Chapel Hill: Opinion

What you’re saying: Peter Aitken, Scott Radway, Steven Wade, Martin Terrell, Raymond D. Andrews

Appealing myth

The letter “What the ‘12’ stands for” (CHN, makes the claim that the popular Christmas song “The 12 Days of Christmas” originated as a catechism song containing coded messages to help young Catholics in England, where practice of Catholicism was outlawed for many years, learn the elements of their faith.

It’s a nice story, but untrue. Its origins apparently lie with a Canadian, Hugh McKellar, who published the notion in 1978 without any evidence and who later admitted that it was all his own invention. The myth has a certain appeal, however, and it has been uncritically repeated multiple times since.

There’s also the difficulty that the supposed symbols in the song, such as the two turtle doves representing the old and new testaments and the four calling birds standing for the four evangelists, do not in any way present a conflict between the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity so there would have been no need to keep them secret. History is full of many fascinating true stories, there’s really no need to make things up!

Peter Aitken

Chapel Hill

No evidence

Rob Ransone’s recitation of “What the ‘12’ stands for” (CHN, is an explanation I had never heard for the lyrics of the song. So I looked it up on Wikipedia and was surprised to discover many interesting facts and attributions for the song going back at least to 1780 in England.

As to the meaning cited by Mr. Ransone, Wikipedia provides the following: In 1979, a Canadian hymnologist, Hugh D. McKellar, published an article, "How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas", claiming that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" lyrics were intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practicing Catholicism was criminalized in England (1558 until 1829). McKellar offered no evidence for his claim and subsequently admitted that the purported associations were his own invention. I guess we shouldn’t believe everything we read in the paper.

Scott Radway

Chapel Hill

Gun holocaust

After reading the letter “Not the answer”, (CHN, I, too, asked, like the writer, why he kept reading, and believing, “that where gun laws are least restrictive and more people own them, that crime seems to be much lower?”

The writer should stop reading action-hero comic book fantasies and misinformation promoted by the National Rifle Association – the facts and answers are self-evident: Gun laws and regulations for privately owned guns are the least restrictive, and guns are more prolific, in the United States than in any Western industrialized democratic nation on earth; and, not surprisingly, the U.S. has the greatest number of gun deaths and the highest crime rates of any of these other nations, and I’d bet more than all of them combined.

Under the heading “Notable Numbers” in the December 5th N&O it was noted that in the last 50 years more Americans, more than 1.4 million of them, have died as a result of privately owned guns than all Americans have died in all wars since 1776. Four-hundred thousand Americans died in World War II, and 400,000 Americans have died from privately owned guns since 2001. This is a holocaust that could have been prevented with meaningful, effective gun restrictions and regulations.

A first, common-sense step towards a reversal of this long-standing trend would be to pass a law preventing the sale of firearms to persons on terrorists watch-lists, a Democratic U.S. Senate proposal that was recently voted down by the Republican Senate and as well as proposed by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper but was dismissed out-of-hand by Gov. McCrory and the Republican N.C. General Assembly.

Steven Wade

Chapel Hill

Racism’s impact

Regarding Ted Vaden’s column “More black faces in court,” (CHN,

I am not surprised to see that there are more black faces in court today in Orange County. No black person is. Even in Orange County, as progressively liberal as it is assumed to be, mass incarceration continues to destroy black lives. I applaud the efforts of UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics for attempting to address the many facets of this problem. However, the problem is not new and for many older blacks like myself the discussions all begin to sound the same: they describe the problem, diagnose the disease and never develop a treatment plan to contain it.

If racism is at the core of the issue, why don’t we address it and construct our way to work through it? Trying to resolve mass incarceration and its ancillary ills without acknowledging racism’s impact is like trying to maintain healthy teeth on diseased gums. Unless and until we look at the core of this issue our talk will just be more bad breath.

As a starting point I think we should all try to act as Judge Long has done: give justice tempered with wisdom and compassion.

Thank you, Mr. Vaden, for all your good work in getting this story to us.

Martin Terrell

Chapel Hill

Left-wing fantasy

Regarding Ted Vaden’s column “More black faces in court,” (CHN, I would like to make the following observations.

This is nothing more than the continuation of left-wing fantasy. I recommend Mr. Vaden read the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal, Saturday, 10-24-2015, page A9, by Heather Mac Donald: Obama"s tragic “Let ’em Out Fantasy.” This write has done her homework and cites statistics overlooked by the left.

In the article, “The president leads the charge to cut the prison population, but mass incarceration isn’t the problem. Rising crime is.”

I worked in the criminal justice system from 1971 through 2005 in the public and private sector at the local, state and federal levels of government. I have a master’s degree in criminology and you may rest assured when it comes to drawing conclusions about the crime and causation, I will defer to Ms. Mac Donald long before Mr. Vaden.

Raymond D. Andrews


Bias or bad laws?

Regarding Ted Vaden’s column “More black faces in court,” (CHN,

Vaden fails to consider that statistical disparities may not be related to bias or if certain groups of individuals are in fact breaking the laws in greater numbers that is why they end up in our courts and prisons.

Prosecutors have the authority of discretion when it comes to enforcing the law, but purposely avoiding enforcement brings to mind certain terms like “arbitrary and capricious” which is improper. If we have bad laws, it’s the legislature’s job to fix that.

Wayne Uber


Nichol on the money

Regarding “At UNC, abdicating the obligations of leadership in scandal,” (N&O,

Though I agree with virtually nothing Gene Nichol regularly writes in your paper due to his needlessly antagonistic style, propensity to degrade those with a different perspective, and lack of solutions to the problems he attributes solely to Republicans, I wholly agree with his column regarding UNC's hiring of public relations consultants. Despite his “biting the hand that feeds him,” he is absolutely correct that the expenditure on lawyers and spin-misters is astonishingly wasteful without any noticeable return on investment. As he notes, a simple, sincere response from the chancellor is all that is required.

David S. (Steve) Heesacker

Chapel Hill

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