By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Richard Goldstein's article ["On Being Called a Commie," August 6] caused me to recall being called a "commie" by my classmates because I once argued, in 1981, with my high school American History teacher that Communism was not a "terrible thing." Being the grandson of Ring Lardner Jr., who was a member of the Hollywood 10 and victim of McCarthyism, I learned at an early age that Communism was not a term that should be thrown around as an insult, but rather one to be used as a descriptor of political views. Now, so many years after the fall of the Soviet Union and with the knowledge that the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was a ridiculous exercise, it's incredible that anyone would still be using this sort of tactic. However, as with the HUAC, one must consider the source.
David Ringgold Lardner
HITCHCOCK AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
In "On Being Called a Commie," Richard Goldstein references an "Alfred Hitchcock story" in which a woman kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then feeds the cooked evidence to the policemen investigating the crime. The story is called "Lamb to the Slaughter" and was written by Roald Dahl. Hitchcock, however, dramatized it on his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
BLACK LIKE ME
I loved James Hannaham's article "The Rise of the Black Nerd" [August 6]. Finally, after 45 years on the earth, I feel understood and accepted. But it is not exactly the new social class it is depicted as in the article. Historically black colleges have been producing black nerds since the late 1860s. I know. I graduated from Howard University in 1982 with a lot of other black nerds.
REINVENTION OF THE NERD
Re "The Rise of the Black Nerd": I suppose there's no one definition of the word "nerd." Still, I was surprised to see Bayard Rustin's name on the list of famous black nerds in history. Rustin was a star football player and track star in high school. He faced down mobs of segregationists in the South, rabid Cold Warriors on the streets of New York, and prison guards in a host of jails that he willingly went to in his pursuit of justice. Doesn't sound like a nerd to me.
John D'Emilio, Professor of History
University of Illinois at Chicago
BADGE OF DISHONOR
In Nat Hentoff's column "No Peace, No Justice" [July 30] he defends the press coverage that puts Charles Schwarz's guilt in "reasonable doubt." But the main point is that there were two cops in the bathroom. One (Justin Volpe) is in jail for his monstrous act, and his accomplice claimed that he either stood by the door (Thomas Wiese) or that he did not even escort Louima to the bathroom (Charles Schwarz's original testimony). Rather than simply presenting coverage that indicates reasonable doubt in the Schwarz case, Hentoff should be questioning the bravery of men who sodomized a helpless citizen in their custody and hide behind the press's unflinching loyalty to those who "protect and serve."
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION
Re Nat Hentoff's July 30 column: I'm amazed that so much concern has been generated for Schwarz and so little for Louima. Every cop within earshot of the bathroom where the abuse took place is guilty for not stopping it. Why doesn't a journalist of Hentoff's reputation share that perspective? Volpe's testimony that Schwarz wasn't there has received a lot of attention, but is he worthy of our trust? As Wayne Barrett noted in his column [July 30], "the Wiese account . . . came after Schwarz and Volpe were already arrested." It seems very possible that Wiese lied to clear Schwarz.
A black man has been abused, and we have a history of not delivering justice in such cases. It would be nice to see us try.
Nat Hentoff replies: I have written several times that the entire precinct should be investigated because many other cops must have heard what was going on. Wiese gave his account to investigators very early on, while the situation was fluid, but they ignored what he said because they had already fixed on Schwarz.
Re Cynthia Cotts's article "Laundering the 'Truth'" [July 30]: The library for which I work in Richmond, California, has just ordered the book Forbidden Truth. We had to wait several months until it was available here (uncensored, we thought). I suggested that the librarian who purchased it staple a copy of Cotts's article inside the back cover of the book so readers will know the truth. David Corn [The Nation's Washington editor] should be fired for this act of censorship.
INNOCENTS AT HOME AND ABROAD
Regarding the disheartening article "Sweep of Faith" [July 30] by Chisun Lee, I would just add that the FBI and INS agents who are routinely violating codes of decency and basic inalienable rights are getting their cues from above. Rogue agents in the FBI and INS have a safe haven in the mass hysteria generated by John Ashcroft and he knows that this is the only way to get Americans to give up civil rights.