Honest 'Hollow'

I take issue with the flippant review of Rory Kennedy's "American Hollow" in saying that the documentary had no message [Style, Nov. 29].

As someone who has lived and worked in eastern Kentucky for two years around the area where the documentary takes place, I found "American Hollow" to be an honest, human story of an eastern Kentucky family with all its frailties and unfulfilled ambitions. It was a true depiction of the impoverishment that some eastern Kentucky families still face. The one positive force in the Bowlings' life was their family clan. Iree Bowling, the 68-year-old matriarch, was Steinbeck's Ma Joad--the strength of that family.

I rarely met an eastern Kentuckian who wasn't going back home at some time to his or her family and the Appalachian Mountains. To say Kennedy was a tourist and to compare her time spent with this family with Queen Elizabeth's visit to Southeast Washington in 1991 is ridiculous. Kennedy spent a year with the family. There was nothing phony in the film.

--Harvey I. Sloane

The writer is senior policy adviser for U.S. domestic programs at Project Hope.

Hurricane Heretic

Sue Anne Pressley's article about the predicted increase of hurricane frequency along the Atlantic seaboard ["Nature Pitched a Warm-Up; Expert Predicts U.S. Will Be Battered by Storms for Decades," news story, Nov. 28] described predictions made by the world's leading hurricane forecaster, William Gray of Colorado State University. The information given was reported accurately and clearly, but the omissions were astounding.

Not reported was the fact that Gray believes that global warming is a non-player in increased hurricane frequency and intensity. His politically incorrect but scientifically accurate views regarding global warming make it difficult for him to receive federal funding. His position--reported in the Denver Post--that "researchers pound the global-warming drum because they know there is politics and . . . money behind it" makes him persona non grata in certain circles.

--Steve Hochman

Skip the Gossip

More and more, the Reliable Source column reports the highly personal details of lives of non-public figures. As a case in point, I refer to items appearing on Nov. 18 and 19, about the divorce of a former aide to Al Gore. No one involved was a public figure, just folks who, like many of us in Washington, work or have worked for famous people.

Whose business is such a story? Did anyone consider the harm that such a story could cause the individuals involved--particularly the children, who are innocent bystanders? Your paper would be better off to skip the gossip and report the news.

--Felicia Graham

Know Your Pilgrims

You don't get an "A" on your Thanksgiving quiz [Style, Nov. 25], in which you assert that the Plymouth colonists included "Puritans who had earlier emigrated to Holland."

The Pilgrims were not Puritans--they were Separatists. The Puritans remained members of the Church of England but sought to reform--or purify--it from within to remove practices they deemed too Roman Catholic. The Puritans who came to American hoped to provide a model for the church back home. Many Puritans returned to England when Cromwell took over, convinced that God had answered their prayers.

Separatists were largely former Puritans who had concluded that this purification effort was a lost cause and who left--or separated from--the Church of England completely. The Separatists did not wear dour black-and-white clothes, nor were they as humorless as their Puritan compatriots who founded Massachusetts Bay Colony a full 10 years after the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth.

--Laurie Young

Abortion Myth (Cont'd)

Susan Dudley of the National Abortion Federation deserves praise for debunking the myth that Roe v. Wade "made abortion legal for the first time in American history" [Free for All, Nov. 13]. Unfortunately, Dudley replaces one myth with another. She suggests that the Founding Fathers recognized abortion as an inviolable private right. On the contrary, they enshrined the rights of the unborn in the Preamble to the Constitution in 1789: "in order to secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." No life, no liberty, no posterity.

The Founders otherwise "remained silent" on abortion for the same reason they "remained silent" on parricide, suicide, arson and many other serious public wrongs recognized in common law for centuries and codified by Blackstone in 1768. (Blackstone regarded abortion not as murder in the strict sense, but certainly a homicide and "a great misprision.")

The Founders, "silent" perhaps, but hardly indifferent, clearly left such matters to the states.

--Kevin G. Long