As a freezing Arctic blast swept over the East, driving thousands of homeless and poor to churches, makeshift shelters and even jails for protection against the cold, President Reagan had warm words of cheer, hope and patriotic inspiration for the nation.
As 8 million unemployed Americans watched and listened to the President's magnificent inaugural address, they must have been cheered by his promise not to rest "until every American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity and opportunity as our birthright."
Freedom was the big word and the big promise in the President's inaugural. He used the words free and freedom 16 times.
But he never once used the word "justice."
Four years of Reaganomic prosperity, fueled by the largest deficits in history (Reagan's deficits were cumulatively larger than all deficits by all presidents since George Washington!), have left behind a permanent underclass of unemployed, welfare addicts, idle youth and millions of others who have been cut from health, education, job training and senior citizen programs, ruthlessly slashed in Reagan's promise to provide "freedom."
Freedom to scramble for jobs that don't exist. Freedom to look for a place to sleep and a handout of soup and bread at the Midnight Mission. Freedom to fail and drop out from schools that don't teach and don't care. Freedom to look for a doctor in the private sector who will treat your child even though you have no money.
Yes, the President says, through freedom we will have "a society where compassion is a way of life, where the old and infirm are cared for, the young and, yes, the unborn, protected, and the unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient."
Freedom is a fine word, Mr. President, and those of us who have prospered from your tax breaks are grateful (although sometimes wondering when the bubble of billion-dollar deficits will burst), but we are also reminded that the Bible you quote exhorts us, "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue . . ."
May I ask, Mr. President, whether there will be justice in your society of freedom and opportunity. And paraphrasing your fine inaugural words, "If not from you, from whom? And if not now, when?"
Your editorial (Jan. 22), "Inaugural Olive Branch," stated that Reagan's inaugural address will not be marked by history as a great one. On Page 1 of your same issue you quoted Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware, a liberal Democrat with presidential aspirations, as saying, "I thought it was a brilliant speech that made people feel good about their country and the President."
With the President's landslide victory and overwhelming approval of the American people your editorial writers and your cartoonist Conrad seem completely out of step with what's happening!
Maybe a little soul searching is in order!
EDWARD T. JORDAN
Opinion is divided about the inaugural. Some folks, no doubt including many Democrats, believe it was not the weather that had a chilling effect on the inaugural, but that the inaugural had a chilling effect on the weather.
Let us hope it's not an ill wind.
President Reagan and the inaugural committee are to be commended for canceling the inaugural parade because of severe weather.
However, it would have been even more compassionate--and memorable--if some of the thousands of dollars raised for this year's festivities could have been directed to aid the homeless and hungry in the nation's capital and elsewhere.
JULIUS M. COHEN
There is something obscene about an Administration that spends millions of public and private funds on an inauguration when across the street from the White House a man freezes to death, where homeless people sleep on sidewalk gratings and where a man had to fast for weeks before Reagan's Administration allowed him to use an old, vacant building as a shelter for the homeless. Their basic philosophy is, "I've got mine."
Once again we are beset by the spectacle of Nancy Reagan and her wealthy, conspicuously consumptive chums trying to outdo Nancy's alter ego, Marie Antoinette, in frivolous excess. It seems that those old haute couture rags already hanging in their closets won't do for Ronnie's second coronation; new ones must be ordered, at the cost of thousands of dollars.
All of this, of course, amidst the specter of thousands of homeless and hungry Americans wandering our streets and hundreds of thousands of Africans starving to death. How much more public flaunting of wealth must we endure from the Reagan crowd while, even as I write this, they seek further cuts in government aid for their impoverished and suffering fellow citizens.
Mayor Tom Bradley has sought $250,000 in funds to construct a temporary shelter to provide overnight housing for 138 of the more than 50,000 homeless men and women in the city of Los Angeles.
Think of what the $12.5 million used on the President's inauguration could have done to resolve the homeless situation in our city.
To all the rich and powerful who have provided us with a spectacle of mink and limousine during the Reagan inauguration, I propose the following reading assignment. Since the Bible is now the "in" thing to read, I suggest that Reagan and his wealthy friends read Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus.
WILLIAM JOSEPH MILLER