Letter Of The Week
No laughing matter
Re Alisa Solomon's "You Can Never Not Fight Back," [December 15-21]:
Has it not occurred to Larry Kramer that since, by his own admission, his generation spent their summers on Fire Island "laughing" at Gay Pride marches on TV, then maybe we lost a lot of momentum in the queer debate? Some of us have been marching since the beginning of the 1970s, and I myself did some rather silly things with ACT UP London, which I helped found. But the antipathy of people like Kramer in their Fire Island days, and their emphasis on lifestyle rather than liberty, underlies the failure of the, ahem, gay-lib movement.
And, frankly, how any North American homosexual can support the political right staggers me. As for Andrew Sullivan, you might be interested to know that here in Europe he's considered a laughingstock.
Re Alisa Solomon's "You Can Never Not Fight Back!": The bigger picture here is missed. Activism itselfnot just AIDS activismis dying. The "mainstream" daily amNew York for approximately a week was giving its readers a heads-up about a rally outside the governor's New York City office, protesting the transit fare hike. I went to the rally, only to be bitterly disappointed to see approximately 50 people, not the thousands this issue deserves. Apparently gone forever are the days of four laid-off workers dying after storming Ford's Rouge plant (1932), protesters being hosed down in Selma and Montgomery (1963), and four students killed at Kent State (1970). While I don't advocate protesters bringing violence upon themselves, I do advocate a return to the passions that ignited this. Sadly, that passion has burned out.
Nathan F. Weiner
Morris Heights, Bronx
The lost boys
Larry Kramer seems like the man to radicalize gays again, and spur the resistance. Unfortunately, Kramer is more like a gay Norman Rockwell than a leftist Karl Rove. He's a media darling because he makes for good soundbites about the threats posed by conservative strategists. Ironically, he gives such people exactly what they want. His true agenda is to demonize abnormal sexual practices.
There's a reason why Kramer has emerged as the media's chosen elder of the gay community. He has no compassion for lost boys or free spirits who fail to strive for his neo-nuclear-family setup. Queer is anathema to him. Gay must conform to a proper model that Kramer has determined to be most suitable. Instead of firing those in existing groups who work to educate men about the dangers of barebacking and drugs, as Kramer suggests in his interview, we need to debate Kramer and stop listening to him as our gay Moses of radicalism. He is too quick to demonize. The media can help by giving space and time to unknowns, not just to icons. Kramer is only one voice who's been in retirement for a long time. Profile other thinkers. Or demand that Kramer debate.
There's too much proclamation in American politics.
Christians against the war
I object to James Ridgeway's "12 Days of Christmas" [Mondo Washington, December 15-21], in which he writes, "The holiday season offers Christians an opportunity to consider the different gifts they have brought to Iraq," and then lists everything that has gone wrong with Bush's war. I am a Christian but do not support the war in Iraq. I have written letters to my representatives in Congress, I have protested, I have given money to anti-war political candidates, and I have prayed my butt off over this catastrophe.
There are millions of Christians in America who were opposed to the invasion, and many others who consider it a valid war of choice but who are appalled at the way the occupation has been managed. The chronic shortages cited in today's piece are not the fault of the Christian community. They are the result of an administration more concerned with rewarding its wealthiest supporters through tax cuts than with spending what is necessary to protect our children overseas; an administration so preoccupied with promoting an image of infallibility that they refuse to acknowledge miscalculations; an administration that claims to value the "sanctity of life" and yet deploys weapons of mass destruction on urban areas, endorses torture, and withholds from prisoners international basic standards of legal rights.
I do not accept his blame.
The fatuous of the land
Nat Hentoff is, as usual, right on in his comments about the problems associated with Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and the Democrats' sorry capitulation to his advancement ["Cloud Over the Constitution," Liberty Beat, December 15-21]. And yet, as so many other writers on the left have been doing lately, Hentoff manages a gratuitous swipe at "the fatuous Michael Moore," who, in the context of the non-self-executing Constitution, is not going to "save us."
Thanks, Nat. I'll be taking down my shrine to Michael now, on your advice.
Michael Moore doesn't need me to defend him, but I would note that we're all on the same team here, OK? So can we cut the internecine crap and stop demeaning the opinions of people who take pride in the fact that Moore is willing to take on the Bush administration and its cruel and stupid war? Hentoff is right: Michael Moore isn't going to save us any more than any other writer or artistHentoff includedis going to, because in the end it's we the people who have to do the heavy lifting. We need people like Michael Moore and Nat Hentoff to show us we're not wrong and we're not alone. One man's fatuousness may be another man's street theater, but that doesn't mean they can't reach the same objective.
San Anselmo, California
Nat Hentoff replies: I am not on the same team as Michael Moore, who in his "documentary" made no mention at all of the mass graves and torture chambers under Saddam Hussein. To save our liberty from Bush, Gonzales, et al., requires keeping themand ourselveshonest.
Breaking the mold
Jennifer Gonnerman's "Medical Marijuana Keeps on Rolling" [December 8-14] made for fascinating reading. Particularly disturbing was the idea of the state distributing confiscated pot to medical patients. This approach is quite problematic. Obviously it is tied to the continuation of (and raises the specter of expansion of) the wasting of valuable resources by prohibiting a substance that does absolutely no provable harm to society.
Aside from this, however, is the problem of quality control and proper storage. One problem with medical marijuana is that it is vitally important that marijuana ingested by people with compromised immune systems be free of mold, which otherwise can cause severe respiratory problems. This means that pot used by people with an immunodeficiency must be stored in such a way as to discourage the development of mold, and that patients who do receive moldy pot be taught how to remove the mold before using.
Chelsea Elisabeth Goodwin
Political-outreach coordinator, Medical Marijuana
Association of New York Park Slope
Charles McNulty ["One-Handers," December 15-21] does a great job of bringing us just what showbiz has on offer this season.
Billy Crystal is a banal cringe-inducer who made a reputation fawning to the front row of Hollywood's funniest overproduced hour of self-congratulation. His smarmy, middlebrow shtick makes Jay Leno look like Voltaire. Whoopi is TV: loud, purposeless, creative, and never ever useful.
And Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) is the greatest satirist working in the English-speaking world. He is a genius whose understanding of the Astroturf passing as flora at the rancid center of America is without domestic parallel.
The central question here: Why can't American comics take the saddest and most sordid chapter in post-war history and find anything to say? Look what Lenny Bruce did with the '60s, and then consider this pap. What the hell happened?
Due to an editing error, a byline was omitted from last week's interview with Jessica Yu, director of In the Realms of the Unreal [Take Five, Tear Sheet, December 22-28]. The piece should have been credited to Ed Halter.
The photo of Elliot Perlman ["Money Shot" by Jessica Winter, December 15-21] should have been credited to Fred Gurner.
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