Caudill's enduring legacy: good, bad and some ugly
The articles you published about Harry Caudill on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Night Comes to the Cumberlands are useful as historical record, but unfortunate as front-page news, especially the article published on Dec. 21, "Night comes to the chromosomes."
I have corresponded with the authors, and am relieved to hear that by the end of the yearlong series they will report on positive work initiated by residents of Appalachian Kentucky. There are so many great examples that do not get press coverage.
As reporters John Cheves and Bill Estep document, Caudill's work had contradictory effects. He encouraged national conversations that led to the Appalachian Regional Commission, and his analysis of the structural problems resulting from centuries of absentee ownership of resources in Appalachia was important.
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But there continues to be very damaging fallout from all of those, including Caudill, who have ever purveyed stereotypes and portrayals of Appalachian Kentuckians as being without agency or intelligence. After reading about Caudill's later embracing of eugenics (based on work that has been proven repeatedly to have no scientific validity), it is no wonder there is caution in the region about participation in research or journalism projects that are informed by some of the same recurring stereotypes that people get extremely tired of having to confront and disprove.
Fortunately, there are many locally initiated projects and respectful collaborations focused on the future of the region.
Director, Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program
University of Kentucky
Space wasted on drivel
I cannot believe valuable space was used for the articles about Harry Caudill, the man who did more to destroy the pride of the people of Eastern Kentucky than any before or since.
Any student of literature from Eastern Kentucky will tell you he penned drivel, then located the places of the greatest poverty and showcased those, thus causing the world to believe his fiction and perpetuating the belief that Eastern Kentuckians were too ignorant to help themselves.
You have wasted enough space and too many people know the truth about the words of Harry Caudill.
Brenda S. Maynard
Caudill devoid of love
Your recent articles on Gilbert Scott, the creator of Scott's Roll-Arena, and Harry Caudill, the pioneering environmentalist, were an instructive contrast.
For Scott, a patch of dirt was an opportunity to build something from nothing. When he moved to Lexington to set up his tent on a vacant lot, he took a risk. He offered nothing but joy, coerced no one and created wealth.
In the end, his obvious love for his customers and his community lives on as Champs, the Salvation Army and our memories.
For Caudill, a patch of dirt was something untouchable. His message was timely and important, but his heart was full of contempt, not only for those who raped the land and deserved contempt, but for the people who lived there as well. His legacy is devoid of love.
The essence of capitalism is respect and giving. It requires faith that what you have to offer will be valued. The capitalist never tells another human being how to pursue happiness; he invites him to buy it.
For progressives like Caudill, happiness is something that must be imposed by experts like him. They live to tell other people how to live their lives. When all you have to sell is arrogance and the people don't buy it, there is no reason left to live.
Cameron S. Schaeffer
Quirky new brand
As a lifelong resident of Kentucky and a passionate lover of my state, I am disappointed at the Kentucky Tourism Department's response to the "Kentucky Kicks Ass" branding movement reported recently in USA Today. I can say with surety that Kentucky does indeed kick ass, colloquialism notwithstanding.
Anyone who thinks that phrase is profane is out of touch with modern expressions, and those of us who see Kentucky as a leader in arts and culture don't mind that some creative and quirky people are enthusiastic about their beautiful state.
Finally, if you cannot embrace the idea, please refrain from being insultingly (and inaccurately) dismissive of it in a public forum.
Leif Erickson Rigney
The University of Louisville's football team showed me and probably most of those who follow football, it is the real deal after manhandling the University of Florida in the Sugar Bowl, just as it did the University of Kentucky and others during this past season.
As far as football is concerned, Coach Charlie Strong is the man in the state of Kentucky until proven differently.
Congratulations to U of L for an excellent season and bowl victory.
Congratulations to the University of Louisville football Cardinals on their Sugar Bowl championship and the complete thrashing of the Florida Gators. Over 30,000 red-clad fans roared their approval in person, as many of us did at home.
Thanks to the Cardinals for doing what we at the University of Kentucky haven't been able to do: beat Florida
Pension tax a bad idea
Last month, Gov. Steve Beshear was on WVLK taking questions from listeners. One listener asked about plans to raise the income taxes on pensions in Kentucky. To my surprise, he admitted that it was on the table of options.
As a pensioner, one of a growing number in Kentucky, I am very dismayed that we are even considered as a source of more taxes.
We have worked our full productive careers, saving along the way, paying our full share of taxes, finally reaching retirement, and now — because we met all of our obligations to our employers, our families, and the government — we are looked at as being ripe for the picking.
I don't know where other current and future pensioners sit on such an idea, but it needs to be taken off the table before it even gets a second look.
Pension income, at best, is never more than a fraction of what any employee made while working, and to have that made even smaller with higher taxes is a slap in the face of every hard-working Kentuckian.
The General Assembly convenes this week, let your representatives know now how you feel about living on less in retirement.
Out with McConnell
Sen. Mitch McConnell is no true conservative. Anyone who is serious about the name Republican should know that he has caved, sold out on the most basic principles and tenets of the Tea Party revolution.
Is this what he calls smaller government? He has compromised with the uncompromisable and made a mockery of everything the conservative movement stands for.
Make sure he has a Tea Party challenger from the right, and put that old RINO (Republican in name only) out to pasture.
