Jane Dark's article ''Suffer the (White, Middle-Class) Children," which appeared in the June 1 Voice, generated an unusual amount of mail. Following is a sampling of letters received and Dark's response.
Through a Class Darkly
One glaring error stands out in Jane Dark's evaluation of the situation at Columbine High School. We're talking about kids, not men.
Whatever sense of political identity the average 15-year-old may have is coincidental to the fact that teenagers are hormone-fraught, emotion-filled individuals. Take your run-of-the-mill teen angst and adolescent worries and add constant ridicule and rejection by the socially elite plus persecution by school administrators.
If Ms. Dark is not aware that a great many students put up with unconscionable abuse by their peers and administrators, then her writing on this subject is hardly relevant.
I believe that the school environment of oppression contributes to later oppressive behavior in much the same way that children abused in other ways often go on to lead abusive lives. Our schools teach that might makes right. They are filled with hypocrisy, and our children aren't immune to that. If we don't like how people behave when they grow up, we must change the lessons we teach them when they are young, including the lessons we teach by example, and the ones we teach by our indifference.
John R. Johns II
You've Got Male
Suddenly, it seems that if you're a geek, you're a member in good standing of the white male power elite. Someone at the White Male Power Elite Coordinating Center screwed up and forgot to send me my membership card and jackboots. According to Jane Dark, you can't suffer if you're white. What's next you can't be poor if you're a Jew?
San Diego, California
I'm a white female. I was beaten up with depressing regularity by classmates who considered me an outsider. By "beaten up," I mean jumped by a group, knocked to the floor, head pounded on the ground (or the brick, or the concrete), upper body pummeled, and sometimes kicked till I was sick and dizzy and could barely get back up when they finished.
The University of Michigan has been surveying 12th graders since 1976, asking them if they have been deliberately injured at school; 15 to 20 percent have consistently responded that they have been deliberately injured; 10 to 14 percent of girls have responded that they have been deliberately injured.
It is clear from my experience and from available statistics that the problem is not uniquely a male one.
Mannington, West Virginia
Anyone identifiable as different from mainstream commercial culture is oppressed by certain elements of it. Instead of naming "identity groups" (at least one of which virtually anyone could qualify for), we should identify oppressors as entities and institutions (not as "white guys").
Snub Knows Bullets
Those kids in Littleton became what they were and did what they did because nobody thought they mattered or took them seriously. No wonder they became racists, with people like Jane Dark telling them that if you're white you're the Man and nobody gives a fuck about you. All these kids are going to keep thinking, Nobody cares about us, so we'll make them care, BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Jane Dark replies: Amazing how desperate the respondents are to believe I said "shut up and take it." Do I think that everybody should have the right to struggle against abuse? Of course as anyone who read the piece with care would discover. Do I think that a social class (and it is an identifiable class, despite vacant homilies about individuality) with the greatest access to food and shelter, goods, services, and medical care in the Western world has a lesser claim to the status of the oppressed? Damn straight. What I regret was the lack of space to discuss the other issues. I don't think this is a story about high school hell as much as it's about the fucked-up roles offered boys: impotent geek to hyper-butch brutalizer. Harris and Klebold just leapt from one end of the spectrum to the far limit of the other.
Re Magie Dominic's "No One Decides To Be Destitute" [June 1]: Lots of people are two paychecks away from homelessness. Although The Village Voice's coverage of New York's needy is admirable, more exposure of the systematic discouragement and embarrassment of the welfare/food stamp applicant,which was so well- illustrated in Ms. Dominic's letter to your paper, is needed. Having had a decent banking career that derailed, resulting in the need for public assistance, I sympathize with Magie's plight. When the pendulum swings from have to have not, it is rough.
Magie Dominic, in "No One Decides To Be Destitute," tells it accurately. My mom broke her hip when she was 83. Thank God she had family nearby. I hate to think what would have happened otherwise. She had money, but she wouldn't have been able to use it for her benefit while she was recovering from her injuries. The whole experience terrified me. My mom had me to look after her, but what happens to the elderly who have no advocates?
There should be a law that permits artistic projects such as the naked photo shoot discussed by Robin Rothman ["Nude Awakening," June 8]. Why arrest artist-photographer Spencer Tunick? The nudity? How sad that we live in a country filled with so many cultures, and are open to so many different preferences, but at the sight of a boob, a butt, or the hint of thigh, we lose our shit. We act like five-year-olds and that's insulting five-year-olds, since they have better common sense about these things.
