Letter of the Week
Just Another Player

Re Wayne Barrett's "On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low" [December 8-14]:

So Al's got a honey on the payroll of a nonprofit. Big surprise (and believe me, Al's hit a whole lot lower than this). Al Sharpton is a hustler, nothing more, nothing less. Religion, his first hustle, is a perennial favorite of Al's. The election has provided him an opportunity to dust it off and score yet again. He next hustled race, which reaped many large paydays, but the race hustle is not as lucrative as it used to be. Thus came politics, which, as we know, is the mother lode for a flimflam artist. Reverend Al, the man who didn't even own his wardrobe, has lived large at the expense of others all his adult life. He isn't going to change. The truly pathetic players are the Tim Russerts and the Democrats, who dance to the tune of Al's grift. Al Sharpton runs a three-card monte game, and they all play along like the suckers they are.

Kyda Sylvester
Auburn, California

Alternative Measures

Re Sharon Lerner's "The Fetal Frontier" [December 8-14]: As a pro-choice feminist, a practicing Catholic woman, and a card-carrying member of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, I applaud the willingness of Frances Kissling (president of Catholics for a Free Choice) to wrestle with the hard questions challenging us as advocates of legal abortion. I hope we in the abortion movement take up her challenge to seriously consider alternatives to the current stalemate.

Women's reproductive rights will only be secure if we win more hearts and minds—and that's not happening now. Abortion isn't like other medical procedures or legal rights. Women struggle with the decision for many reasons that make the word "choice" seem trite or inappropriate: They're too young, too poor, uninsured, unemployed, or without a reliable partner. After their abortions, women may feel relieved, morally justified, empowered, happy or sad, or all of the above. But for many this decision is difficult because they do indeed value the potential life the fetus. Clinic counselors deal with that reality every day. For too long the public discourse on abortion has been frozen.

As each side narrows its public position to effectively win in the legislature or the courthouse, the vast majority of Americans are resentful of the oversimplifications, the 30-second soundbites of both sides. If pro-choice advocates can publicly acknowledge the value of the fetus, then perhaps pro-life activists could embrace policies that reduce the need for abortion rather than seek more state control over women. Only then can we open up a discussion that engages the majority of Americans in our laws and public policy.

Eileen Moran
Bayside, Queens

Feminism 101

While I am grateful to see the issues raised by Sharon Lerner discussed in any context, there is much missing in both historical context and current awareness. That pregnancy and abortion are complex issues was a root belief of the early feminist women's health movement, and of the clinics they created, where the home birthing and midwifery movements were integrated, along with the movements for contraceptive education and the right to abortion, within a larger movement for reproductive rights. This was about the handcuffing of biology in the destiny of women, and it still is. It has been many years since feminists first began warning their colleagues that the more we learn of fetal development, the more we will need to grapple with questions of human development and moral agency. I would point you to the work of Peg Johnston, members of the November Gang, and others collaborating with groups like the Abortion Conversation Project. And I would ask you to go back and reconsider some of the early writings in the feminist women's health care movement—we have lost some of the big picture since, but in many ways we had it right in the beginning.

Patricia Pettijohn
St. Petersburg, Florida

Snack Attack

I have read Robert Sietsema's food articles for a while, and though he shows a good knowledge of a wide variety of ethnic cuisines, he routinely makes egregious errors when describing South Indian and Sri Lankan fare. "Day of the Dosa" [December 15-21], a review of Dosa Hut in Jersey City, mentions that dosa is "French-inspired." Readers merely need to know it resembles the crepe, and not be told some vaguely Eurocentric notion that dosas were yet another gift from the Great White Father to his retarded brown stepchildren. Upma is not a snack in South India. Dosa is also mentioned as being a snack, but is strictly a lunch or dinner item. The same goes for iddly. Though in many households it is a breakfast food, in South India breakfast can be a very serious, often daunting, meal for foreigners. I would hate to see further misrepresentations of the cuisines of South India and Sri Lanka—two areas where cooking takes up most of the day and people are serious about it, not because they are snobs, but because food is central to family life and maintains its status as the foundation of society.

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