Power of the Pen
Although I cannot fully relate to Elaine Bartlett's years of imprisonment, I must say that Jennifer Gonnerman's article about her ["Freedom's Cost," December 26] sends a message to many women that there is hope. After reading the article, I regained confidence that I had lost. For the past year I have felt imprisoned by life's challenges. I wanted to give up on lifeand it would not have been the first time I tried to end my life. Reading this article, I was able to reflect on life differently. I realized again that life does not necessarily entail success; rather it means overcoming obstacles as they come.
Like Elaine Bartlett, I wanted to give up on life and run. The difference is that she didn't. I spent several weeks in the hospital for treatment of liver damage after one suicide attempt. At the time, I felt that the challenges were too much to overcome. Everyone told me I had a lot to live for, but for me it was just a slow, deadly process, and chances for overcoming the struggles seemed slim. I now struggle to keep a job, to go to school and be a parent. I have no one to turn to for encouragement or advice in my surroundings. I am all alone.
This letter may not be what you are looking for. It is just a token of my appreciation for publishing this article. I believe that, given how much it encouraged me, others in similar situations, who are at their wits' ends with problems, also have been encouraged.
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Jennifer Gonnerman's article on Elaine Bartlett was an extraordinary piece of journalism: attentively detailed, doing honor to her subject, yet throwing into sharp relief the problems faced by paroled felons in the U.S. I sometimes shudder at the weight of my life's daily demands, but compared to Elaine Bartlett's life, mine is simplicity itself. I thank Gonnerman for so eloquently reminding me of the real facts of life.
Apostles of Defeat
Said Ralph Nader to Lenora Todaro ["Ralph Nader Lashes Back," December 26]: "I advise Todd Gitlin to read some of his earlier books and refresh his perspective on the concentration of power in this country." Hmm.
In The Whole World Is Watching, I wrote of left-wing celebrities becoming self-enamored apostles, tactically reckless lawgivers unto themselves. In The Sixties, I wrote of naive purists (including myself at 25) who helped elect Nixon president in 1968 in the conviction that he and Humphrey were equivalentnever mind a million Vietnamese who would perish under Nixon. In The Twilight of Common Dreams, I wrote of the left-wing self-marginalization which helped the Republicans take and hold power in Washington.
Now, as the globe-is-not-warming brigade comes to power, the Bangladeshis, Mozambicans, and others whose lives are at risk because of melting ice caps may have trouble appreciating Nader's gifts to progressive politics in the U.S. The oilmen are taking charge thanks to the victory of the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of government.
Many of Nader's sincere erstwhile supporters are already remorseful for having misinvested their good intentions. More will have reason for regrets.
Nurses for Nader
Thank you for Lenora Todaro's interview with Ralph Nader. Letting him speak for himself clarifies why the California Nurses Association endorsed him. Nader was the only candidate who supported us in 1996 when, with Proposition 216, we dared to challenge the corporate madness that is destroying health care in California. With his steadfast support, we've managed to pass five of its provisions to regulate managed care. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans see the value of nurses or of a system of universal health care.
Nancy Lewis, R.N.
San Francisco, California
Feigning Free Speech
Say what? Nat Hentoff extolling the BBC's dedication to free speech ["Winter Solstice Tributes," January 2]? For years, British administrations spiked any attempts to broadcast the voices of Irish republicans commenting on the Troubles. It finally got so ridiculous that the BBC hired actors to speak the words of Sinn Fein officials like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Hentoff is usually dead-on in his commentary, but in praising the BBC's dedication to free speech, he missed the mark by a mile.
Thomas J. Burke Jr.
Nat Hentoff replies: I'm glad Mr. Burke reminded me about the BBC censorship of Irish republicans. But its WNYC World News at least uncovers what other governments censor.
Jackson Road, Sharpton Bay
Re Peter Noel's "Is Jesse for Sale?" [January 2]: The Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton feud is a good thing in terms of the political direction of the black community. Jackson increasingly represents the civil rights "old guard," which is willing to accommodate to a certain extent. Sharpton is the activist Jackson once was. Black activism is at a crossroads between old-school activists like Jackson and the "new school" represented by Sharpton. Each brings something positive to the table. Hopefully, the new direction of black activism will be partly defined as an outgrowth of their struggles.
Banality of Evil
Thanks for Wayne Barrett's "The Five Worst Republican Outrages" [December 26], in which he detailed the evil tactics employed by the Republicans during the election. It was astounding to read that they "demanded and got a hand recount in New Mexico after opposing one for weeks in Florida." I hope you'll continue to monitor this situation. It seems to be on the back burner in the mainstream media.
Michael Musto's statement in his December 26 column that the Luxor casino in Las Vegas "gives you Egypt without the terrorists" is insulting to Muslims everywhere. Egypt is known for its predominantly Muslim population, and Muslims are well aware of the stereotyping of us as "terrorists" in the Western media. Musto should apologize to the Muslim community.
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