LETTER OF THE WEEK
Re Sarah Ferguson's " 'The Streets Belong to Us' " [villagevoice.com, August 4]: I offer a simple word of caution to those who hope to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Bush at the upcoming Republican convention: They are setting a trap for you. If you let ego control your planning and execution, you will play into their hands. You will be kept at bay under the ruse of a terrorist threat and if your demonstrations in the street turn violent, they will use it accordingly to frighten the country and scare voters back into their camp. It is better to re-create the world's protest at the beginning of the Iraq war. Amass in overwhelming numbers each evening of the convention and hold a peaceful vigil on issues that Bush and the Republicans are running from. This is not as exciting, fun, or cathartic but it will be powerful and effective.
Rage of consent
George Smith's piece linking reality TV to U.S. torture of P.O.W.'s in Iraq ["That's Entrail-tainment!" The Essay, August 4-10] asserts: "That prisoners in Abu Ghraib didn't have a choice in humiliating punishments meted out by Americans is only a trifling distinction."
Really? Consent is a "trifling distinction"? Smith may make one hell of a TV critic, but he's an utter failure as an ethicist.
Los Angeles, California
Freedom of choice
"That's Entrail-tainment!" fails to mention two points where George Smith's comparison between shock "reality" TV and Abu Ghraib utterly disintegratesthe first being the deaths at Abu Ghraib, which the press seems to be conveniently ignoring, and the element of choice involved in participating in such game shows.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Land of Canaan
Re Chisun Lee's "Civil Rights Rollback" [August 4-10]:
The strongest argument against racial profiling post9-11 is not a civil rights argument, but a national security argument. The flip side of racial profiling is lower security against people with white skin. It thus provides the opening Al Qaeda needs to deliver its next big-ticket item. The diabolically innovative Al Qaeda may plausibly use the Internet to recruit a Caucasian "E-Z Pass" team for the much anticipated sequel to 9-11.
I saw Al Sharpton and Jerry Falwell debate this issue on Hardball. Sharpton made the Magic Johnson "fake black/pass white" argument against profiling, to which Falwell said, "Duh, it's hard to find a white suicide bomber." But Al Qaeda's webcast decapitations seem so perfectly tailored to do just thatfind, seduce, and recruit a team of Columbine-style white lunatics in America or Europe to pass through a ready-made security loophole.
And what about the still-invisible money trail? Is it likely there are no white people anywhere in the world financially facilitating (and profiting from) Al Qaeda's operations?
If racial profiling works as well against Al Qaeda as it has against the drug trade . . . need I say it? I support an equal and comprehensive anti-terror policy. No American should put white privilege above our national security.
Having read Baz Dreisinger's recent article on Beenie Man ["Zagga Zow!" July 28-August 3], I am greatly disappointed that there is no mention of the rampant homophobia in his music. The man advocates killing gays.
While his beliefs may indeed be cultural, as he claims, I'd hope that the Voice wouldn't support an artist like this, but rather would use its name and diverse readership to incite action.
Baz Dreisinger replies: Dancehall's homophobia is more than its bête noireit's the most shameful chapter in the genre's history. Beenie Man himself recently issued a public apology for participating in this kind of rhetoricwhich is absent from Back to Basics. On account of their talent and their otherwise well-minded messages, Beenie and many other dancehall acts deserve both the benefit of a fresh start and the opportunity to come correct.
And the healing has begun
Rachel Aviv's "Reader, Heal Thyself!" [Education Supplement, August 4-10] expressed my own disenchantment with literary academia. By sifting the minutiae of literature, literary academics succeed only in erecting an irritating smoke screen of spurious detail before the emotional and philosophical muscularity of great fiction.
Let us declare ourselves unashamed to be hopelessly romantic readersreaders brave enough to be in thrall to the luminous power of literature.
The romantic reader refuses to apologize for being moved by the glorious alchemy of words strung together like pearls, the intimacy of holding the elderly and brittle spine of your favorite novel, and the singular sweetness of mingling souls with the author for hundreds of your most treasured pages. The romantic reads, still and forever, with the wide, beautiful eyes of the 10-year-old introduced to the Chronicles of Narnia.
Perhaps the conundrum and ultimate futility of literary criticism is simply this: How could being the critic of a book hope to compete with being the simple reader for whom the book was written? Long live the romantic reader! Long live the exquisite pleasure of reading!
She hate 'She Hate Me'
J. Hoberman's astute review is too kind to Spike Lee's She Hate Me, even as he pans it ["He's Gotta Have It," July 28-August 3]. I have loved Lee's films since She's Gotta Have It, but this is a hateful film. Lee may feel he covered his tracks when he said in one interview that he expected "hardcore lesbians" to rebuke him, but speaking as a "softcore" lesbian, I have to say, that's the least of it. Who isn't going to be offended? No one looks good in Lee's reductive film. There isn't a person in here with any valueslesbians are depicted here as slutty unconscionable bitches who really want dick at the end of the day. Men and women who work in corporations are devils incarnate (corporations are evil, but is every employee satanic by association too? That would mean everyone's hands are pretty damn bloody). And what about Armstrong? Here's a well-educated African American man who once had a conscience and rightfully blew the whistle on the corrupt drug company that employed him. Suddenly he is transformed by economic desperation into an irresponsible narcissist, who can be bought all too cheaply with money, sex, and the prospect of enough progeny to populate an entire city?! I'm all for cynicism about the state of humanity, but I'm not sure that this is Lee's point.
I don't know where to begin unpacking this mess. But here's a tip for Lee: Learn a few things about us cinematically underrepresented lesbians and how we approach the prospect of parenthood before you depict us in film, even in jest. We're not conniving. We don't seek to steal men's sperm, whisk away paternity rights, and scamper off into the night.
The Fogg of Ward
I love Ward Harkavy's Bush Beat [villagevoice.com]. His post on the U.S. Treasury and Riggs [August 4] reminded me that Jonathan Bush, George H.W. Bush's brother, is/was on the Riggs board. 'Tis a small, cozy world indeed.
Hermosa Beach, California
Don't tread on me
The message of James Ridgeway's "Warning Shots" [Mondo Washington, August 4-10] comes as no surprise. After all, didn't Mayor Bloomberg deny permits to groups seeking to hold an anti-Bush demonstration in Central Park during the GOP convention? Bloomberg's wimpish reason was "You'll trample the grass." Homeland Security's newest terror alert, based on information given three years ago, just serves to give the GOP what it wants from New York during its late-August confab: total peace and quiet, total coverage from its mouthpiece Fox News, and lots of Bush loyalists singing "How Great Thou Art." Bloomberg's "Keep off the grass" response to potential anti-GOP demonstrators (no doubt strengthened by Tom Ridge's usual fuzzy and politically motivated alerts) should remind New Yorkers with brains to remember him by voting him out of office at the next mayoral run.
Miami Beach, Florida
Teresa, Obama, and Ron
Re James Ridgeway's "A Glimpse of Real Democrats" [Mondo Boston, villagevoice.com, July 28]:
Thank you for your long overdue tribute to the real Democrats! I, too, thought Teresa Heinz Kerry to be very effective in her little talk. Unlike some of my friends, I genuinely like the woman. She shoots from the hip and is obviously very intelligent. This quality is her appeal.
Obama, though a "mere" state assemblyman, is a moving force for the party. Confident and articulate, he scored points with every conventioneer and television viewer.
Ron Reagan wasn't overtly political in his plea for stem cell research, but his ending remark, "Let us all cast our vote for stem cell research," was aimed directly at putting Kerry in the White House.
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