THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Letters to Globe Magazine

March 6, 2011

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Privacy vs. public safety

Alexander Heffner’s comments about gun control on college campuses (Perspective, February 13) resemble the sentiments of many folks who have a limited understanding of the carefully crafted framework within which mental health professionals balance privacy and public safety. Privacy laws are already significantly mitigated in favor of public safety with regard to mental health issues. To my knowledge, we do not arrest people for having the mere thought of robbing a bank or assaulting an unwitting citizen on the streets, and yet we do intervene when people have serious thoughts of harming themselves or someone else. We cannot further reduce privacy laws to act on speculation, lest we fail to engage the very people in therapy who might be capable of such horrible acts. In my 18-plus years as a social worker, I believe that I have been called upon only once to assess whether someone might be dangerous to others (and in the end was not). And yet I have dealt with hundreds of depressed people. I think we all like to comfort ourselves by thinking that every tragedy is preventable and that someone must be at fault. Somehow I can’t see that anyone did anything wrong in Arizona except fail to be an adequate fortuneteller.

Brian Cahillane, assistant director, counseling center at Westfield State University
Let’s lend a hand

Charles P. Pierce’s essay on citizens who don’t remove snow from fire hydrants (Pierced, February 6) really hit the mark, and it points out a much larger problem. Self-reliance and independent thinking by the public have ebbed away. People rely too much on the government and don’t consider their neighbors.

Carl Derderian / Watertown
I would rather let my house burn to the ground than have to do what the fire department is (over)paid to do: shovel out hydrants. It’s a very rare day that they are doing anything, so I don’t think it is too much to ask that they maintain the hydrants. Next, should we do their cooking and polish their equipment, too?

Peter Flato / Ipswich
Publish or bust

I usually find Miss Conduct’s column one of the high points of the Sunday Globe. However – you knew that was coming – I would suggest that young A.M.D. keep writing editorials and not wait a year before pitching his newspaper again (February 13). I have become addicted to trying to publish an Op-Ed. It’s reactionary therapy, cheaper than a trip to the psychiatrist. At least A.M.D. got a response. Most of my epistles disappeared into a black hole, never to be heard of again.

George Binns / Beverly

I read the letter to Miss Conduct about European versus American use of the fork and knife (February 13). I see more and more of my fellow Americans using their forks in the European manner. It is so much more convenient!

Edward Franks / Boston

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