Letters

Serbversion

Jason Vest, in "Clinton Bombs Again" [April 13], didn't mention that our president, by disregarding international law and bombing hospitals, schools, monasteries, residences, and using cluster bombs, has demonstrated that he is just as ruthless as Slobodan Milosevic.

By supporting the terrorist KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), the U.S. has established a precedent that it will support terrorism when it is in the national interest. By taking sides in a war in which no side is completely innocent, we have forced Yugoslavs to fight NATO and have worsened the conflict. The Serbs are not defending Milosevic— they are defending their homes, just as they successfully did during the World War II Nazi occupation of Serbia.

Last December, seven senators strongly urged Clinton to encourage democracy in Yugoslavia and support opposition to Milosevic. But Clinton, caught in yet another scandal, preferred to create an atmosphere of war that would divert public attention onto Yugoslavia. Clinton's foreign policy has been based on rumors, lies, and distortions (with the help of our media). His deluded belief that the Serbs would quickly roll over under NATO air strikes has been shattered, and in more desperate acts by NATO to save face, we will likely be involved in another long, expensive, Vietnam-type ground invasion.

How hypocritical of our draft-dodging, lying commander in chief to get us involved in another costly quagmire— the kind he was so opposed to some 30 years ago.

Michael Pravica,
Vice President
Serbian-American Alliance of New York


Villagers' Voice

James Ridgeway's April 6 Mondo Washington column was extremely biased. The opening lines referred to the "slaughter" of "Kosovo villagers" by the Serbs— although massive casualties in the year prior to NATO air strikes have included both Serbs and Kosovars.

Following that, in an item headlined "A Kosovo Primer," Ridgeway declared: "Is this civil war? No. It is a struggle for self-determination." That is the stance of Kosovar separatism— and the rationale of any group seeking to break away from an established nation-state. In this way, southerners in the U.S. might say that the Civil War was "a struggle for self-determination."

Then there was Ridgeway's choice of words: Serbian "warlords" rather than military commanders; Serbian "gangster" and "war criminal" Arkan; and "the Yugoslav dictator" Slobodan Milosevic— who actually was elected by the people of Yugoslavia on a nationalist platform. I found myself wondering if I were reading a section of The New York Times rather than The Village Voice.

Jack Ponomarev
Staten Island


Real-Life Crime

Guy Trebay's article "Overkill: The Grand Guignol Murder of a Gay Man in Virginia" [April 13], about the brutal murder of Eddie Northington, was moving— especially because Trebay did not depict him as a stereotypical, defenseless gay man but as a complex human being. I also appreciated the attention Trebay brought to this story, which was largely ignored by mainstream media. The apathetic response from the gay and lesbian communities was disheartening.

Chris Sahar
Brooklyn

Guy Trebay's "Overkill" was an absolutely brilliant story. From halfway around the world I was taken to the very spot the murder happened. I met the people interviewed, I understood Richmond's environment, I saw the cruising ground, and I felt the tragic aftermath of that horrible crime. It was an article filled with totally superior writing!

James Macky
Auckland, New Zealand


Spirited Protest

I was stunned by Guy Trebay's statement in "Overkill" that gay protesters "never arrived" to square off with Reverend Fred Phelps and his anti-gay contingent at Russell Henderson's trial in Laramie, Wyoming, in the killing of Matthew Shepard. The dozen-plus "Angels of Peace" protesters were hard to miss in their seven-foot costumes with eight-foot wingspans. They silently surrounded Reverend Phelps and his parishioners and effectively neutralized them.

Did Trebay somehow miss them in press reports or assume that they were not "gay demonstrators"? They released a clear statement, and I, covering the story in my capacity as a freelance journalist on assignment for salon.com magazine, interviewed most of them. While the group included many straights, their intent was clearly to support our (gay) rights.

Dave Cullen
Denver, Colorado


Freed Speech

How gratifying that academics are finally coming to their senses and abolishing faculty speech codes [Jeff Howe, "Speech Therapy," April 13]. Anybody who has even the slightest interest in free speech cannot seriously entertain the idea that those codes were anything but a cosmetic measure implemented by cowardly administrators who feared being reproached by strident ideologues bent on political indoctrination.

As a professional educator, I abhor the idea of speech codes and regularly say so in my high school class on censorship. The clarity of vision and the common sense my students demonstrate when the more laughable aspects of speech codes are presented to them is amazing. I find it interesting that so-called "unsophisticated" kids who haven't been exposed to the dogmatic and self- righteous bullshit of p.c. types can see the truth so plainly. Most of them are offended by the paternalism that stands behind speech codes— and who can blame them?

Posted on the wall of my classroom is a quote from Thomas Jefferson (yeah, I know, he kept slaves) that reads, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man." I hope my students carry the memory of this quote with them to whatever college they may attend.

