Letters

INSANE IN THE ENG BRAIN

I just read Chloé Hilliard's article 'Sharing in the Gory' [May 2–8]. As a former instructor of Kenneth Eng, I'm curious about one thing: Would he have shot my students and me if he could have afforded a firearm? It was my observation that Eng engaged in offensive speech that made others uncomfortable. I recall one occasion in my class when Eng spoke out on the rather fluid and hypocritical nature of genocide, questioning America's actions in South Vietnam while praising Hitler. Most of his classmates shouted him down, but to their shock, I quieted everyone down and asked Eng to continue (curious as to where he was going with the topic). His points proved to be historically inaccurate observations from a very angry young man.

Matt Sheridan
Manhattan

For the love of God and all that is holy, please stop writing about Kenneth Eng. I extend this plea to everyone in the media. He works in the same way as the Westboro Baptist Church—he spews all sorts of nonsense and hateful things to get attention. We shouldn't be paying attention to him at all, since all he wants is for us to buy his pathetic excuse of a book (which is about cyborg dragons).

Erika Harada
Ridgewood, New Jersey

Kudos to Hilliard for getting in, and out of, the room with Kenneth Eng. She's a braver soul than I. This said, the man deserves the full resources of our mental health department. Sadly, ineffectual, delusional, angry, and impotent men like him do account for most of the homicides committed in this world, so we must unfortunately reflect on him as more than a pathetic curiosity but as an accident waiting to happen. What your article could have tackled is, what is to be done with someone who endorses terrorism? What is our pre-emptive strike against someone like him who has graduated from "co-ed nut job" and now does "crazy" for a living?

L. Bollmeyer
Manhattan

Why are you giving coverage to this man? I have met Eng and he struck me as someone fear-filled, someone who was probably bullied all his life and has responded by lashing out in anger and hatred against the world. Be that as it may, he is currently without a platform and would likely languish in obscurity but for the exploitative and useless coverage given him, first by Fox News, and now by you. I long for the day when The Village Voice returns to focusing on topics of real relevance.

Ben M.
Manhattan

I probably won't be the only reader to make this comment, but publishing stories like your recent one about Kenneth Eng will only encourage him and his ilk (a brigade led by Ann Coulter) to spout such blasphemies. Eng's comments—while novel, inflammatory, and attention-grabbing—are utterly illegitimate and unworthy of being reported upon. What's worse, publishing his comments gives them a sort of false legitimacy. Editors have the power to keep such lunatic rants out of the public sphere—I wish you would have exercised that power.

Will Ellerbe
Princeton, New Jersey


DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

In 'Debunkers Strike Out' [May 2–8], Allen Barra would like to believe that Pee Wee Reese really did embrace Jackie Robinson in Cincinnati in May of 1947. So would I. Unfortunately, even after reading his column, I still don't see a shred of solid evidence. As I note in my book, no one has ever produced a photo or newspaper article. Those who claim to have seen the embrace waited decades to make the claim. Barra notes, correctly, that the white media in 1947 often dropped the ball in covering Robinson. But the black press covered Robinson's every step and utterance, and they tended to make an especially big splash whenever a white player treated Robinson kindly. In fact, just a few days later, in Pittsburgh, when Hank Greenberg whispered a few words of encouragement to Robinson, black reporters covered it in great detail. I can't believe they would have overlooked Reese's more powerful and more public gesture. It would be nice to think that Reese stepped up for Robinson, but until I see some real proof, I'm not buying it. Moreover, I believe the myth of Pee Wee's embrace diminishes Robinson's accomplishment.

Jonathan Eig
Author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season
Chicago, Illinois


BRIG IT ON

Re Michael Feingold's 'Prisoners of the Past' [May 2–8]: Thank you so much for saying in a third of the space what Charles Isherwood could not bring himself to say in a whole page in The New York Times: My play, The Brig, is evidence, testimony acquired through personal experience, that answers the question about how decent American youth could be transformed into the monsters who inflicted the horrors at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Brig procedure was established more than a century before I wrote the play, and the limitations on the brutality of the guards are and were imposed because they were disciplining their own young men meant to return to duty on completion of their sentences. Obviously, when the prisoners are identified as the enemy, all such restrictions are lifted. Failure to recognize the current importance of the play is a frightening affirmation of the fallacy that history is irrelevant. Similar propaganda has enabled the current administration to loot the treasury, diminish civil rights, and conduct an illegal and immoral war based on lies. Like the treatment of the prisoners in brigs around the world, such things have happened before, are happening now, and will happen in the future if nothing is learned from the past.
Kenneth H. Brown

Brooklyn

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