Barbarism & Understanding
To the Editor:
In “The Issue: May 1960,” Mr. Podhoretz displays an outrageous contempt for his readers’ intellect when he uses the word “barbaric” to describe the young father in Philadelphia last year “who publicly trotted out all the clichés of liberal enlightenment to plead for ‘understanding’ of the boy who assaulted and murdered his four-year-old daughter the day before.”
It should be pointed out that the young Philadelphia father did not plead for understanding of the boy in the tired, simplified sense that Mr. Podhoretz deliberately implied. What the young Philadelphia father did do was raise a few questions: Why not study the boy as scientifically as possible now and seek to understand him so that we might prevent this form of brutality in the future? If we killed him would that prevent similar sex killings in the future? The father’s emphasis was on ending this sort of murder in the future, not on saving the boy. If what the Philadelphia father did was barbarism, then what words can be used to describe Mr. Podhoretz’s hacking? Perhaps it’s just positively “dehumanized,” whatever that is.
Brooklyn, New York