Letter of the week
Sick of it

It is rather depressing that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis has slipped to a non-issue during this election year, as Kareem Fahim correctly observes ["Meanwhile in Palestine," villagevoice.com, October 4]. To some I'm sure this is a coordinated effort by Bush at the bequest of Sharon to avoid any actual discussion of the issues until the elections are over.

I believe the key is not politics, but fatigue. Most Americans are sick of both sides crying foul but being unwilling to do anything to help either of the sides involved. The "road map" was a joke, observed by neither side and officially declared dead about a year after it was blown up by Hamas. Until things change and each side is willing to recognize its own faults, all the rhetoric from our president or our government will be worthless.

Michael C. Levy
Upper East Side

Balk like an Egyptian

I feel the need to respond to Kareem Fahim's portrayal of refugees in Cairo ["Escape From Sudan," September 15-21]. The fact is if these refugees were treated any better, it would be discrimination and contrary to the basic tenets of the rights of the people of Egypt. Egyptians are not obliged to make room for millions of Africans in their country. There is nowhere near enough money, schools, and jobs for the native Egyptian population. What do you think will happen when you add 2 million illegal foreigners to the mix? It ain't pretty.

Egyptians have it bad enough, and the Egyptian underclass suffers through things as bad as these refugees must, but without the help of refugee support organizations. Egypt is first and foremost for Egyptians, and it is only right that they get prioritized treatment over illegal immigrants. These people are the U.N.'s responsibility and need to be repatriated or sent to a third country. Egypt simply does not have the resources to cope, and it is tragic that it is expected to. The warm hospitality of the Egyptian people is understandably thinning with every new refugee or settler that comes. Who can blame them?

The new Egyptian-Sudanese agreement is something I find nothing short of treason. It allows an open border with an impoverished and destabilized nation that will be a headache to Egypt. Why not try showing the other side of the story? Go to the slums of the Egyptians—see how they would kill for the food bags once a week and all the free opportunities and sympathy.

Patrick Elyas
Los Angeles, California

Cunning lingo

I just read Erik Baard's "George W. Bush Ain't No Cowboy" [September 29-October 5] and enjoyed it a great deal—not only for the information about G.W. Bush (I knew a good deal of that), but for the details on the cowboy myth. I've seen enough cowboy movies to realize how powerful a myth that is, but I didn't know it's that detailed, nor that it has such a potential to influence voters.

I can't speak for all Europeans, but I don't associate Bush's lingo with the image of a cowboy. The archetype it reminds me of might be closer to the myth cowboy's classic enemy: some narrow-minded frontier creature who dislikes all who differ from him in appearance, culture, language, or opinion; calls himself a God-fearing patriot; and is a regular at the local Saturday-night lynching mobs. Admittedly, the contents wrapped up in Bush's lingo probably influence that. Bush doesn't strike me as a stupid cowboy, but as a stupid demagogue.

I thought the comparison between the cowboy myth and the chivalric myth very interesting. One detail caught my attention: " 'The idea of the American cowboy is the direct lineal descendant of the chivalric knight,' observes Bonnie Wheeler, a medievalist in cowboy country. 'The only serious difference is that your status doesn't depend on your social class.' "

I'm not entirely convinced about the "direct lineal descendant," but I know that it was an element of the chivalric myths that one could become a knight through virtue, independent of one's class. Of course, that's the myth, but then there's probably quite a gap between the average historical cowboy and the idealized version, too.

Julia Henkelmann
Münster, Germany

Chicken roaster

I'd been thinking along similar lines as Baard. Bush reminds me of a particular character in many westerns I watched as a kid.

The character was the loudmouthed, swaggering son of the biggest rancher in the area. He talked tough and always had his daddy's henchmen there to back him up. When he had to fight his own battles, he turned out to be a sniveling little chicken—for example, the character Rick in The Last Train From Gun Hill, a 1959 movie starring Kirk Douglas.

Michael Rieke
Spring, Texas

Hoarse hockey

Re the "George W. Bush Ain't No Cowboy" screed: Down here in Texas we call that pile of scribble a whole bunch of horse hockey. You'll learn that people—good citizens of the good ol' U.S.—can't be fooled by a phony cowboy. Our president shows that he's a straight shooter . . . and "preemptive," as you will learn, means shootin' first, as in outdrawing the bad guys. President Bush demonstrates that he'll do this for his country as it is his first concern—the safety of all U.S. citizens!

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