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Ask Dr. Salvo

November 23, 1993

Dr. Salvo and Tim

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Dr. Salvo,

I agree wholeheartedly with your eloquent response to J.B. about the need for family life in today's society; however, instead of engaging in sex and creating new life on this polluted, overcrowded planet we should seek alternatives.

One acceptable alternative would be the reform of adoption laws in our country so more people could adopt. The way the laws are written now only Republican Yuppies can adopt and an overwhelming segment of the population is not considered as fit parents for these children who desperately need love and attention.

Another alternative would be the neutering of all great lazy whales when they reach the age of twelve. This would be easier on society than spaying females, who most of the time have PMS and a gun.

Alternatively yours,
John R. Goodman
Fairhope, AL

Dear J.G.,

Your letter strikes chords in harmony with many of my own -- or at least Dr. Salvo's views. Overpopulation and pollution are indeed more pressing evils demanding our understanding and control, than birth control by abortion. Stopping the latter will be about as simple as ending war forever, or stamping out sin, or abolishing corruption in government and business. To bring it closer to home, stopping abortion would be as easy as abolishing crooked election practices, establishing political campaign reform, and legislating fair taxation -- in Alabama!

Go easy on the great lazy whales -- all they need is a vasectomy, an outpatient procedure requiring only local anesthesia and about twenty minutes.

"Females, who most of the time have P.M.S. and a gun." This independent observation deserves close study, since it is a known fact that a gunshot wound inflicted on a man by a woman is always fatal, even if she has never fired a gun before. Whereas men can bang away at other men for hours, and walk away with a few scratches. Once again, women are serious. Men are great lazy whales who don't mean any harm.

Your explanation of this mystery is the first convincing one I've read: It's that damn P.M.S., which they have "most of the time." J.G., the ladies must have put you over the jumps, awhile back!



I fell silent for some time on matters of the spirit because I felt I had said all I needed to say on the matter. But now I feel compelled to respond to two points made by the mononymed Charlie in his letter to the American Family Association, printed in your column of 11/9.

I hasten to mention that I, too, am opposed to censorship. That said, I want to respond to two things he says.

1. Why, pray tell, is it "censorship" if the AFA voices its opinions and like-minded individuals respond by supporting the organization? Rather, are you not yourself being censorious in telling the AFA to shut up and sit down?

Since when does popularity of an opinion dictate who does and who does not have free speech rights? If you don't like what the AFA has to say, you are free to say so. But they have a right to express their views.

The AFA does not call for laws to prohibit certain programming, Rather, it calls for the economic power of boycott -- which will be no stronger nor weaker than the public support it attracts. Again, the people have as much a right to speak with their wallets as they do with their mouths.

Did you, Charlie, approve when homosexual groups boycotted the entire state of Colorado for passing what was described as an "anti-gay rights" law? Were not these homosexuals imposing their view of right and wrong on others by refusing to spend money in Colorado? Even the Coloradans who voted against the measure suffered whatever economic harm the boycott caused.

If you really support the First Amendment to our Constitution, you should be championing the rights of the AFA and its supporters to speak their minds, whether you agree with what they say or not. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite. "Free speech for me, but not for thee," as Nat Hentoff's book is titled.

And an aside about parental control: Many parents do monitor what their children watch. But many are not able to, due to work outside the home or other necessity. Television is about as accessible a medium as one can imagine. It isn't censorious to argue that certain types of programming should be reserved for venues where parents can exercise more control, such as the movie theater or cable.

You say, "You will not be able to shield your children from reality all their lives." How arrogant of you to tell me how to raise my children, to impose your values on me. I wouldn't want to shield my children from reality all of their lives. But I also wouldn't want Stephen Bochco's NYPD Blue teaching my seven- year-old about sexuality. The amount of reality that a person can handle has a lot to do with how old he or she is. What's appropriate at 16 may not be at 6. That is not a decision that you, a network programmer or a TV producer can make when it comes to my children.

Why not just put hard-core pornography on in the afternoon? Would you object to that? Well, who are you to impose your views on others who do not object? Unless you are one to argue that there should be no restrictions of TV whatsoever, including hard-core porn on the after-school special, then you have to admit that lines must be drawn.

Then the argument becomes not whether, but where, to put the line. And if you have a right to have an opinion on that question, then so do I and so does the AFA. It doesn't matter that we disagree, what matters is that we all have a right to speak. Norman Lear and Donald Wildmon are both Americans with a right to voice opinions. That is not "forcing your beliefs on others." It is exercising a Constitutional right.

2. "If you don't want to have an abortion, don't have one."

It amazes me what passes for argument these days. Never mind the very arguable view that the unborn child is a child and not an object. Just bowl over your opponent with a bit of bumper-sticker profundity and move on.

"If you don't like robbery, don't commit one."

"If you don't like pollution, don't litter."

"If you don't like the AFA, don't listen to them."

The same bumper-sticker mentality plays into the canard he cites about the woman's right to do what she pleases with "her own body." That may be true, but a very good argument can be made that her unborn child is not part of her own body, even if inside of it.

One day before birth, abortion is still legal, at least in some states. One day after, the same act would be first-degree murder. But where is there a difference?

Charlie's post-script -- the old yawner about all the evil done in the name of religion -- really ought to be retired. This old song and dance has long since ceased to be convincing, or even interesting.

