Letter Of The Week
P&J's painful irony

Am I the only person who noticed the painful irony of your Pazz & Jop poll [February 9-15]? Specifically, all the critics polled complained about the disastrous Bush agenda, yet they all chose the most apolitical, retro, and conservative artists of the last year as their favorites! Kanye West, Brian Wilson, U2, and the rest of the acts listed may be musically pleasurable, but all of them served as distractions from the sorry state of the world and our nation. And none of them seems even slightly concerned about the future in any real way, musically or politically. Yeah, I like the latest U2 also, but it certainly is a step backward in more ways than one. And I feel that Bush's agenda is a step backward as well, toward a world where homosexuals were in the closet and everyone blindly trusted the government. How can you complain about the conservative agenda when you're promoting it?

Margaret Dodger

The mayor's same-sex dance

Re "Bloomberg's Fancy Footwork Over Same-Sex Marriage" by Kristen Lombardi [February 16-22]:

A. If you're going to write, "City Councilmember Margarita Lopez, a lesbian from Manhattan," you should really pay some weight to your labeling system, its power to diminish and identify pols such as Gifford Miller (or the current hizzoner) as "a straight " or "a heterosexual"—if you feel that sexual orientation is of paramount importance to the story.

B. Additionally, Scott Jeffrey is misidentified as "a gay activist." Not as a "straight activist" or a "straight ally."

C. When writing that the city's stance may be understood through the phrase "One of those duties is defending the current law," you are resubstantiating much poorly researched mainstream journalism on the marriage issue as it relates to New York. Neither city statute nor state law has ever been explicitly anti-same-sex-marriage. Additionally, various lawyers and legal groups, including the local bar association, have determined that there is an obligation under current law to provide marriage to same-sex couples in New York, even before Ling-Cohan's outstanding decision. Somehow conservatives have consistently managed to maintain the upper hand on the marriage issue in mainstream media—as though the only legitimate stance is to be anti-equal marriage.

Matt Lavine

The spying game

In "Digital Underground" Patrick Radden Keefe [The Essay, February 16-22] describes only one side of the equation. Yes, terrorists can use the Internet to communicate anonymously and recruit like-minded souls. But the threat should not be overdrawn: As users who've found themselves afflicted with pesky spyware have discovered, you're not quite as anonymous as you might think. IP addresses and other identifiers can be monitored, and presumably are monitored; moreover, unlike voice com-munications, which must be translated and parsed, Internet communications are already text, and thus are readily searchable. It may just be that an adversary that is heavily Net-centric will be easier to monitor than one who relies on more traditional contacts, and one would not expect the NSA to announce its successes in this domain loudly, if ever.

One might also note that the Internet is not on either "side": While there are challenges for us, it also poses security challenges for the "bad guys." For example: While the Internet makes pos-sible access to extremists by sympathizers, it also makes possible a risk-free avenue for informers. Similarly, would-be martyrs may equally encounter the prospect of a less-bloody happiness through low-interest-rate mortgages and weight loss—since Al Qaeda is very much about ideological conformity, the wealth of choice that the Internet offers and its existential freedom must ultimately constitute an ideological challenge to extremists of all stripes.

Alexander Polsky
Baltimore, Maryland

Dancehall drama

I am outraged at Elena Oumano's article "Jah Division" [February 16-22]. In its pernicious attempt to give "context" to the homophobia directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons displayed in dancehall music, Ms. Oumano instead gives license to that very same homophobia. By enforcing a dichotomy between Jamaican dancehall singers and non-Jamaican gay activists and human rights organizations, Ms. Oumano enforces the attitude, often on display in dancehall music, that homosexuality is a foreign entity, "not Jamaican." Obviously Ms. Oumano did not read Human Rights Watch's report, which offers the testimonies of hundreds of Jamaican LGBT persons and minutely details the many acts of violence committed against them. Some were terrorized by attackers who were singing lyrics from dancehall songs calling for homophobic violence. Offering the story of only one person, a gay non-Jamaican African American publicist who works in the music industry and thus has a financial stake in cleaning up dancehall, to support her claim that Jamaica's "usual tolerance for all manner of outré self-expression was beginning to extend to the island's homosexuals" is not merely inappropriate but criminally stupid.

What Ms. Oumano fails to realize is that the sexism and homophobia portrayed in reggae music are nothing particular to Jamaica's history of colonialism; the pernicious ways in which sodomy laws were transported from colonial registers to postcolonial state law and the way in which attacks based on gender and sexuality against the most marginalized communities to trump up "manhood," as Ms. Oumano calls it, occur through-out the world.

We can see similar language in President Mugabe of Zimbabwe's yearly addresses as well as other places where sodomy laws are enforced and LGBT persons live in fear. What differentiates reggae is that it's a mode of transmission of such calls to violence. This remains inexcusable and should not be protected as "free speech." What we are talking about is not, as Ms. Oumano tries to argue in her article, imperialism and national sovereignty (let Jamaicans be Jamaicans, we have so little because of the colonialism and the IMF) but about giving voice to the most marginalized of the marginalized, those who cannot even give their identities expressions in dancehall music for fear of being dragged out of their homes and beaten to death.

Stephan Sastrawidjaja
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, New York

Stewart vs. Stewart

The message of your piece comparing the two Stewarts, Lynne and Martha ["Punishing Mmes. Stewart," Chisun Lee, February 16-22], is striking enough. But it is clear that the only association between them is that they share a surname. Lee was incomplete otherwise in her analysis.

Martha represents the very best of our system. Her use of the loopholes deliberately written into the laws that allowed avarice to embellish her estate is like adding a cup of water to the Hudson River. How would she have ever known the difference? She played by the rules, however excessively. Lynne, on the other hand, is being persecuted for believing the laws are written not to provide for that greed but to protect the people.

Lee wrote that no one has shown that either case actually harmed anyone. Not true. That was the myth put out during the Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken cases. When the swindles are serious stock manipulations of any sort and funds are transferred and hoarded, businesses get hurt and progress of the company in question is curtailed. This filters down to business failures, plant closings, and the jobs lost from layoffs. Perks are lost in the shuffle. Health care, pensions, and other ancillary benefits are lost as well. The Bush cabal will use this to further, for example, privatize Social Security, pointing to its alleged failure under the present system.

That we can illicitly indict and convict an attorney in this present political climate will filter down to the containment of our civil rights attorneys, who will be less energetic in defending unpopular clients, those who need it the most.

German Martin Niemöller's words that he did not speak up when they came for the Communists, the Jews, and the trade unionists, because he was not one of them and then had no one to speak out when they came for him ring true once again.

Don Sloan

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