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Letters from Readers - February 2010 American History

Originally published on Published Online: November 24, 2009 
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Whose New World?
Our October cover story about who might have reached America before 1492 prompted Richard Lau of Georgetown, Colo., to lament how Columbus is betrayed in other forums as "an evil brutish man who mistreated native people. His behavior was probably no better or worse than that exhibited by humans from the beginning of recorded history."

Rx for Health Care

As a student of history and the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, I take issue with many of James Mohr's assertions in "Interview" (October 2009). Just because states delved into their budgets in the past for public mental health and bills have been introduced to "nationalize" health care does not make it right. Why can't we do more with freedom of choice and less government restriction?
Thomas Harmon
Marshall, Mich.

We say…
Mohr says he is "astonished anyone would leap to the conclusion that I prescribe 'nationalization' as the cure for our medical ills. Nowhere do I do that, and I cite Mayo and Kaiser as examples that might be emulated. But there is no denying the historical fact that American governments have played a role in health ever since the colonies required local authorities to provide care for the poor."

Understanding Oz
In "The Matriarch behind the Curtain" (October 2009), Evan Schwartz portrays Oz author L. Frank Baum as doomed to failure but for his domineering mother-in-law. Yes, Matilda Gage had a profound influence on Baum's life. But to characterize her as both domineering shrew and the inspiration for Glinda, a "contraction of Good Witch and Matilda," misrepresents this under-appreciated early champion of women's rights.
Judy Bieber
U. of New Mexico

We say…
Schwartz replies: "Baum was a man of many talents, but evidence also shows he was often overly ambitious and poor at managing money, contributing to his failures. I don't argue his mother-in-law was a witch. I show how she encouraged him to write and also exposed the medieval practice of witch hunting, which made Baum quite aware of the myth of wicked witches."

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