Jeffrey Perchuk
Brooklyn


Death To Diplomacy

It's heartening to witness the steady euthanasia of the "politically correct" michegass that hung like a dark curtain over many aspects of academic life on campus. The entire p.c. movement, though its genesis in the impulse not to offend remains unassailable, was doomed to failure, and not because it led to things like a septuagenarian University of Wisconsin professor getting yanked from his classroom mid-lecture.

The pace with which (contestably) righteous indignation morphed into legislation— in the form of speech codes— was phenomenal. P.C. was also somewhat forced, stemming as it did from the pouting of a few and not from the will of the majority. Had the sensible majority spoken out sooner, the '90s might have been a lot more fun, inside the classroom and out. Unfortunately, out of apathy and apprehensiveness, if not fear, no one really questioned the zeal of the presumably offended, and from lecture halls to student newspapers the politically incorrect were effectively gagged.

If there is one lesson to be learned from this, it is to question know-it-alls and policy makers early and often. In the case of political correctness, we hoped the idiocy would dissipate. Fortunately, it's beginning to fade.

Anthony Lechtman
Manhattan


Weir(D) Review

I was simply astounded to read Michael Feingold's shallow and callow review of The Weir by Conor McPherson, currently playing at The Walter Kerr Theatre ["Talking Points," April 13].

Feingold dismisses the play for being without "action," claiming that it is nothing more than a series of shared stories. He has missed the point of the play entirely.

The action of the play centers on the communication of fear and grief between five people. The Weir demonstrates the workings of friendships old and new and explores the means by which people establish connections with each other— and with the world beyond— in a lonely place. Feingold foolishly searches for some genealogical connection between the persons detailed in the various stories, while ignoring the play itself.

The sad truth about all this is that The Weir— a brilliant, subtle, carefully wrought play, which, if it is allowed to do so, casts quite a spell— will likely fail in New York due to the asinine reviews of critics like Feingold.

The Weir does not strive to entertain. It does not seek to amuse. It does not overwhelm its audience with grandiose emotions or visual spectacle. Instead, it offers the audience the opportunity to release itself into another world. This play, about bridging divides between the living and the dead, asks only that the hearer be willing to enter the illusion. Feingold wasn't. Too bad. He missed a fantastic chance.

David Thompson
London, England

Michael Feingold replies: It's pleasant to communicate fear and grief, or give lecture-demonstrations on friendship, but the most effective way of doing so in the theater is to enact stories, rather than have the characters tell them to each other. Mr. Thompson's dramatic sense seems as sickly as his knowledge of New York— where there are, regrettably, no other critics like me, and the daily scribblers' vapid praise will probably give The Weir a good run— until the public finds out that it neither entertains nor amuses.


Deep South

Giles Foden's review of two new South African books ["Who's Sorry Now?" April 6] was extremely well done— even given a most unfortunate headline, which showed a lack of understanding about what has happened and is still happening in South Africa.

Our history is diverse and complex; assigning blame to one particular philosophy is tempting, but won't ultimately help solve our various social and economic problems.

Foden's suggestion that The Country of My Skull asks too much of foreign readers in terms of language and scope of reference is valid. However, Antjie Krog's book is extremely important for South Africans living abroad. I urge any South African who has not read it to do so.

Mark Dunley-Owen
Manhattan


Meaningful Memories

Bravo to Andrew Hsiao and Deirdre Hussey for their excellent article "Mothers of Invention" [April 6], about women who have lost children due to police brutality. As a parent, I can think of nothing more painful than losing a child. How wonderful that these families have turned the loss of their children into something meaningful for an entire community.

Nahdiyyah Parker-Jarnagin
Lumberton, North Carolina


Virtual Atari

Re Danny Hakim's "King Pong" [April 13], about the demise of Atari: As an aficionado (I've owned every version from the VSC 2600 to the Jaguar), I was pleased to read about Curt Vendel's fantastic work in creating the Atari Historical Society.

Sadly, most people look back at Atari and dismiss it as junk— forgetting that Atari started the computer game industry. Without Atari's early work, systems like Nintendo 64 and Playstation might not exist today.

Atari showed the world what could be done with video games.

Mark Santora
Northridge, California


Needling Dare

Re Jennifer Gonnerman's article "Truth or DARE" [April 13]: The DARE anti-drug program is destined to fail because it does not provide accurate information. Any kid knows there is a difference between getting tattooed and shooting heroin. Once kids realize they have been lied to, they will discard all of DARE's information.

Elizabeth Blumberg
Manhattan


Boogalook

Frank Kogan did a great review of Nazareth's latest album, Boogaloo ["Screeching Old Dixie Down," April 6]. I'm glad this band is getting a little attention after 30 years of performing.

Charles Vanics
Quebec, Canada


Spre Well Done

Sarah Smith's article "Not So Spre and Easy" [April 13] was a nice change from the usual critical press Latrell Sprewell has been getting since joining the Knicks. I used to watch him play with the Golden State Warriors and can see that he is trying to pass the ball and adapt to the Knicks' style. I'm glad at least one sportswriter is giving him a chance to show what he can do.

Linda Mcrae
Eureka, California


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