LETTER OF THE WEEK
In Robert Christgau's article "Harmonies and Abysses" [February 2-8] he wrote, in praising the Arcade Fire's Funeral, "Then you isolate Win Butler's sob and fantasize about throttling the twit, an immature impulse unmitigated by the lyrics, which are histrionic even for a guy who's just lost a grandparent (or whoever)."
I find the unbridled hatred of unabashed emotion to be deeply distressing. There seems to be, in some circles, a knee-jerk urge to criticize anything that remotely taps into an individual's most intimate feelings unless they represent something cold, cynical, or removed from oneself.
I realize that if emotion is unbridled, it is dangerous. But to reduce a person's song about their lost grandparent (or whoever) to a histrionic sob implies a negative preconceived notion about deep, personal feelings.
This is New York City, after all. New York does not judge the composition of an artist's emotion.
Death on the Lower East Side
Jarrett Murphy's story ["A Murder Made for the Front Page," February 9-15] is very interesting and a good read. It should be noted that as the duFresne story was breaking, there was a homicide up in the hinterlands of Highland Falls, New York, that also had the elements of a good yarn.
The victim was a seven-year-old, found stabbed in the boy's bathroom of a local Catholic school. Parentsmany West Pointers dressed in uniformscame rushing to the school to pick up their children, not knowing if there was a maniac on the loose. That night, the father was arrested and charged with murder.
At first, the New York and national media were all over this story, for good reason.
Then, as duFresne took over the front pages in the city, the Post and the News and the Times paid less attention. Having already been ahead of the story, scoring a number of scoops, we stayed with it because it was huge in our circulation area.
Did it matter that the victim and alleged assailant were black?
Not to us. Like you, I imagine race was a factor in New York, as was proximity. So, too, I imagine, were beauty, celebrity, and economics, though if you see the pictures of little Jerica Rhodes, you can tell that she was a beautiful little girl.
There is a problem with how we cover crime in this country, especially murder. I don't promise to have all the answers. But when I see front pages with white supermodels as tsunami victims and aspiring white actresses getting the wood for being killed, I do know that we have to work harder to find those answers.
Mid-Hudson regional editor Times Herald-Record
New Windsor, New York
I've lived on the Lower East Side for most of my life and have never seen so much coverage dedicated to a murder. A young man from the neighborhood was killed only a few blocks away during the summer and I don't recall that it even made the news. There was another subtext in the never ending front-page stories about this case: the white fear that people of color will retaliate against wealthy whites for ruining their neighborhoods. Although it does not seem to have been a factor in the case, I think this thought terrifies white gentrifiers and motivated some of the response to this case. God forbid that white hipsters will not be able to get drunk in peace.
The media was not the only institution that responded in an unprecedented way100 Blacks in Law Enforcement added $2,000 to the reward money in the case and publicly stated that they did not want to go back to the bad old days. I guess it did not remind them of the "bad old days" over the summer when the young man I mentioned was killed. All together, the message is clear: Some lives are worth more than others. Anyone who thinks racism and classism are not alive and well need only to look at this example.
Lower East Side
It is hypocritical of Mr. Hentoff to continue to misrepresent the American Library Association's (ALA) position as he has done in at least six columns on the topic of Cuban dissidents [Liberty Beat, "A U.S. Library vs. Fidel," February 9-15].
Mr. Hentoff has lauded the statements of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) on this issue, but seems to have problems when the 185-member ALA Council, made up of a wide spectrum of librarians with divergent views, adopts the same positions as IFLA.
ALA is a large and complex organization whose members have diverse perspectives and opinions, and it is ridiculous to write that any vote came for fear of offending Fidel Castro.
Like IFLA, ALA has specifically urged "the Cuban Government to respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
ALA states: "This political climate brought on primarily by U.S. Government and Cuban Government legislation and policies in recent years should not be countered by censorship and imprisonment.
"Neither the Cuban Government nor any other government has the right to stifle or obstruct the free expression of opinions and ideas.
"ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003.
"ALA supports IFLA in its call for the elimination of the U.S. embargo that restricts access to information in Cuba and for lifting travel restrictions that limit professional exchanges. ALA also supports IFLA's call for the U.S. government to share information widely in Cuba."
Individual libraries, like the Vermillion Public Library in South Dakota, and their boards determine the activities they pursue. Many U.S. libraries have created sister library relationships to support library service across the globe.
Mr. Hentoff's vendetta against the ALA reminds us of a quote from the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts."
John W. Berry
ALA past president and chair,
ALA International Relations Committee
Nat Hentoff responds: Mr. Berry's own fact is that the ALA is again expressing deep concern, but its governing council has overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have called for the immediate release of these independent librarians put in cages by Castro. That is why the library associations of Poland, Latvia, and Czech Republic are supporting the one American public library that is not timorous about defying Fidel Castro. My "vendetta" against the ALA has included many columns applauding America's librarians for standing up to John Ashcroft, but it shies away from Fidel.
I would like to commend Ben Eckerstein on his love letter to his high school obsession [Sex in the First Person, February 2-8]. His skillful weaving of the tensions between erotic ache, adolescent angst, and haunted memory captured my imagination. Like him, I ventured to New York to escape a stifling small hometown. Thanks for writing about love lost, freedom gained.
Thanks for the good article on Cuban musicians [Larry Blumenfeld, "Rumba, Interrupted," January 26-February 1] and our government's negative policy of denying visas for open exchange, not only to musicians but to ordinary citizens interested in traveling to that country. If we say we promote democracy and freedom of expression, it is hypocritical to deny the right to travel and communicate with the people of Cuba.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Matt Cibula's review of the Mexican band Molotov [February 9-15] erroneously reported that they come from Monterrey. In fact, the band comes from Mexico City. In J. Hoberman's review of The Nomi Song [February 2-8], the New Wave Vaudeville Show where Nomi made his first appearance was described in the article as Ann Magnuson's "new wave vaudeville show" when in fact the show was organized and produced by Tom Scully and Susan Hannaford.
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