A giant in state politics
I keep reading letters critical of Sen. Mitch McConnell. Get over it, progressive liberals. President Barack Obama lost Kentucky.
McConnell is not going to rubber stamp Obama's agenda but will represent his conservative constituents as he should. He could never support Obama's positions on things like gay marriage and uncontrolled gateway drugs.
I am pleased McConnell is getting credit in the news media and Washington circles for his ability to bring sparring factions together, as did Sen. Henry Clay.
Let's give him some credit as he represents Kentucky in a way that citizens can he proud of. His name will long be remembered as a giant in Kentucky politics.
At this time of year when we give thanks for the many blessings that we enjoy in our lives, I am compelled to recognize the contribution that the Herald-Leader provides to our community.
Two other college communities where I have lived (Ann Arbor, Mich., and Huntsville, Ala.) lost their daily newspapers in the recent past. Friends in both cities miss the local news, the community reporting and the intangible contributions only a newspaper can provide to a community. They tell me that they feel disconnected and uninformed.
In contrast, the Herald-Leader provides us with superb investigative journalism and human interest stories in and around Lexington.
I particularly enjoy editorials that reflect contrasting views about current events or policies, detailed health reports and news coverage provided. I appreciate that the Herald-Leader does not merely report all that is good in the Bluegrass; rather, they examine who we are as a community, criticizing and questioning when necessary.
This ability to self-reflect supports our growth as a community and has surely contributed to gains made over the past decades.
I no longer take for granted the availability of a daily paper in my community. I have been and will continue to be a regular subscriber.
Thank you to the writers, reporters, photographers, editors and staff at the Lexington Herald-Leader; your work makes this community a better place.
Lorie Wayne Chesnut
Proud of Lafayette band
I was lucky to be watching the Rose Bowl parade when the Lafayette High School band was shown. They looked really sharp in their red, white and blue uniforms and they marched really sharply.
They represented Kentucky very well. I was really proud of their appearance for Kentucky. I hope they had a really fun time.
Polly Jo Green
NRA a front for gun makers
Our nation struggles to understand how another mass shooting could have happened and what to do to prevent such violence in the future. Yet, the best the National Rifle Association can contribute is to suggest armed guards in schools?
I feel as if I am in Alice's Wonderland where inane statements are made and no one notices. NRA positions are extreme and absurd. They perpetrate the fiction that any regulation of guns means citizens will be allowed no guns at all. They say the only solution to gun violence is more guns.
They supported a Florida attempt to ban pediatricians from discussing guns in routine safety counseling. They work to block research into gun violence, though such research is invaluable in crafting effective policies regarding firearm-related injury and death.
Clearly, the NRA represents manufacturers of guns, not owners. Their statements always advocate increased production and sale of weapons. We must consider all factors that contribute to America's sad distinction as the country with the highest firearm-related death rate in the industrialized world. Action must be taken not only regarding violent media images and mental health issues, but also by enacting common-sense gun regulation.
Our elected representatives seem completely unable to stand up to the NRA's financial clout. They will do so only if ordinary people demand it. For the sake of all who have been killed or injured by gun violence, let's consider all aspects of this issue and insist our leaders enact legislation that will make a difference.
Time to act on guns is now
There have been several published comments on gun control about which I would like to comment. One person (a journalist, for pity sake) said we should have some decency and give these people time to mourn.
Yes, but we have done that before in so many shootings and when the pain lessens, we do nothing. There are so many massacres and still time heals somewhat and no action is taken. Remember the Amish school? We have to address it while the wound is open.
Video games as the culprit? I am sorry, but this is not the problem. The young man who did the Newton mass shooting was mentally ill and waiting to explode.An armed guard in every school? Ridiculous.
We have to outlaw assault weapons and address mental health. If it is a case of casting blame, blame the mother who brought these weapons into the house knowing her son had serious mental health problems.
Shirley Grace Kelly
Costly social experiment
How many of us know Vietnam vets diagnosed with PTSD, getting disability for the same, who own assault rifles?
They may never have been committed to a mental hospital, but they are obviously quite capable of flashbacks in which they perceive the need to defend themselves.
No citizen needs a weapon capable of killing hundreds in seconds, even those who think of themselves as normal, stable and decent. Why are we conducting a very costly social experiment to see who will snap and when and where they will do it?
The founders of this country could not foresee the kind of high-powered civilian rage turned on helpless victims that some claim is within our Second Amendment rights.
The "well armed militia" was citizen soldiers anticipating a British or other foreign invasion. It was not a lone gunman in a university tower, in a mall, a movie theater or a school venting private rage through high powered weapons aimed at complete strangers.
Enact strict gun control now.
Yes to NRA, end with a bang
After Newtown, the National Rifle Association's primary response is to put armed officers in every school. Good first step. Can't have more six year olds shot multiple times by assault rifles.
Also need armed officers on each school bus, each Sunday school class, swimming pools, everywhere children and adults gather. Next, let's armor the pick-up trucks (50 cal and M-60 machine guns, RPGs, Claymores, and six men with M-16s and M1911 pistols on each) and have them patrol the streets just like Mexico and Somalia.
Doesn't that just put a twinkle in your eye, NRA? In many respects, the United States has become a Third World country. Let's finish it up with a big bang.