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
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.
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 Egyptianssee how they would kill for the food bags once a week and all the free opportunities and sympathy.
Los Angeles, California
I just read Erik Baard's "George W. Bush Ain't No Cowboy" [September 29-October 5] and enjoyed it a great dealnot 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.
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 chickenfor example, the character Rick in The Last Train From Gun Hill, a 1959 movie starring Kirk Douglas.
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 peoplegood 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 concernthe safety of all U.S. citizens!
Amen to Erik Baard's article, which spells out the many ways in which George Bush does not follow the Cowboy Code.
As a former amateur rodeo contestant and lifelong student of western lore and history, I find it particularly offensive that George W. pretends to possess the resilience, individuality, and depth of character of a real cowboy. Unlike Teddy Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, this Texas-strutting dude can't even ride a horse!
For the record, most cowboys tend to be conservative in their beliefs, but as a group they are generally self-sacrificing and courageous whether on the ranch or in the rodeo arena. And they don't hide their disdain for bullies or cowards.
George W. and company do recall a certain type of western figure, however, that emerged in my part of the country a little over a century ago. The Johnson County War of the late 1800s erupted when wealthy cattle barons attempted to run the small ranchers (the real cowboys) out of northern Wyoming. These elite landowners wanted to keep control of the public grasslands that fed their cattle for free, yielding great profits. Indignant that democratically elected local officials protected regular citizens from big business's excesses, the cattle barons came up with a solution: They assembled an army of Texas mercenaries that began killing and burning its way across the prairie. This adventure was short-lived and ended with the cattle barons and their henchmen cowering in a bunkhouse, surrounded by a posse of enraged citizens. It was the taxpayers, in the form of the U.S. Cavalry, who finally rescued the well-heeled perpetrators.
I can envision George W. in a scenario like the Johnson County War, but not in a leadership role. He'd be the pampered cattle baron's son hiding under a bed while the real men outside dealt with the bitter realities of a changing world.
Erik Baard's "George W. Bush Ain't No Cowboy" is a fabulous piece of journalism. However, Baard failed to mention that real cowboys never attempt to brainwash others.
Bush is a pseudo-everything. The two things he's good at are lying and thieving. Forget about anything else. He simply hasn't the brainpower for abstract thinkingtherefore, we get Iraq and the escape of bin Laden.
His entire campaign has been brainwash, or the attempt to. There is no way under the sun that he's unaware of the horrendous errors in judgment he's made. Yet he presents himself to the people as one who has had success in every endeavor he's undertaken.
A chai reverie
Re Tom Smucker's "Wilsonian Democracy" [September 29-October 5]: How has the United States failed? I'm not quite sure. Maybe Smucker's confused, as clearly the '60s are dead because the radicals who populated that generation have cashed inthis all coming on the heels of their Austin Powers-like "yeah capitalism" realizations. Meanwhile, today's younger generation throws rocks at its local Starbucks (after sucking down a chai tea latte) and condemns the Gap (after buying a cool pair of jeans) and wonders why nobody takes it seriously. But what this all has to do with Brian Wilson, I have no idea . . .
New Castle, New York
Congratulations to Gary Giddins, winner of the 2004 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in the Pop Articles category for "Swashbuckler" [June 4-10, 2003] and "The Academy's Pulitzer" [April 30-May 6, 2003]. The awards are presented annually to American journalists whose books, articles, and liner notes on the subject of music are selected for their excellence. The award will be presented at a ceremony in December.