Letter of the Week
More like Cindy
Cindy Sheehan is right on the money when she criticizes the Democrats for not confronting Bush on his idiotic decisions ["Cindy Sheehan Takes On the Democrats" by Kristen Lombardi, September 20, villagevoice.com]. Be it the war, tax breaks for the wealthy, the environmentin short, what isn't he screwing up ? He gets away with it first due to gutless media that don't inform the citizens and second, due to the wimpy opposition of the Democratic Party. Sheehan embodies what our founding fathers envisioned for our country: not professional politicians, but citizens as activists, demanding that those we elect to office base their decisions on what's best for all our citizens and holding them accountable when they don't. God bless Cindy Sheehan. I wish there were many more like her.
War-y of taking sides
Jerry Saltz's review of my Iraq drawings is filled with glib, lazy mischaracterizations ["Paper Tiger," September 1420]. I'm not pro-war, as Saltz would have discovered had he read any of my journals. He seems to have confused me with Steve Vincent, with whom I spent a lot of time in Baghdad. I admired Steve's conviction, and even drew strength from it, but I've always felt ambivalent about the reasons for and execution of the war. Yet I also had moments of optimism, when I thought that the new Iraq could succeed. My drawings are not about promoting anyone's agendas, neither Wolfowitz's nor Saltz's.
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I was making journalistic drawings of what was in front of me. The artists Saltz compares me to, Otto Dix and Kathe Kollwitz, were making didactic drawings long after the fact, of scenes they may or may not have witnessed. They were promoting their ideological views of war and revolution. For me, there were few rights or wrongs or easy answers in Iraq. Saltz is welcome to his opinions, but I resent the implication that I'm somehow immoral for the attention that these drawings have attracted because they don't hew to his Hollywood clichés of what war looks like.
Jerry Saltz replies: It's instructive to know that Steve Mumford doesn't write indignant letters when critics compare him favorably to Otto Dix and Kathe Kollwitz or get angry when he's called "part of a great wartime tradition." Whatever. Mumford's own words say it better than I can. He says he "began to understand the invasion differently after spending time with Iraqis" and that he thinks "the new Iraq could succeed." Fine, he should draw and paint that and not just give us generic Hollywood clichés and courtroom illustration.
Warhol a third correct
Re Sarah Ferguson's "NYPD Unplugs Cindy Sheehan" [September 19, villagevoice.com]: Stop wasting your time and space on Cindy Sheehan. She has had her five minutes of fame. One year she hugs Bush; the next she damns Bush. She spends time with the president and then, in the national press, she demands a meeting with him. Don't you know an opportunist when you see one?
West Hartford, Connecticut
Falluja on the Hudson
As a free-speech absolutist, I'm deeply dismayed by Sarah Ferguson's report on the NYPD's pulling the mic away from Cindy Sheehan at a recent anti-war demonstration in Union Square. But a passing detail in Ferguson's closing paragraph cries out for further comment. Ferguson writes that Dustin Langley of the Troops Out Now Coalition urged the crowd to "open a new front of resistance right here. Bring Falluja to New York and shut it down!" Ferguson had the good sense to call this "radical posturing," but she might have noted that justifying the brutality of the so-called Iraqi resistance is the official position of Troops Out Now, one of several fronts for the Workers World Party.
In the run-up to its March 19 demo in Central Park, Troops Out Now declared: "It is time for the anti-war movement to acknowledge the absolute and unconditional right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country without passing judgment on their methods of resistance."
Since Troops Out Now does indeed "pass judgment" by supporting this "resistance," it is fair to wonder just what Dustin Langley and his friends are advocating when they say "Bring Falluja to New York." Do such statements justify NYPD repression? I don't believe so. But they do tell us a great deal about the moral principles of the Troops Out Now Coalition.
Upper West Side
Only the brave
I'd like to break a golden rule of filmmaking and comment on Akiva Gottlieb's review of a film I produced, Loudmouth Soup [Tracking Shots, September 2127]. Somehow, he saw the film as mean-spirited and "sadistic." He also makes it clear, in the first few lines of his review, that he'd rather watch famous actors than people he hasn't seen before. Perhaps he should be writing for People magazine instead. To define mean-spirited, you'd have to look at his review. To refer to seven accomplished theater actors, one of whom has been nominated for two Tonys, as "F list" is not only nasty, but inaccurate.
I won't comment on a negative review about myself or the director, but I will when it's about seven brave and talented actors taking a huge risk. We have precious little of that these days, and their performances are commendable.
Los Angeles, California
I'm amazed that the Sheehan war protest was shut down because of a lack of permit for audio. The only thing more backward is to deny a grieving mother her chance to speak to like-minded people. This is why New York needs a new mayor. Let's not forget the disgraceful behavior of the Bloomberg regime during the RNC, when scores of New Yorkers were illegally detained.
Upper West Side
Down but not out
Once again Tom Robbins ["Mike's Awkward Ally," September 1420] delves into aspects of Newman-Fulani that the daily newspapers are too lazy to probe. The "Newmanites" were purged on September 18 from the state executive committee of the Independence Party (as predicted in Robbins's article), but they are by no means down for the count. They still control the party in four out of five boroughs and can mobilize more activists than all the rest of the party. Bloomberg has not yet developed the backbone to break with Newman. Regarding the IP purge last weekend, our mayor said he didn't think he "should be commenting on somebody else's party" (as if he weren't the IP's nominee and hadn't given it $250,000 last December!).
Equally equivocating was the mayor's attitude toward the provisional decision of a city agency last June to give Newman's All Stars Project a three-year contract to run an after-school program for middle school and high school kids at their facility (purchased with the help of a 2002 city loan). Faced with complaints from eyewitnesses to the weird behavior of Newman's youth workers and therapistsand the report on Newman's various youth in doctrination projects I delivered in August to the Department of Youth and Community Developmentthe mayor's office has simply passed the buck to State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
It would appear that the mayor still cares more about his relationship with the downstate Newman-Fulani faction of the IP than about the welfare of the kids.
Upper East Side
Re Smythe DuVal's letter to the editor regarding Tom Robbins's piece ["Mike's Awkward Ally," September 1420]: During my time as a therapy intern at the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy I did indeed meet DuVal though I assumed he was on the staff at the outset, because he was one of the people who initially called to invite me to various Newman-inspired philosophy classes as well as to meet with him personally to talk about his so-called "independent politics." Mr. DuVal seems to suggest that my critique is some sort of political ploy. The issues I raise have nothing to do with politics. Newman's social therapy is a bait-and-switch trap that promises to help people "develop" (the bait) and then steers them into working, recruiting, and fundraising for any one of Newman's other activities.
Whether Mr. DuVal sees his work for Newman activities as "his choice" or not is irrelevant. What is unethical about social therapy is when it develops in connection with a political movement that has absolutely nothing to do with the issues the person sought therapy for in the first place. Mr. DuVal may feel that Dabby and Newman helped him greatly. Many others feel differently, however, and regret the months and sometimes years of time that were wasted pursuing development in Newman world at their own expense.
Erika Van Meir
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