Letter: Andrews’ courage
Address an oponent’s arguments before attacking their person,” a fundamental principle of debate says. This maxim addresses a specific fallacy, the ad hominem (literally, “to the man”), defined as:
1. appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
In your article of August 8, Denise Andrews a lone vote against tougher heroin sentences, Rep. Andrews presented three cogent, and to this reader sound, reasons for her vote. She stated straightforwardly that she does not believe in mandatory sentences, does not believe in “excessive incarceration,” and does not believe in the Legislature telling judges how to do their job.
Responding to Andrews’ vote, Republican candidate Susannah Whipps Lee wonders where her opponent spends her time, “certainly not on Main Street in Athol or Orange” (in fact she does; I live in Orange.) and refers to her “epic blindness to local concerns.” Someone who neglects to address an opponents’ arguments, or addresses a misrepresentation, knows their own arguments are inadequate or inchoate.
You quote Lee as saying, “In effect, Rep. Andrews’ vote would have maintained the existing ineffective level of sanction for the most explosive and damaging social problem in the 2nd Franklin District,” but she fails to give evidence that longer sentences will deter the crime that is feeding the problem. Andrews points to her support in the house for The Opiate Task Force, and her part in securing $2 million for a rehabilitation facility in Petersham. I found no mention of this “explosive and damaging social problem” in the list of generalities labeled “Issues” on Lee’s website.
Andrews’ vote is obviously courageous. It is also right.