approach the Principles as the UU creed and challenge them often to decide what they mean. For example, do the snipers that hit our area two years ago have worth and dignity? Can we accept each other's opinions and can we accept the results of our votes? How wonderful to have such a strong set of guidelines to help them work things out!

Fikkan is absolutely right to "consider carefully, even laboriously, before I choose, and walk the humble path of uncertainty." But to me, if you don't accept the Principles and consider life's hard questions using them, you are not truly a UU.

Mike Dillon
Herndon, Virginia


Ric Masten's poem "Who's Waving?" (November/December 2004) was not published under its original title but one published in a compilation of his poems. By not using the original title, UU World did not make it clear that Masten's poem was inspired by one called "Not Waving But Drowning" by the English poet Stevie Smith. Masten's original title was "From the Shore, an Answer for Stevie Smith."

The Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, was incorrectly referenced on page 41 of the January/February issue.

In the poem "Cap Blanc" on page 21 of the January/February issue, the word "hundred" in the seventh line should be replaced by the word "thousand."

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to "Letters," UU World, 25 Beacon Street, Boston MA 02108 or world@uua.org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, and daytime phone number on all correspondence. Published letters with author's name, city, and state will appear on uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret that we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
UU World : Page 8-13

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