By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Letter Of The Week
I am distressed to read all the letters from readers dumping on Kerry in reaction to James Ridgeway's "John Kerry Must Go" [Letters, May 5-11]. Kerry is, indeed, far from perfect, and I was a much more enthusiastic supporter of Dean. But let's face it, Kerry provides the only hope of undoing the damage wrought by Bush's huge tax cuts for 1 percent of the population, the needless slaughter of hundreds of American troops and civilians in Iraq, the shrinking of civil liberties, and the resurgence of the religious right. The dissing and dismissing of Kerry that I see in Voicereaders, as well as many others, is akin to that toward Al Gore in 2000and is the kind of thinking that helped get George W. Bush "elected" (or whatever the hell it was he pulled off at the end of that so-called election).
In "Is This America? For Now, Maybe" [May 12-18], Sydney H. Schanberg presents some good points regarding how the Iraqi prison torture scandal is colored by the arrogance and deception of the Bush administration.
Indeed, Amnesty International and other organizations have received frequent reports of torture or other mistreatment of Iraqis by coalition forces during the past year, and Amnesty's extensive research in Iraq suggests that the situation in Abu Ghraib is not an isolated incident. However, the Bush administration reacted only after the images had hit the television screens.
The "war on terror" cannot be won through secrecy or disregard for human rights and international law.
Jam for Francis
I was both saddened and disappointed when Gary Giddins suddenly announced his departure from the Voice in December. He was like an old friend for almost 30 years, and I came to rely on his devoted, reassuring, and regular insights on both the traditions and new directions of this still vibrant but neglected art form.
However, the reappearance of Francis Davis on these pages (his early-'90s consumer guides were treasures) has been a very pleasant and welcome surprise. More than just filling the Giddins void, he has quickly re-established the Voice's coverage of jazz with a unique style that is continually sustained by his interesting and varied tastes. I hope he sticks around.
In "Hung Out to Dry" [The Essay, April 7-13], David Ng harshly criticized the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) for not stopping the rise to fame of William Hung, the most infamous reject of American Idol. "Call it selective advocacy," Ng writes. "Or falling asleep at the wheel. When MANAA sticks its head up its own ass, it effectively gives the public permission to mock away."
We would like to point out a few things to your readers. First, the Asian American community is not strongly against William Hung. As early as February, MANAA polled the Asian-Pacific Islander American community about William Hung; while opinions varied, the response was mainly positive, a fact that even Ng admits in his reporting. After discovering the parity among the APA community we decided there would be no cause for action. If Ng bothered to contact MANAA before he put pen to paper, he would have known about our extensive research and our just cause for not taking action.
Second, Ng's disdain for Hung seemed strangely personal, and we question if he is the right person to advocate Hung's abolishment. He starts to tell a story about a firsthand experience with Asian foreigners, hoping to add legitimacy to his article, but instead reveals that he has a xenophobic rage toward them. Unfortunately Ng's essay will be dismissed as a useless rant, and Hung will still be around in the near future.
We have to be smarter about issues like William Hung. The real problem is not that Asians such as William Hung exist, but that mainstream film and television fail to present a diverse picture of the Asian American community and instead only show Asian males as either geeks, asexual, or foreigners. MANAA asks those angered by the Hung phenomenon to focus their criticism on the system that facilitates Hung's success, while supporting other Asian American performers who do not fit into stereotypical molds, like the charismatic Harlem Lee of Fame, a show similar to American Idol. Attacking other APA organizations will just show weakness among an already divided community.
MANAA regrets not making public our decision not to take action and our reasons for not protesting. We take matters like this very seriously. One can be certain that if Hung's ethnicity, accent, or looks were ridiculed in a racist fashion, MANAA would be there in a heartbeat.
Los Angeles, California
David Ng replies:I never asked for Hung's "abolishment." In my essay, I argued that we ought to ask ourselves exactly why we think Hung is funny, amusing, or exemplary. The fact that so much racism today isn't obvious or visible but veiled and sublimated is something worth considering. And MANAA would do well to address these cases of ambiguous racism in addition to more overt ones.