Letter Of The Week
His first job
Thank you so much, Tricia Romano, for your piece on the closing of the Cock ["Suck This," Fly Life, July 13-19]. When I was 18 and newly out I went to Kurfew with two friends one Saturday night. After about five minutes of gasping in sheer horror at the cheesiness of the place, our older and more experienced host suggested we go to the Cock. I shuffled in with the king of all fake IDs and was transformed. One friend got up to strip in the competition, and about an hour later I wandered into the back room and had my first gay kiss, quickly followed by my first hand job. It was the most special way it could have happened for me. I walked over there this past Sunday and stared into the now closed back room and felt as though someone were tearing down my childhood home.
Lower East Side
Digging for justice
I read with great and particular interest Jennifer Gonnerman's article about Lynne Harriton and Andre Smith ["The Juror and the Convict," July 6-12] because Lynnie Harriton is a "sister" from my Digger extended family of the 1960s and '70s whom I've known well for nearly 40 years. She was an upright and fearless woman then and remains so today. Her friendship with Smith and her probing of the particulars of the case highlight for me that simple justice requires some proportionality in the sentencing of two men who committed very different acts and received identical sentences.
I was deeply impressed by Smith's willingness to face Lynnie's hard criticisms of his behavior on the night of the murder, and even more impressed by his acknowledgment of his responsibility. Surely such a man is not beyond rehabilitation and redemption. However, the draconian sentence he received for the heinous act of another makes that rehabilitation all but impossible.
No one is suggesting that Smith be pardoned for his participation and cowardly flight, any more than they are suggesting that the early death of his mother and rudderless youth in a kill-or-be-killed environment absolve him. I am suggesting that justice is meaningful only insofar as it is deep, compassionate, and proportionate. Surely this is a case and a man that deserve a review.
Mill Valley, California
Josh Langhoff's article about Christian rock, "Music for the Megachurch" [July 6-12], was a great readand very much on target. Those "bake sale" artists create a comfort zone for a lot of my fellow believers. They enjoy them, and I'm happy that they do. For me, it's hard to tell where Hot AC ends and CCM kicks in when I make those random visits to radioland.
On one hand, it's great that bands like Switchfoot, P.O.D., and even MercyMe get a bit of secular airplay. And there's always going to be an audience for the Steven Curtis Chapmans and Amy Grants of the genre: likable types who toe the party line without rocking most folks' boats. But many artistsincluding the ones Langhoff mentioned in his piecetend to play in a netherworld between word-of-mouth referrals and hot rotation on CCM playlists, like Relient K and Anberlin, which I discovered by eavesdropping on a youth group meeting at my church.
Can't close without applauding Langhoff for pointing out one of the most overused words in any church setting. I really think "awesome" trumps "praise God" or "hallelujah" in Christian conversation these days. Matter of fact, I tested it out a couple of months ago. I wasn't really getting into the flow of things during a Sunday service, so I started logging how often the A-bomb was dropped: six times between the greeting and benediction, and a few more before and after service. Guess I need to ask God why that word gets on my last nerve so much.
John J. Harlan
Thank you for Ward Harkavy's "Ooze Travels Fast" [The Bush Beat, July 7, villagevoice.com]. The media are terminally ill, and not enough real analyses exist anywhere of global power and tragedy in countries where people of color are suffering. I avoid almost all U.S. media for this reason. I appreciated seeing this (accidentally) as I went to look up movie theaters.
Hungry for attention
I applaud Nat Hentoff's latest article about Darfur ["Bush Averts His Eyes," July 6-12]. I am heartened by the figures he mentioned: Americans are in favor of bolder action by six to one. I have one worry about such a poll. I wonder how many people were forced to say, "I don't know," because they had never heard of Darfur.
I am in the midst of completing a hunger strike to bring attention to Darfur. Mostly I have been stationed outside the White House in Lafayette Park, where I have had the opportunity to meet countless tourists from around the country and the world. The ignorance I have found has been absolutely staggering. I would say roughly 10 percent knew about Darfur, 10 percent more had heard of it, and many of the rest had never even heard of Sudan. Ignorance is at the root of American apathy. This was the basic assumption which led me to starve myself. I figured that giving the media something new to cover about the story might bring Darfur back into the news.
We need to find more ways to teach the American people about this crime. Only then will we be able to say to our leaders, "We will not stand idly by one day more."
Nathan Isaac Kleinman
Re Jason King's tribute to Luther Vandross ["So Amazing," villagevoice.com, July 5]: Though I liked the article I have one gripe. Why is it that every time artists wear some outfit that seems to be a little flashy people automatically think it means they're gay? King wrote one hell of an article and all, but don't take it upon yourself to out the man especially when you don't even know if it's true. It may be the biggest disrespect a person like King could ever do to his family, especially to his mother. So what if Vandross wore sequined jackets? Regardless, whatever the hell Vandross's life was behind closed doors and away from nosy-ass prying eyes is his damn business. I'm pretty damn sure people have misjudged King on a great many things, but that doesn't make it right for them who did it to him just like it ain't right that he's outing Vandross.
Joy for Jones
I am writing in disgust. What Vandross did in his private life is no business of King's. We his fans loved him for who he was, his songs, and voice. He brought so much joy into people's lives.
A friend of Luther's
I really appreciated King's insightful commentary on Luther Vandross. As a music journalist and longtime friend of Luther's, I found the piece thought-provoking and honest. Many thanks.
Los Angeles, California
Definitions of civility
George Smith's article "After the London Bombings: 'Our Dead Have Names Too' " [villagevoice.com, July 12] was as depressing as anything I have read in a long while. Is this what many Muslims really think about those of us who live in the West? That they feel comfortable constantly referring to us using the pejorative kuffar? That they believe that in the Iraq of today, American soldiers are "tying bombs to the bodies of prisoners and blowing them apart"? That others are pulling off the limbs of prisoners, "gouging out eyes, putting out cigarettes on their skin, and using cigarette lighters to set fire to the hair on their heads"?
Those of us who do not support the war in Iraq still understand that, despite Abu Ghraib, American and British soldiers are civilized people from civilized nations. The vast majority of the atrocities these young Muslims have listed to justify the bombing in London either have not happened or are grossly exaggerated. That they misunderstand us so completely gives pause to the idea that peace may be a possibility, in the near or long term.
George Smith replies: Whether Muslims believe what are thought to be exaggerations or lies about British and American conduct in the war in Iraq and on terror is, unfortunately, irrelevant. The signal feature is the tone, which indicates they believe it very strongly. It's an indicator that the damage caused by the Bush administration's war may be irreversible, ensuring a permanent enmity and spiral of violence.
The wrong photo appeared with a review of the bar Climax on page 40 of last week's issue. It was actually a photo of the bar Sly.
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