Tourism is best combated by lively interaction among the residents. Those living on Christopher Street will help themselves most by creating a social agenda and presence among themselves and on the streets—something for which the infrastructure of the Village was lauded in the 1960s. Creating issues of racial tension where there are none seems to be what Goldstein is doing, and it is irresponsible.

Martin F. Smith Jr.,

Richard Goldstein's overview of recent nightlife in the West Village was accurate. However, it lacked any input from gay New Yorkers who don't live there, but frequent the bars and restaurants. Twenty years ago when I "came out," the Village was a place where I could hang out and not worry about being ridiculed or harassed. That is the same atmosphere that attracted the early bohemians, the gay activist pioneers, and today's youth mentioned in the article. As I see it, the present problems stem not from racism, but from the fact that many of those flocking to the Village today are seeking more than a comfortable, non-judgmental atmosphere where they can be themselves. On a nightly basis, large groups take great pleasure in verbally intimidating and abusing passersby in a way that can be construed as threatening or, at the very least, extremely unnerving.

Those living in the Village have a major problem, but I blame it on the immaturity of the perpetrators, not their race or ethnicity. It's ironic that many of these kids who travel to the Village to escape the taunts of being "different" have no problem with inflicting cruel barbs at those they deem "quirky." Sadly, unless this situation is put in check more gay New Yorkers will abandon the West Village for Chelsea, the East Village, Hell's Kitchen, etc., not because these areas are trendier or more appealing, but to once again bask in calmer surroundings which, at least to the naked eye, are more nurturing and accepting of everyone.

Hal Panchansky,

Richard Goldstein replies: I share Andrew Corbin's criteria for civility, but he seems unable to understand the relationship between bad behavior by young people and hostile behavior toward them by residents, community groups, and the police. The social contract depends on mutual respect—not to mention public toilets.


Thank you for James Ridgeway's item on Israeli soldiers of conscience who refuse to participate in the occupation of Palestine ["Oy No! We Won't Go!" Mondo Washington, April 16].

If we solely blame the Palestinians for the atrocities occurring daily, we will fail to reach the elusive destination of peace. For far too long, the Palestinians have been unfairly and unilaterally demonized by Tel Aviv's spin doctors.

Let us not forget that it was Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 that sparked the current intifada. In his successful bid to become prime minister, Sharon vowed to negate the Oslo Accords, which so many people worked so hard to draft. Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister by a commission of his own countrymen for his blind complicity in the refugee camp massacres at Sabra and Shatila in 1982. "The Butcher of Beirut" haughtily claims that Israel is the only democracy in the region. However, how democratic is a society that continuously violates over 60 UN resolutions and militarily rules over 3 million of its inhabitants?

Granted, Arafat has earned his fair share of culpability in the treachery in this conflict. The suicide bombings need to stop—there is no dispute about that. However, in our myopia, have we forgotten that only when we cure the disease can we truly quell the symptoms?

Simply put, Israel must end its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar,
Midwest Communications Director
Council on American-Islamic Relations
St. Louis, Missouri

I applaud James Ridgeway for taking the moral high road in his column item about Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve.

The Middle East is mistakenly known for its violence. We forget the centuries of peace in which all lived side by side. The Israeli right of return is a recognition of the world community's shame and inability to embrace a people. The absence of the Palestinian right of return is similarly a country's shame and inability to accept its indigenous people.

When it comes to human rights and civil liberties, the contribution of the American Jewish community is praiseworthy. But its silence when it comes to Israel is loud and clear. We must say to Israelis and Palestinians, seize this opportunity to bury the differences rather than bury your peoples.

Afser Shariff,
Detroit, Michigan


Ed Park's cover article on the cult of Henry Darger and the uncontrollable, sometimes obsessive, urge to analyze his world was excellent ["Making Sense of Henry Darger," April 23]. I hadn't seen or heard anything about the man for about five years when a friend took me to see his work at the American Folk Art Museum. I remember being haunted by what I saw—I didn't know whether to fear or admire it, but I was awestruck nonetheless. I agonized for a few days about Darger, his motivation, and ultimately about myself, then the whole thing faded from memory—until now.

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