Liberty Italicized

I read Sarah Goodyear's article "When Being Italian Was a Crime" [April 18] with a great deal of sadness. As the article notes, the Wartime Violation of Italian-American Civil Liberties Act would provide for a comprehensive report by the Justice Department detailing injustices to Italian Americans and a formal acknowledgment by the president.

The Act recently was passed by the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I have written to all committee members, both of New York's senators, the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate, as well as Vice President Gore, urging support for the measure.

I called for a similar action in 1997, when I sponsored a unanimously adopted City Council resolution calling on the government to formally acknowledge its mistreatment of Italian Americans during World War II.

I also recently contacted city and state education officials to urge that students learn about the Italian American World War II experience. Additionally, I asked state education officials to teach students about the courage displayed by Italians during the war, such as the efforts of the Assisi Underground. (Italian efforts to rescue Jews have been the subject of recent Holocaust conferences in the United States.)

On a personal note, a friend told me about a wartime experience that illustrates the courage of the Italian people. He was a bombardier flying missions over Italy when his plane was shot down. He told me he would not be alive today were it not for the bravery of partisans who hid him until he could be rescued.

Finally, I have to agree with Ms. Goodyear's feelings about the importance of learning about history. As George Santayana wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Peter F. Vallone
New York City Council

Blank Reverse

I am a journalist and a South African rape activist and HIV/AIDS activist. While reading Mark Schoofs's series "AIDS: the Agony of Africa" on the Internet, I was surprised to see the statement that former health minister Nkosazana Zuma "reversed her policy on [providing] AZT for pregnant women" after a meeting with activist Zackie Achmat ["South Africa Acts Up," December 28]. Achmat and all of us wish that were so.

No such thing has happened. Nor are there any moves to give antiretrovirals to those who have been raped. We have the world's highest rape and HIV stats, and the most profound activism in the world around those issues.

In addition, it was not Mandela's government that enabled activism. I, and most South Africans, love our previous president, but even he would say that this is the country where the people—not one person—brought down the walls of apartheid. This is a stridently activist country, and, if anything, activism has diminished under democracy. However, President Thabo Mbeki's strange position on HIV/AIDS is likely to begin reversing that.

Charlene Smith
Johannesburg, South Africa

Mark Schoofs replies: Former health minister Zuma, following an April 30, 1999, meeting with Achmat and other activists, did indeed reverse her policy not to give AZT to pregnant women, and this was reported in the South African media. However, as my article indicated, her change of heart was quickly overridden by President Mbeki, which is why AZT is not being provided by the government. Additionally, while activism always involves many people, Mandela led the fight against apartheid and for the new South Africa that protects the right to vigorous dissent.

Promo Sexuality

As a columnist for the French-language pro-wrestling Web page Quebeclutte (Quebec Wrestling), I would like to respond to Vadim's article "Grappling With Homosexuality" [May 9]. Although the article raised valid points that often elude the general public, I feel it is unfair to single out homosexuality as a target of pro wrestling. Pro wrestling steals icons and myths from all aspects of society, and articulates them in the ring in a simple battle of right vs. wrong.

Given the visceral nature of pro wrestling, it is no wonder that the matches are heavily charged with sexuality, whether implied or explicit. And it makes sense: These are men pretending to struggle for dominance, and obviously the measure of one's maleness is the resulting prize. Thus, in the ring, it is the wrestlers' sexualities that are conflicting.

This being said, I do not think that the portrayal of homosexuality in pro wrestling is truly hateful. It is used to create a metaphor. Certainly gay characters are portrayed as stereotypes, but in pro wrestling all characters are stereotypes.

Daniel Roy
Montreal, Canada

Lost in Austin

I'm a college-educated professional, and I've also been a fan of pro wrestling for almost 20 years. While you're all still snickering, I'm going to use my unique qualifications to take Vadim to task for his shoddy analysis of my favorite vice.

Simply put, to emphasize some imagined homoerotic/homophobic dichotomy is a huge stretch—a stretch more painful than even the Iron Sheik's "camel clutch." Yes, there have been unfortunate forays into gay angles with Goldust and Lenny & Lodi. However, these were but two among a host of gimmicks, characters, and story lines cooked up by promoters over time. Vadim uses a couple of isolated instances to make wrestling sound like the "fag bashing" center of the universe.

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