These letters to the editor do not illustrate all of the differences between com� mentaries on crime in Anglo� America and Latin America that have been noted in previous chapters. The very nature of collective discourse means that its total characteristics are unlikely to be displayed in a single text. When individual commentators make their respective contributions to public discourse they usually focus on one topic and employ one rhetorical style, and this is nowhere more evident than in letters to the editor of a newspaper. Nevertheless, whether conscious of it or not, commentators draw from, and contribute to, a common repertoire of discursive resources that are, in effect, maintained by civil society, resources which reflect its characteristic modes of thought and selfunderstanding. These letters do not exemplify every difference between North and South, but they capture a good number of them. Victoria Frye wrote with the detachment of a researcher. Although her focus was on female victims of homicide, especially in domestic disputes, there was nothing to indicate that she felt herself to be particularly at risk of attack. Rather, she was concerned with a trend that was revealed through an analysis of crime statistics. In particular, she sought to qualify the paper’s earlier optimistic report on a decrease in homicides by pointing out that closer study showed women to be an increasing proportion of the victims. Her call was for the police to adapt to this new development and apply innovat� ive prevention techniques that were being suggested by recent research. Her moral approach to the topic, always unostentatious, was signaled by her final ref� erence to the “tragic results” from keeping intimate violence “behind closed doors.” Santiago Cantero and his fellow pupils wrote with the immediacy of wit� nesses to criminality. Their concern was for themselves as inhabitants of a violent neighborhood, presumably as possible future victims. There were no crime statistics to fuel their plea, merely the mention of personal experience. Theirs was a situation of helplessness, for which the failings of the police were particularly to blame. They made no specific call for measures to be taken; they simply sketched an idyllic image of the urban life they aspired to (“We want to live in peace and study, walk safely in the streets . . .”). Their moral perspective was not wrought with specific words, but with the dramatic image of the innocent young (future citizens) daily running the gauntlet of crime, forgotten by their country, and unprotected by the police. In their self� portrayal as civic orphans these pupils not only invoked a theme which is common among Latin American commentators on crime; they also laid bare the melodramatic character of their moralizing, for melodrama often deals in the threat to innocence. But it would be a mistake to conclude that melodrama was a uniquely Latin American rendering of morality, for it was to be found in commentary on crime across the hemisphere. What is visible in these letters to the editor is a difference in the style in which the melodrama played out-more dramatic in the South, less dramatic in the North-but not in the overall mode within which discursive morality moved. With this difference in style were asso� ciated differences in staging, props, and characters between the two regions, but
the fundamental characteristics of the form were everywhere the same. Melo� drama provides a useful conceptual tool for simultaneously examining the com� monalities in discursive morality across the hemisphere and the differences that were found between North and South, which form the particular focus of the present chapter.