In a recent column I called for legal sanctions against those who give employment to people who have entered this country illegally.
Of the 23 responses that arrived from readers, one chided me gently for not being more charitable, and one from a Hispanic organization accused me - unjustly. I hope - of adding to the bias with which Spanish-speaking Americans must constantly cope.
The other 21 letters were on my side. The concluding sentences in one of them really electrified me. It was from Edward Zieses of Vienna, who wrote:
"You really 'told it like it is.' As his fellow prisoners shouted to the poor guy who was being led off to the electric chair, 'More power to you.'"
In that column about illegal aliens, there was a sentence that said, "I doubt that many Americans want our country to become as crowded as India is." Ruth C. Chartrand of Silver Spring commented:
"While I have no quarrel with that statement in the context of your article, I do believe it helps promote the idea that India is now the most crowded country in the world. This is a popular misconception. I challenge you to look up the population density per square mile for all countries, then enlighten your readers."
The most recent compilation available to me was "Political Handbook of the World: 1977," which was edited by Arthur S. Banks and published by McGraw-Hill. It listed India as having a density of 466 people per square mile. The United States States has 58.5 people per square mile, and the U.S.S.R. only 29.
India's density of population is eight times greater than ours. Even mainland China which has the world's largest population, has a per-square-mile density of only 234. China is less than half as crowded as India.
Yet Ruth was right. If you read on, you learn that India's 465 is topped by 25 countries - some of them places you might not be quick to find on a globe. Bahrain is listed at 1,012, Bangladesh 1,363, Barbados 1,470, Belgium 817, Taiwan 1,132, El Salvador 482, West Germany 646, Grenada 727, Italy 477, Jamaica 472, Japan 767, Republic of Korea 881, Lebanon 693, Maldives 1,113, Malta 2,648, Mauritius 1,104, Nauru 875, Netherlands 1,042, San Marino 792, Singapore (hold on to your hat) 9,906, Sri Lanka 547, Trinidad and Tobago 540, United Kingdom 596 and Vatican City State 4,118. The most crowded country of all? Monaco, with 43,179 people per square mile!
They must have taken Monaco's census on a day when the dice were hot in the casino and people were packed five deep around the crap tables. Nothing gathers a crowd quicker than eight straight passes.