I remain,
Quite Rational
(formerly I.R. Rational)

Dear Quite,

Your excellent letter is so tightly woven in its argument as to be an almost seamless garment, impenetrable alike to logic and appeals for mercy. Not only that, it is typed without an error via the word processor, an infernal machine I have thus far avoided despite its apparent benefits. (The telephone, when it appeared, offered apparent benefits.)

"Bumper-sticker profundity" is an admirable phrase. It swings; something like "knee jerk liberalism," and I wonder if it is yours alone or was borrowed from the ever-twinkling pundit, William Buckley?

Never mind, I am overwhelmed by all that right thinking in your letter. Since I can't refute it myself, being too benign and pacific, I will turn you over to Charlie H. so he can take a few whacks in rebuttal; then wait and hope the Rev. Hank Shiver will be so provoked by your letter as to favor you with a few of his special bolts of ire and wisdom.


Dear Readers,

Some of you have expressed some pleasure in Salvo's recollections from childhood, and some even asked for more. This may be a very stimulating suggestion, pointing the pen toward unsuspected, rich material from the placer mines of memory. At least it will excuse my publicly indulging in rambling recollections of childhood.....

"It seems to me now that my friends and I lived very closely amidst, under, and in the top branches of trees. Trees became companions, shelters, refuges, even partners in crime. On the northern edge of the front yard of the Green House, was a sizable camphor tree, growing between the sidewalk and the street (DOLFIN STREET).

I found it relaxing to hang by my knees from a branch out over the street some eight feet off the ground. It was cool, airy, and fresh with the scent of camphor berries crushed by passing traffic. If I hung straight and still, refraining from waving my arms, I could be overlooked like a stick-insect, or some snakes that hide by pretending to be twigs. It was a hideout, and an observation post, from which I could observe and overhear the pedestrians and wagon men.

By wagon men I don't mean mule trains, of course, I mean the ice wagon (daily) and the vegetable wagon (once or twice weekly). Except for french onions, about which more later, the vegetable wagon held little of interest. Marvin, the driver, had nothing to say to me but, "Veeehguhtubble man." This cry could be heard for a block or two. He had plenty to say when the cook came out to greet him and haggle over the fresh corn, lettuce, and tomatoes. The only matter of interest here was the inaudible parts followed by several discreet whoops of laughter. The cause of their mirth remained a mystery to me, though I would sometimes beg Willie, the cook, to let me in on their secrets.

The ice wagon provided more stimulating entertainment. With proper timing I could hold still till the wagon was just passing from beneath me, drop silently to the street, and catch up with the wagon in four or five strides ending in a short leap up onto the wagon bed. There I would scoop up a double handful of ice shavings (ice dust?) and be off the wagon and behind the palm tree before the ice man could even holler, let alone catch me.

Now I perceive I've neglected to mention our palm tree, situated four or five strides to the east of the camphor tree. Short, stumpy, with a scruffy brown collar of last year's dead fronds, it was the only palm tree for blocks and blocks. Sparrows nested by the flock in the shaggy crevices of the collar, and they were afterwards blamed for the fire. "After what? What fire?" you may well ask. To me it is quite clear, and I can see it in my occipital cortex: I am standing on the north side of Dolfin Street staring with alarm at the several fire engines in front of my house. There are, the firemen, squirting water on our palm tree, which is burning briskly on the side they can't spray. The sparrows are flying here and there creating further hazards for the people below.

It is the only tree I've ever known to burst into flames and bring out the fire engines.

The adults figured the power line that ran through the dead foliage might have some part and that the damn sparrows had pecked off the insulation from the power wire. Nobody explained how they did so without electrocuting themselves. This was no doubt the kind of sloppy thinking that led some mindless adult to cut down our palm tree.

About five or six more strides to the east was our big black-cherry tree. This, like the palm, I had never climbed. It had very rough, abrasive bark clobbered up with gobs of sticky sap or resin, and it lacked low branches on which to get a start upward. Still every summer it provided considerable entertainment as well as refreshment. About the time we had eaten all the reachable ripe black cherries, and a couple of weeks worth of rotten fruit had accumulated on the yard, fermentation took its inevitable course. We no longer had fierce mockingbirds and swift bully blue jays whizzing down and hopping about eating ripe cherries. We had old soaks listing as they tacked about with half shut eyes, and a few topers snoozing under the hydrangea bushes. Some couldn't even fly till late Sunday mornings. We all declared (we humans) it was a disgrace. But who were we to talk? Sitting in the cool shade of our back porch were several cases of home brew -- these were Prohibition days -- that even the children had helped to produce. As I recall, I had charge of the bottle-capper, and the job of clamping the cap on each bottle as it was filled and passed to me.

This may have required more strength or skill than I could bring to the task, or at least I couldn't avoid wondering about it the time the beer blew up. It was certainly a surprise to me to discover that beer was explosive. Just as it was to learn it was contagious. Willie had gone to the closet to get another bottle when the toe of her right shoe made sudden sharp contact with the corner of a case. One bottle blew up immediately, and the rest in the case quite soon after.

Somehow the calm douceur of Sunday dinner was blown away and after a few nervous laughs we gradually excused ourselves. Our dog went away for a couple of days to wait for things to quiet down.


November 23, 1993

The Harbinger