LETTER OF THE WEEK
Master of her universe
Re "Wanted: Really Smart Suckers" [Generation DebtThe New Economics of Being Young, April 28-May 4]:
Anya Kamenetz's article about the misery of graduate school reminds me of why I am so glad that I flunked two major exams at the CUNY Graduate Center, and then dropped out of the American-history program. I returned to my job teaching high school social studies at a decent Manhattan schoolfor a lot more money and better benefits.
I'm not sorry I studied doctoral-level history for two years (I had already earned my master's degree), but I'm glad I didn't fritter away any more time or hope on such an unrewarding and aggravating venture.
The Anti-Apathy League
Re Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Young People Debate the Draft: Old Enough to Vote? Old Enough to Die" [May 5-11]: I chose prison over the draft during the Vietnam War, and I am no fan of either option. I also a have a draft-age son who already told Selective Service he will not serve.
One thing I think the draft did in the late '60s and early '70s was to energize opposition to the war in Southeast Asia among privileged and powerful people, especially college students and their parents. A draft with no deferments might transform the widespread apathy among both of these cohorts into active and effective opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ocean, New Jersey
Re "Old Enough to Vote? Old Enough to Die": It is ironic that those most opposed to reactivating the military draft are the same people who support this latest Bush War. The reason for this, of course, is they know that if the draft returned, we would soon see a marked change in the attitude toward this war among many of its most exuberant supporters. Flags would be folded; gung ho pro-war banners and bumper stickers would soon change to anti-war slogans.
Those of us who did serve in World War II knew our enemies were functioning nations with which we could negotiate a truce or conclude a surrender. No such options exist today when fighting a gang of globally dispersed religious zealots. We are enmeshed in a perpetual, unwinnable war that has no exit strategy.
Stephen Block Jr.
West Palm Beach, Florida
I would like to inform you that the comments I made for "Young People Debate the Draft" were printed in a way that does not fully represent my opinions on the draft and the war. I believe what I said was "I am pro-war because I believe Saddam needed to be removed from power." I still support this war, and the existence of WMD had no bearing on my choice. I also said that I would enlist before I was drafted, not "would like to." I understand this is a minor detail in the context of the article, but the tense of a verb or the addition of a word can drastically change the meaning of a statement.
Re Harry G. Levine's "Ralph Nader, Suicide Bomber" [May 5-11]:
When an article barely mentions Nader's political positions but dwells at length on wild conjectures about his motivations, you can be sure we're hearing from a Democrat desperate to change the subject from his party's wholesale abandonment of progressive politics in favor of Republican-lite "me-too-ism." Levine's piece all but ignores the critical issues on which Nader provides the only alternative for progressives in this election: his support of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; total repeal of the Patriot Act; universal, single-payer health care; full, mandatory public funding of all elections; cuts in military spending to fund social programs; gay marriage; and canceling the ecocidal and anti-labor WTO and NAFTA. Such progressive measures are apparently of little moment to Levine, since he is supporting a candidate who echoes George W. Bush in opposing all of them.
It is dismaying to see the Voice featuring this kind of character assassination of the only major anti-war candidate in this year's presidential race, a man who, unlike the rapidly triangulating John Kerry, still has the courage to press for the kind of progressive agenda that the Voice has long championed.
Harry G. Levine replies: In 2000, if Nader had asked supporters in just Florida and a handful of other "too close to call" states to vote for Gore, it would have given him tremendous legitimacy and he likely would have more than made up the votes in "safe states." When Gore won, Nader and the Green Party would have become a powerful progressive force to be reckoned with. Nader would have vividly demonstrated his potential to throw a presidential election and his good judgment not to do it then or yet. He would have grown in stature and respect, he would now be an effective advocate for all the issues Kaufman and I care about, and there would be no horrific war in Iraq.
In "Fables of the Reconstruction" [villagevoice.com, April 20], Jason Vest makes several references to civil war. What civil war? It seems to me that Iraqis are pretty unified these days. Maybe if they kick us out, there will be a civil war, but right now that's just theory.
I think we should focus on the issue at hand, which is that Iraq is quickly degenerating into a guerrilla war (if it isn't there already) and we are an army of occupation. How we can go from that scenario to leaving the country with a functioning government that won't be a source of anti-American terrorism is a hard problem.
County Galway, Ireland
A strange bit of logic underlies James Ridgeway's "The Royal Business" [villagevoice.com, April 22].
Are the Bushes corrupt because they are typical American capitalists using government institutions to make money for themselves? Or because they have ties to foreign capitalistswith similar agendaswho happen to be Arabs?
It is difficult to see why Ridgeway would mention the birthrate of the Saudi leadership unless he is trying to raise the timeworn racialized specter of "Arab influence" in Washington. Given that Washington is full of public officials willing to trade favor for finance, surely the Bush family is not such an abnormality. Is corruption somehow more dastardly when the partners in crime are Arabs than, say, American good-ol'-boy elites or Brits, Panamanians, or Poles?
Moreover, if Ridgeway were concerned with the plight of "Joe Six-Pack," perhaps he would take more seriously what he seems to know at some level: that Saudi Arabia, the royal family, and OPEC were all created or protected by the United States precisely to ensure the interests and profits of U.S. oil companies. Indeed, it is the profits of U.S. interests that Ridgeway rightly states would suffer "if the Saudis decided to let the so-called free market take over." Unlike Mr. Ridgeway, however, the Saudi royals know that such a decision is not theirs to make. Would the U.S.which has engaged in regime change to ensure control over much less valuable resources than oilreally allow its swing producer such independence of action?
Ridgeway's resort to race-baiting weakens his argument because it reverses the relation of power in U.S.-Arab relations and distracts his readers from patterns of corruption that are all too normal in both American politics and the projection of American power abroad. The centrality of racism to Ridgeway's argument undercuts the credibility of the Voice as a principled news organization.
My Kind of Town
As a member of a multi-generational Law & Order fan family, I would like to extend my profound gratitude to Mollie Wilson for giving props to the best damn show around, in her article "The Passion of the Hargitay" [The Essay, April 14-20].
Forget show: It's a lifestyle. And, I daresay, sort of a free, entertaining orientation service for new arrivals to la gran manzana. I, a native Wisconsinite, temporarily left my lactose roots behind and lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for a year while working for the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Moving to New York was an adjustment. But thanks to Lennie, Olivia, Elliot, Munch, Ed, Adamsorry, Mr. Schiffand Jack, I feel I had a jump-start in understanding the psyche of the New Yorker. And that made my year much easier.
So thank you, Mollie, thank you Dick Wolf, thank you Village Voice, thank you New York! And, Mollie, next time you're in Chicago, I'm takin' you out for cheesecake.
Hentoff Joins First Amendment Group
The Voice's Nat Hentoff has joined the Media Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council. The Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit Media Institute specializes in First Amendment and communications policy issues.
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