Regarding Nat Hentoff's column "How Free Can Speech Be?" [May 25]: As lead defense counsel in the Portland, Oregon, case about free speech in posters and on the Internet, I would like to point out that neither the plaintiffs' lawyers nor the court ever succeeded in identifying any particular threatening language in the posters and Web site at issue.
The reason for this failure is simple: the communications contained no threats. Plaintiffs' lawyers claimed the communications as a whole were threatening. But that is like claiming that an article in The Village Voice is libelous as a whole without ever identifying any particular false statements in the article. How would the Voice like to be sued for libel on that theory? Principled First Amendment advocates should be gravely concerned about the result in Oregon, which punishes with a $107 million damage award and a permanent injunction speech that is less provocative than what is purveyed by some shock jocks and TV talk show hosts. The communications did nothing more than name, condemn, and seek legally available information about the abortion doctors listed standard pro-life protest literature.
This verdict points the way to further suits under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against the speech of political opponents based on little more than the claim that because of acts of violence in the social context surrounding political speech, the speech becomes a threat even if no threat is actually stated. Such suits, as we learned in Oregon, are virtually impossible to defend.
Christopher A. Ferrara
Fairfield, New Jersey
Nat Hentoff replies: At the trial, Dr. Elizabeth Newhall, who performs abortions, testified that when her name appeared on "The Deadly Dozen" poster, she was terrified and began to wear a bulletproof vest. She knew that on the Web site lines had been drawn through the names of murdered abortion doctors on the poster's wanted list. This, according to settled law, was a true specifically named threat. I say this as a First Amendment pro-lifer.
Aspiring watchdogs of war will themselves be the first casualties if they look to Jason Vest for accurate reporting [Press Clips, June 1]. Vest's claim that in the Balkans conflict "tens of thousands of sorties" have been flown is simply false. According to Major General Charles Wald, senior planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 6950 bombing runs had been made as of May 26. The dispute over whether the number of sorties is adequate to NATO's objectives has been a top story since March. Vest watches the press; does anyone watch Vest?
Fred Moody's "Digital Ink" [June 1] shed some well-deserved light on the subject of Web-only art and content. Groups like mousecontrol.com are leading the way toward an environment where destinations will be more important than portals. Web artists Ryan Lane and Nathan Tucker have created the perfect art form for our age: quick doses of original and amusing entertainment designed for short attention spans. Such genius rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Kudos to Allen St. John for his critique of Rey Ordóñez ["The Mets Hit Parade," June 8]. Rather than following the lead of many writers and attacking Ordóñez's shortcomings with the bat, St. John had the guts to expose his defense for the all-flash, no-substance that it is. St. John's willingness to use an unestablished stat like "zone" rating should be commended. While not a perfect stat, it is a logical step toward assessing fielding with the same degree of objectivity and accuracy that is applied to hitting and pitching stats.
Re Dennis Lim's review of Notting Hill ["Star Stricken," June 1]: Lim needs to take this movie a little less seriously. Was he expecting Casablanca? It was funny and entertaining. Predictable? Did he really expect anything else? This movie, as artistically challenged as it may be, is a justifiable hit. People left the theater smiling. Lim should have left his technical dissection in film school: clearly, his expectations were too high.
Newport Beach, California
Sometimes the words come too quickly, unsupported by sufficient thought.
In last week's "Jazz Central" listings, I used the word schizophrenia to suggest the extreme musical variety in a concert by the Jazz Pioneers, David S. Ware, and Odean Pope.
Only upon seeing it in print did it occur to me that, for one of the musicians, schizophrenia is not a metaphor but an illness that he has bravely and astonishingly overcome. I apologize to Tom Harrell and my readers.
This office is counsel to the National Police Defense Foundation. Peter Noel's article "The Making of a Guilty Plea" [June 1] quoted extensively from James Ridgway de Szigethy. The article identified Mr. de Szigethy as "a member of the controversial National Police Defense Foundation."
Please be advised that Mr. de Szigethy is neither a member of nor a spokesperson for the National Police Defense Foundation. The Foundation never authorized Mr. de Szigethy to be interviewed for the article, and Mr. de Szigethy's views do not necessarily reflect those of the National Police Defense Foundation.
Wolin & Wolin, Attorneys at Law
Jericho, New York
In the June 1 Towers & Tenements column, it was incorrectly reported that Eugene Kaleniak, a landlord who is evicting senior citizens from their Brooklyn apartment, is vice president of the Park Slope Brewing Company. Kaleniak is no longer an officer of the brewery, although he runs two restaurants under the name.
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