Hard Cell

I am perhaps too hard-hearted to cry, but after reading Jennifer Gonnerman's standard-setting article "Roaming Rikers" [December 19], I felt that tears were called for. It's just that, after 10 years of imprisonment, including many months in solitary confinement (once for speaking with a reporter), they wouldn't flow. Clearly, something inside me is broken. And it must have broken in the last 10 years because, before prison, I could cry for horribly sad things.

While society will, regrettably, always need prisons, we don't need prisons from which people exit worse off—more angry, more violent, less human—than they were when they entered. We don't need prisons where, to take an example from "Roaming Rikers," the warden eliminates 94 of 105 counseling positions while spending an additional $7.6 million on security equipment of dubious utility (two armored personnel carriers!). Nearly all of the people at Rikers eventually will be released. If the only things they learn during their incarceration are more lessons in violence, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going to happen when they get out.

James B. Nicholas
Mid-Orange Correctional Facility
Warwick, New York

Sour Dough

Francine Russo's short review of Bread and Puppet Theater's The Heathen Nativity ["Holiday Not in Cambodia," December 26] was irksome not simply because of its shallow condescension—"The bread, at least, is fresh"—but because it was ill informed. As a onetime member of the troupe, I am quite familiar with reviewers' consternation about its persistently political drama. However, as a theater historian, I would prefer better-informed criticism.

Russo writes that Bread and Puppet "travel from their communal farm in Vermont and touch down here in a time bubble." In fact, the theater works all over the world. In the past year alone, Bread and Puppet was in residence for five months at the Expo 2000 World's Fair in Germany, performing daily giant-spectacle critiques of globalization. In 1999, it was a major presence in the pivotal anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle. In the July 25, 2000, Village Voice, both Richard Goldstein and Andrew Boyd noted how much the revival of political street spectacle is connected to Bread and Puppet's work.

Bread and Puppet is part of the older generation of avant-garde theaters and is beyond positioning itself as young, hip, and ironic. But as the Bush era begins, there's much to be gained from the theater's work, which will be on the boards and in the streets in the years to come.

John Bell

Green Gaze

As the recent Green Party candidate in New York's 8th Congressional District and a proud lavender Green, I would like to respond to Richard Goldstein's "The Year in Queer" [January 2]. In the article, Sean Cahill, research director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Policy Institute, is quoted as accusing Ralph Nader of running a "two-tier" campaign that relegates civil rights to the back burner. On the contrary, Nader has spoken passionately on the issue of civil rights, which often is usurped by corporate power—a situation that the corporate-financed Democratic Party no longer seems to object to.

In addition, to write, as Goldstein does, that Nader has made it hip to be "a social conservative of the left" is the height of ignorance. I would remind Goldstein that the Green Party's platform on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues is much more progressive than the Democratic Party's. Furthermore, Ralph Nader supports gay marriage and Al Gore does not. The self-appointed leadership in our communities would like us to blindly believe that the Democratic Party is our only home, but the truth of the matter is the Green Party is a more sincere, more progressive, and more friendly choice.

Dan Wentzel

Richard Goldstein replies: I have no doubt about the Green Party's support for gay rights. It's Nader's commitment I raise questions about. His cavalier attitude toward the courts in a Bush administration is a good indication of the priority he places on this issue. His "passion" for civil rights has never been reflected in any actual work on that front. The Greens will eventually discover that, when it comes to fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia, Nader is hors de combat.


Nat Hentoff's latest account of the progress of Bush v. Gore through the court system ["Is the Supreme Court Disgraced?" January 9] applauds the dissenting judges of the Florida Supreme Court and catalogs a variety of law professors whom Hentoff accuses of partisanship but omits the opinion of the heavily conservative United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That Court saw the Florida dispute for the unadulterated question of state law that it was, and ruled accordingly. Hentoff apparently intends to use the media-hound segment of the professoriat as straw men in this debate. A more useful focus would be on why the lower federal court rejected the Bush claim out of hand.

James M. Doyle
Boston, Massachusetts

Nat Hentoff replies: The 11th Circuit had the Bush equal-protection claim before it twice and did not rule on the merits, saying it was not ripe for judgment. But the U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise. As for the "unadulterated question of state law," this was a federal election and the U.S. Supreme Court previously has overturned state election laws a number of times as in the landmark "one-man, one-vote" cases.

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