HOME OF THE BRAVE
I greatly enjoyed Tom Robbins's "Focused on the War" [December 11-17].
I appreciate that the Voice created an opportunity to spotlight the future leaders of the military, providing an outlet to engage long-standing stereotypes. At Columbia University there is a campaign under way to end anti-military discrimination, which promotes stereotypes rather than stimulating discussion. Many of the movement's posters are defaced. Some, containing pictures of soldiers, have been given speech bubbles proclaiming many "typically" military creeds.
Robbins ends with an insightful quote from Colonel Forsythe: "No soldier wants to go to battle." It's a statement many would scoff at, yet we must realize that it's easier to project the warmonger mentality onto others than it is to face the deep barrel of a gun. Most of us who continue to propagate the stereotypes will never have to encounter this horrible perspective.
On a campus where being center-right is so unaccepted as to have fostered an entire community of "closet Republicans" and where anti-anything protests are blessed, it seems ironic that such a movement would be countered with subtle acts of ignorance. Perhaps rather than putting words in the mouths of poster soldiers, some of us should follow Robbins's lead and take the brave step toward engaging the humans behind the uniforms.
Derek A. Berlin
Upper West Side
Re "We'll All Be Under Surveillance," [December 11-17]:
Nat Hentoff astutely observes that 1984 is here and advises every American to let elected officials know our concerns. Nat, you're living in the pre-1984 past. We no longer have elected officials; we have party-appointed officials, and they couldn't care less what you and I think.
Please read Ralph Nader's recent essay on robo-candidates. Or see the movie The Truce, in which the sweet Austrian woman recounts sending Hitler a letter admonishing him for his behavior. There's not going to be a real election in 2004. Madmen have taken control of the most powerful country in the world, and the Constitution is only a quaint reminder of the past. Now what are we going to do?
Nat Hentoff's recent article on our country's march into a world eerily predicted by George Orwell's 1984 was well written and informative, but seems a bit naive. He talks about the frightening prospect of image identification and how cameras follow us in our everyday lives. I think it's apparent that if the government is shedding light on these practices now, they have most certainly been in effect for many years.
It should come as no shock to anyone who's watched the development of technology over the past 20 years that we have become increasingly voyeuristic not only in the way we entertain ourselves but in the way we protect ourselves.
We are only finding out about these tools now because it is considered appropriate, or at the very least more acceptable by the public, thanks to the apprehensive state our country was thrust into on 9-11. While I do agree that Rumsfeld and Poindexter are chipping away at what privacy we do have left, we should not be surprised that few of us are truly "alone" at any time.
Damn, I have such a love-hate thing with Hentoffgoing back to the early days of Downbeat magazine and the "real" Village Voice. He has the capacity to provokeone extreme or the other. Nonetheless, he is, for this radical, the foremost writer re the First Amendment alive today.
The fire is still in the belly, Nat; unfortunately, for a majority of Americans, that fire has been dampened long ago. Joe and Jane Sixpack deserve what's coming.
Nat Hentoff replies: I am not going to give up. There are members of Congress across the political spectrum who have also not surrendered. As for Mr. Monaco, it is not a question of being surprised. It's a matter of joining the ACLU and the Bill of Rights Defense Committees around the country to take back the Constitution. As for Mr. Pitz, no one deserves what's comingunless they want America to become China, Zimbabwe, or Cuba.
KEEP PUSHING ME
Congrats on the thoroughly useless pieces on Adaptation ["The Heart of the Meta," December 4-10]. It figures that the Voice film critics would get all wet over an opportunity to reference the cowardly and ego-intensive postmodernist theories in another one of their cryptic "reviews." How you must have trembled with lust at the opportunity to name-drop Derrida for a Nick Cage film and publish a stupid correspondence as knowing "meta" crap. Disconnected from the world of pop culture you review, you're like grad students deconstructing Madonnagrasping for any use for your wasted years reading Zizek.
Your writing is so lost in its own vocabulary that the ghost of Quine could use your reviews as proof of the "indeterminacy of translation." Here's a big word for you: schadenfreude, referring to the ineffable joy I'd experience upon learning you've all been fired or, even better, forced to work.
Anya Kamenetz replies: Thank you for the opportunity to let us extend our previous epistolary conceit by implicating yourself, the figure of the "frustrated reader," in the fruitful postmodern "dialogue" begun by myself, the "frustrated writer." Your feigned ignorance of the "humor" involved in our textual satire of "academic pretension" contributes a true intellectual frisson, reminiscent of Barthes's death of the author, Foucault's deconstruction of the observer in a totalitarian society, and not least, my doctoral thesis: "Over the Borderline: Madonna, Saussure and the Problem of Meaning." Brava!
KOCH IS IT
Re Joshua Clover's "Poetry Nation" [November 27-December 3]:
In his thunderous credo-bellowing poem "My Olivetti Speaks," Kenneth Koch, may he rest in peace, wrote:
"If half the poets in the world stopped writing, there would still be the same amount of poetry.
"If ninety-nine percent of the poets in the world stopped writing poetry, there would still be the same amount of poetry. Going beyond ninety-nine percent might limit production."
In a literary version of the U.S. government's farm subsidies, Poetry Magazine editor Joseph Parisi should set aside an amount of his annual income to pay poets not to write a book of poems that yearor, in certain extreme cases, never write again.
Those in the second category would be more than welcome to become literary critics.
Jane St. James
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