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Serves who right?
In last week's issue Christopher Yahnovich wrote in to share his belief that some criminals simply deserve to be killed for the crimes they commit. Such unenlightened sentiment is always disturbing to hear. The fact that so many Americans consider "retribution" to be a valid rationale to inflict punishment explains the persistence of capital punishment despite any evidence that the death penalty serves society in any way. (Perhaps one could say that it does function to bolster the pride of the self-righteous and quench the appetite of bloodthirsty voyeurs.)

Like most governments of the industrialized world, I agree with the position of the philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell. Russell stated that from a philosophical point of view there are only two legitimate reasons for taking action in regard to those that harm the common good. One: to protect society. Two: if possible, to reform the individual who is unable to live peaceably within his community. Russell considered these motivations valid because they serve the best interests of society. I would very much like Yahnovich to explain how state-implemented murder serves to deescalate the violence seen in this country. I would argue that since the death penalty has no effect as a deterrent against crime and is an obvious excess in regard to protecting society, it serves no purpose other than to inflict suffering and hence perpetuates the cycle that causes capital crime. Mr. Yahnovich, is revenge acceptable as an end to itself regardless of the consequences?
Douglas Vuncannon
Durham

Not welcome
I couldn't believe it when I read "Turn your back on him" by Fiona Morgan (May 4) that the Rev. Fred Phelps was coming to Durham to protest the Durham School of the Arts portrayal of The Laramie Project. I've always felt comfortable and safe living as a lesbian in Durham. The many businesses and the people that work in them have made this town seem, for the most part, gay and lesbian friendly. That's why I had to see the Westboro protestors for myself.

Some passersby exchanged words with Phelps' followers but it only fired them up more. My heart broke and tears ran down my face as I watched young children scream that 9/11 was a good thing and call people dykes and fags. As I sat there trying to understand the hate that Rev. Phelps feels for men and women like myself, I realized that just as many people are supportive of who we are. I left that night feeling sad but, surprisingly, proud. Proud of Durham's citizens and Durham School of the Arts for not being afraid to educate others on the lack of peace and tolerance that some towns and their citizens still experience. Rev. Phelps is proof of that.
B. Markham
Durham

Follow the money
For readers who want to see where the money is coming from to fund climate skeptics, they should visit www.exxonsecrets.org, which shows how the company strategized to cast doubt on whether global warming is real and then funded think tanks and junk science pros to repeat that doubt.
Lisa Finaldi
Raleigh

talk back.
Send no more than 300 words to backtalk@indyweek.com; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include name, phone number and mailing address for verification.

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