Our letter writers tend to be at their least sympathetic reacting to high-profile tragedies in which the people who died or were injured put themselves at risk. Last year, for example, few writers spared their criticism of the five Orange County teenagers who died early one morning after a night out at Knott's Scary Farm. More recently, responding to the death of climber, alpinist and BASE jumper Dean Potter and his protege Graham Hunt last week in Yosemite, several readers were similarly scolding.
But Potter had a loyal following, and a small handful of readers wrote in his defense, addressing other letter writers' arguments.
Sometimes, it seems, though unable to actually talk to one another, our readers manage to converse.
Crista Worthy of Boise, Idaho, admonishes The Times for its coverage:
I was dismayed to see The Times devote so much space to the deaths of these two lawbreakers. It is illegal to BASE (which stands for "building, antenna, span and Earth") jump — in a national park, period.
I have watched BASE jumpers leap from Perrine Bridge over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, one of the few places where it is legal. It's legal there because there is nothing but air between the bridge and the river or land below, so you won't hit anything (or anyone) on the way down.
Potter's illegal climb of Utah's iconic Delicate Arch showed him for what he truly is: an attention seeker. For me, that act was unforgivable. I am glad Patagonia dropped its sponsorship of him after that climb, and I wish The Times had dropped him from its pages too. By writing about Potter, you give him publicity and simply feed the monster.
Lakewood resident Alexandra Jaffee juxtaposes the article on Potter with another piece from Tuesday's front page:
What a jarring experience to read a front page that reports on the death of Potter, who voluntarily and repeatedly risked his life BASE jumping, and on the agonizing life of Angie Bloomquist, who has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Potter not only threw away the healthy life that was stolen from Bloomquist by her disease, but also got the death that eludes her. People should not romanticize his experiences and choices as spirituality.
Santa Monica resident Gintas Slapkauskas hits back at Potter's critics:
What is wrong with people?
Two decent men died while pursuing their dreams and truly living life to its fullest. Yet people still find the need to call them idiot thrill seekers, say that they somehow deserved their fate and even demand that their estates pay for the cost of search and rescue.
Is there no sense of decency in this world? Friends, fans and family are grieving. It is neither the time nor the place to voice your agenda or to be an obnoxious troll.
Fly on, Dean and Graham!