There is no real comparison between the banning of books in the US and our own periodic “free speech” flare-ups, as Malcolm Knox puts it. The latter are just products of conservative elements being very touchy about critics. Book censoring in the US has much deeper historical roots, a product of its Puritan origins. Religious fundamentalism there has the same roots. That same puritanical streak can also be seen in Americans’ use of the word “bathroom” instead of “toilet”, which unfortunately is making inroads here. I have warned visiting US students that if they go to a rural pub and ask for the “bathroom”, they will be shown a room with a shower and a bathtub. Bruce Stafford, Tascott
In her book Portable Magic: a history of books and their readers, Emma Smith reveals one US complaint that “libraries should not put books in a child’s hands that require discussion”. It’s hard to counter such fear and circumscription, but we can take some heart from the fact that bans often backfire. It’s up to all of us to keep in students’ hands books that promote discussion, and to support children and teenagers to find the power and pleasure they engender. Deb McPherson, Gerringong
First they ban books, then they burn them and, as the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote prophetically in 1822: “In the end they will burn human beings too.” George Fishman, Vaucluse
In the 1960s, litterateur Max Harris told me that the banning of Mary McCarthy’s book The Group had aroused such interest that within days he sold out his stock, which was gathering dust on his shelves. Banning – the hallmark of a totalitarian mentality – made the book more attractive. Pulling books from libraries is counter-productive. Most of us won’t become neo-Nazis by reading Mein Kampf. We might not like what others stand for, but in the end, even the vilest notions are better argued against so their deficiencies are exposed. Ron Sinclair, Windradyne
Do more to erase our slave past
It’s encouraging to read that Ben Boyd National Park will be renamed Beowa National Park (“Slave trader’s name officially erased from NSW national park”, October 1). But then to read that Neutral Bay will retain Ben Boyd Road simply because it’s too complicated to change is disappointing.
We should change many colonial place names, especially those associated with violence towards the Indigenous peoples. On a walk through the centre of Sydney, one comes across the names Pitt, George, Clarence, York, et cetera but rarely any places named for the First Peoples. Surely we should be changing these names too, in recognition of the Indigenous peoples’ traditional ownership of the land. That could accompany the Voice referendum. Stuart Laurence, Cammeray
Townsville is named after another notorious blackbirder, Robert Towns, who, as well as trading slaves in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, decimated the Vanuatu and New Caledonian sandalwood forests. Cherylle Stone, Soldiers Point
Full credit to those responsible for renaming Ben Boyd National Park on the South Coast.
Boyd reportedly abducted 192 men and women from the Pacific islands and forced them to work on his ships and estates in NSW – a notorious practice known as blackbirding. Yet, despite public disavowing of such stains in our nation’s history, how is it that Ben Boyd Road in Neutral Bay still retains that name? Is it intended that the bureaucratic inconvenience of renaming the road will continue to override the legacy and hurt the name invokes? Surely we can do better. Vic Alhadeff, Kirribilli
System of a downer
Simon Holmes a Court has made valid criticisms of our electoral system as it relates to funding (“Electoral system needs a thorough overhaul”, October 1) but, overall, we can be proud of our system. Compulsory voting ensures most citizens have their say. Those entrusted with administering the system are impartial, ensuring that electoral boundaries are drawn according to objective criteria, not gerrymandered. Preferential voting ensures that successful candidates have the support of at least 50 per cent plus one of the voters. Compared to practically all other systems, ours is the best. Andrew Macintosh, Cromer
We do not have a prime ministerial government (Letters, October 1). We do not elect prime ministers. Government is formed from within the parliament, specifically by the organised majority within the House of Representatives, who nominate their leader. That leader is then given (by convention, not by the Constitution) the title of prime minister. Parliament can change the prime minister at any time without reference to the electorate, as we have seen. An elected president may find him- or herself in conflict with the parliament, not with a PM. Tom Mangan, Woy Woy Bay
Our prime minister may be an elected member of parliament, but he or she is appointed by his or her party, not us, and PMs usually have approval ratings of less than 50 per cent. Secondly, the roles, responsibilities and power for the PM and a potential president would be defined and limited by the Constitution, as they are now. Conflict can already occur in our current model – see 1975. Rowan Godwin, Rozelle
In the event of a republic, those with strong opinions would not be appropriate for the top job. So Herald letter writers should be excluded. David Atkinson, Beecroft
As a young teacher needing a roof over my head, I used the options your correspondent mentions (Letters, October 1). Private full board with a family, then with a widow, then paying for my bedroom and use of the bathroom and kitchen with another widow. Finally, a respectable boarding house. The added bonus was a fellow resident there who became my husband of 57 years. Joan Brown, Orange
As a GP about 35 years ago, I dared put “old age” as a cause of death on a 97-year-old patient’s certificate (“Queen’s death certificate shows cause and time of demise”, October 1). A few days later, the Registrar General’s Department called, saying that was not a sufficient cause of death. How times have changed. Dr John Brown, Kianga
Am I the only one who feels embarrassed at the publication of the Queen’s death certificate? Why do any of us need to know this? This is private information. Does the fact that she was our queen make it something we have a right to know? I think we’ve lost a bit of dignity if this is the norm. Ingrid Hawke, Balmain
Look no further than songs by John Kennedy for ballads about Sydney or its suburbs (Letters, October 1), such as Miracle in Marrickville, St Peters to Kings Cross or On King Street I’m a King. David Farrell, Erskineville
Until last weekend, I regularly heard Glory, Glory to South Sydney. Is this close enough? Geoff Lindsay, Thurgoona
Then there’s my favourite Sydney song, Train Trip to Guildford, by John Dengate. Ros Turkington, Rockdale
Day after day
I’ve given many of my online accounts our wedding date as my birthday (Letters, October 1). This false youthfulness saves me from funeral insurance advertisements, and birthday messages have prevented my spending many a night in the dog house. Col Burns, Lugarno
I made sure I was born on my birthday, to make sure I’d never forget it. Richard Mason, Newtown
We got married in the world’s first underwater restaurant in the Maldives: I can’t remember the date, but the venue was unforgettable. Chris Roylance, Paddington (Qld)
When Kevin Rudd came to power, I noted his birthday was September 29, 1957, the same as mine. A few months later, he said it was his wedding anniversary, the same day as mine. Kathleen Molloy, Dorset (UK)
With 8 billion people and 365 days to be born, then I share my birthday with 2,739,726 others. Why do I receive so few birthday greetings? Craig Lilienthal, Wollstonecraft
My grandmother died just after her 25th birthday. She was 100 years old. Yes, she was born on February 29. Jeff Siegel, Armidale
The digital view
Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
Doctors urge people to still isolate, wear masks despite scrapped rules
From simoni: I live on the northern beaches of Sydney and almost no one wears a mask or social distances any longer. I always wear a mask, partly because I care for my 92-year-old mother and also as I don’t want COVID and specially not long COVID. I am beginning to notice regular disdainful looks – mask wearing has apparently become very unfashionable – I intend to keep wearing one despite the government’s attitude – I am with the AMA on this. I respect people’s choice to wear no mask, and I expect them to respect my right to continue wearing one.
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