Try to imagine this scenario. A group of well-meaning Americans wants to talk to a group of South Africans about mutual concerns. They arrange a long-distance telephone and radio hookup and have a pleasant hour or so of exchanging views with one another. The problem is that while the Americans are truly sincere and concerned citizens, the South Africans were all chosen by the South African government to represent that government's views. The broadcast is not aired in South Africa, the apartheid policy is never mentioned during the conversation and all this takes place while Bishop Desmond Tutu and other genuine human rights activists are imprisoned or in exile.
Ridiculous? Couldn't happen? Well, not only did it happen, but it was featured on the front page of the View section accompanied by a large picture of the Americans and a long article that was very complimentary about the whole effort.
One slight correction though: The Americans were not talking to South Africans. They were talking to representatives of the official peace movement in the Soviet Union ("U.S., Soviets in 'Global Town Meeting' "by Beth Ann Krier, March 13).
Oh, there are peaceniks in Russia, and I could give you their names and addresses. I doubt that they would be able to talk to Americans on an international conference (phone). You see, their current addresses are various jails, prison camps and mental hospitals throughout the Soviet Union. The best-known peacenik of them all, Prof. Andrei Sakharov, whose efforts for peace were rewarded by a Nobel Peace Prize, is in exile, incommunicado in the city of Gorky, certainly beyond the reach of the naive, uninformed, but oh-so-well-meaning Americans.
The difference between the "official" peaceniks and others is that just about everyone in all (Soviet) factories, universities, offices, etc. is expected to join the peace movement by signing mass applications. The spokesmen are appointed by the government and are expected to help in organizing mass rallies against U.S. aggression, are selected to speak to Americans on radio and TV, and, if they are really good, are permitted to go to America as peace delegates.
The unofficial peaceniks are another matter entirely. They advocate communication between the two countries outside of government channels, protest Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, advocate disarmament by both superpowers and, of course, they go to jail. The same fate, by the way, awaits all those members of the so-called Helsinki Watch Committee, a group of people who decided to monitor Soviet violations of human rights and are now, without exception, in jails or mental hospitals.
I think that next time there is an international hookup it should be between the U.S. and South Africa. The Americans will not be so eager to be taken in and the newspapers will not be as uncritical. On the other hand, maybe the hookup should be between official human rights activists in South Africa and the U.S.S.R.--this way, they will be able to lie to each other without fooling anyone.
Frumkin is senior adviser for the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews.
Suffering of Vietnam Vets
While leafing through The Times (March 10), the article, "Vietnam War: Veterans Relive Their Horrors in the UCSB Classroom," caught my eye. My husband and I glanced at the photos, and I began to read aloud. As I continued, my voice became more and more choked up. Embarrassed, I looked up from the paper at my husband. Tears were streaming down his face.
We are people of the Vietnam generation. I personally have not forgotten the agonies and pain that ripped through our country. Perhaps the class at UCSB should be offered nationwide as catharsis for the pain so many of us still feel.
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I am a Vietnam veteran who served as a "grunt" with the 101st Airborne Division and was awarded, among others, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. I mention this only for the right to comment on the article on the Vietnam seminar at UC Santa Barbara.
I feel genuine concern for my fellow veterans who were truly affected by their war experience, and I feel they should get all the help they need. Also, I have a vested interest in favor of upgrading the image of the Vietnam veteran, recognizing the contribution and reexamination of the Vietnam experience.
While seminars such as that at UCSB may advance these causes, it seemed to have an est-like silliness to it. It struck me that the veterans attending and speaking are looking for martyrdom, since heroism was denied them. Some seem to look on their veteran status as an unpaid avocation, and this seems more pathetic than altruistic.
My overall impression is that the veterans most hurt by the war are still on the streets or in one-room apartments, while those spilling their guts at seminars are those who just can't put the G.I. Joe in themselves to rest. I couldn't help wondering how many of the attending veterans wearing boonie hats and cammie fatigues suffered out the war behind desks or typewriters.
RAY E. BUTLER
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I greatly admire Walter Capps for offering this course to the students of UCSB. I only wish that it was offered at all colleges across the United States and that the Vietnam War was talked about and taught in the junior highs and high schools in America.
When America is involved in a war in which hundreds of thousands fought, 57,939 Americans were killed and 2,470 are still unaccounted for, that war belongs in history books. The future is with the students of today. They should be taught all of our history.
I think what Walter Capps is doing is great: great for the students, great for the veterans and great for the country.
Marketing in Medicine
The article entitled "Eye Surgery Pitch--Is It Hype or Hope" (March 3) has raised several issues that need to be dwelled upon and clarified. The first issue is marketing in medicine. At the California Center for Eye Surgery, my patients' vision and welfare have been and always will be our primary concern. However, as difficult as it seems, physicians are realizing that the private practice of medicine is also a business with very stiff and formidable competition from HMO's, insurance companies and yes, even Medicare, with its attempts to have doctors reduce their fees. A physician can succeed today by: 1--Reputation, which is solely a function of time or 2--Visibility, which involves very careful, ethical marketing. With the current glut of physicians, it is clear that marketing plays a critical role.
Ever since the historic Bates and O'Steen Supreme Court decision in which the FTC opened doors to the legal and medical profession to advertise and market their services, the new uncharted waters have been slowly, but progressively toe tested. Marketing is a very powerful instrument. As advertising agencies already know, the success or failure of a product or service depends on marketing. In medicine, this can result in a shift, a reallocation of an entire cross section of patients to the physician who strategically positions himself in the community. Any time this shift occurs, there will be a cry of outrage from those who have maintained a "mountain to Mohammed" or "ivory tower" attitude. Yes, professional jealousy is alive and well in the medical field.
I am concerned about the rising costs of health care and have pioneered the concepts of outpatient eye surgery to provide the highest quality of care while reducing anxiety and costs. I feel my standards of care and surgical skills in laser, cataract, implant and radial keratotomy are of the highest caliber. I freely admit to using marketing in my practice because I do so in an ethical, straightforward way--my conscience is clear and I can sleep well at night--and my patients are very content.
In regards to radial keratotomy, several points must be made. I have followed the development of this fascinating operation and introduced it to our South Bay community. On a recent interview, I was asked, "Isn't RK considered controversial?" Well, any procedure that creates such significant change will be controversial. Ophthalmology is a rapidly progressive field. When permanent wear contact lenses, lasers and lens implants were introduced, there were storms of controversy. At the root of this controversy is the argument many use that RK is cosmetic and performed on a "normal, healthy eye." Being able to get rid of one's "visual crutches" to see again is no more cosmetic than a crippled person being able to walk again without his braces.
In reference to predictability, we are achieving a success rate of 20/40 or better in 90-95% of our patients who are mild to moderately nearsighted. There is no convincing evidence that these excellent results will regress--on the contrary, data being gathered by our societies, the Kerato-Refractive Society and the International Society of Refractive Keratoplasty, are showing stable consistent results. Of course, if one were to extrapolate to the extreme and ask what will happen in 20 or 50 years, no one will be able to say, but who can predict in any operation what the future holds.
WENDELL P. WONG MD
Chief Surgeon and Director
California Center for Eye Surgery