Brooklyn

It is encouraging to read the views of all those who contributed to the “Reverberations” issue [Sept. 23]. It’s a reminder that we are not alone. A year since that horrible day, the roar of fighter planes echoes over Brooklyn (this, I suppose, to provide solace amid the “orange alert” warnings?). Nothing can relieve the pain of senseless tragedy, or replace the lives lost that day. Nothing can express the anger I feel at being caught between the terrorists who abuse the name of Islam and those who abuse the name of America. We live in fear of both. The scene of our tragedy has become another tourist attraction. The meaning of our tragedy has been hijacked by the Republicans. And yet, as New Yorkers, we continue. We are citizens of the world (literally), and somehow we get along. If I have my doubts about America these days, I love my city more than ever. “We are all New Yorkers.” The flag is a comfort to some–I will not begrudge my neighbor his symbols, if he won’t begrudge me mine. The Nation remains a beacon in these dark times. Long may it shine!

BOB GOLDBERG


New York City

What a slap in the face your September 11 anniversary issue was to New Yorkers like myself and Americans in general. Whether it was the letters to the editor or that hate-filled, condescending telegram from that South African activist–I just don’t know where to begin. You are angry at George Bush and John Ashcroft, but where is your anger at the terrorists who killed thousands? I am not a conservative. I voted for Clinton twice and Gore in 2000, but in no way do I want to be associated with the left as it is represented by your magazine. You could have done a more sympathetic anniversary issue. You could have used it to remember the victims instead of turning out some sort of left-wing hate sheet.

KATHY VULLIS


Denver

As a new subscriber, I want to tell you how gratifying it is to read your magazine, especially the “Reverberations” issue. I’ve been so depressed by what’s going on in the world. Just when we should be becoming a kinder, gentler nation, and a large segment of our population finally realizes how fragile and vulnerable life really is, “we” seem ready to embark on a wag-the-dog frenzy of obscene slaughter. After reading your 9/11 letters–gracious, caring, compassionate, concerned, questioning, frustrated, sad, angry, thoughtful and, above all, authentic–I feel like I’ve come home.

SANDRA GORDON PETTIJOHN


New York City

A million thanks for your 9/11 letters section. Nothing I’ve read, seen or heard in the media this past year spoke to me and made me feel that I am not alone as these letters did.

JIM McKAY


Nederland, Colo.

Thank you for the stunning array of letters–thoughtful, gritty and diverse. It’s reassuring to know that there are so many aware, articulate people out there. I appreciated the expressions of hope and despair alike–both are genuine and appropriate responses to the chaos we’re going through.

ARDEN BUCK


San Diego

One quibble with a point made by Casey Nelson Blake in his wonderfully thoughtful and evocative “Mourning and Modernism After 9/11″: That the WTC towers, in the eyes of the left in the late 1970s, embodied a “Promethean will to mastery” may be arguable; that they represented a set of human values that ultimately “trapped human life in Max Weber’s ‘iron cage’ of bureaucracy and technical control” indulges a common misreading of the German sociologist’s classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The “iron cage” of which Weber wrote was not inherent in technology or routinization per se but rather in an excessive “care for external goods” that would, in the end, subvert all other human values and codes. It is this obsession with private accumulation and wealth that captured Weber’s attention. We should not conflate this unconscious (and uncontrolled) fetish in contemporary society with bureaucracy (dare one say “rationality”) itself. As Weber ruefully noted: “The [16th-century] Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. When asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, [it] began to dominate worldly morality.”

MICHAEL A. BERNSTEIN


New York City

I’m sure Adam Shatz didn’t mean to make me sound like a classic anti-Semite who says a certain group (ahem) of leftists are rootless cosmopolitans who pretend to defend New York when what they really care about is what’s good for the Jews in Tel Aviv [“The Left and 9/11″]. Alas, the very hint that I might have said such a thing has rightly distressed my colleagues on the Dissent board, so I must clarify my opinion.

I believe that steady US and international support for fair, long-term peace negotiations is the only hope for the Middle East. Ariel Sharon has been pursuing a military solution to a political problem; as a result, Israelis are less secure than they’ve been in years. This is not the way to fight terrorism, and it is not an example Washington should follow. Military shortcuts can only extend the trauma, which will already take longer to heal than any of our lifetimes. What we need to learn from recent terrorist attacks–in the United States, in Israel–is that the old-style military idea of “protection” is finished. Part of what globalization means is that one would have to turn all enemy countries into graveyards to feel safe.

At the board meeting Shatz described, members expressed a wide range of opinion about how the left should respond to 9/11. No doubt in irritation at some of the left’s confused, knee-jerk responses, at its comfy assumption that only America can be dangerous and perhaps in disappointment at the left’s impotence in current public debate, there were those who seemed willing to shovel almost everything into the dustbin of US left history–left peace movements, left internationalism, left criticisms of the US monopoly on power. Rather than give up on such left traditions of critique, we need to develop them. We should reinvigorate a now almost taboo antimilitarism, figuring out where real future safety lies, for Americans and others. Bullies do need to be identified through a multilateral process, then confronted, but how? I like the way Shatz humbly acknowledges that if the left wants to think beyond military solutions, we’re still at square one.

For now, I and others on the Dissent board who are actively opposed to Bush’s conception of a “war” on terrorism are still there, in what I hope will continue to be a vital conversation, fostered, as it has been, by the editors. The process of finding a common language for alternatives is going to take time. But perhaps Bush’s pre-emptive wars are hurrying us along. I know no one on Dissent and few on the left who want to rush to Iraq.

ANN SNITOW


New York City

Adam Shatz took a broad stroke to the Dissent editorial board when he characterized the editors as possibly supporting war on Iraq. Had he talked to a range of editors, perhaps he could have discovered the truth. I don’t support–or trust–Bush’s rationale for a pre-emptive strike at this time. And while I am one of those strong supporters of Israel whom Shatz characterizes as some sort of fifth column, as an American I don’t support Bush’s plan whether or not it’s good for Israel (although I happen to think it’s not good for Israel, or Palestinians, or Jordanians). As a supporter of the peace camp in Israel, I agree with Kofi Annan, who said that a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should take pre-eminence on the world stage over a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. And I believe that US actions must indeed be multilateral.

JO-ANN MORT


SHATZ REPLIES

Brooklyn

I am pleased to hear that Jo-Ann Mort does not support Bush’s rationale for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq “at this time,” although the qualification indicates that her opposition is less a matter of principle than of timing. I did not mean to characterize pro-Israel liberals as a “fifth column,” merely to signal the calculations and calibrations of interest that undergird and, I believe, distort their understanding of the Arab world and US foreign policy. Mort’s self-identification as a “strong supporter of Israel” confirms my point. There is a split on the left between those who believe America’s unconditional support of Israel is a problem, from the standpoint of justice and security, and those who believe this “special relationship” must be preserved, even if it undermines any credibility America still enjoys in that troubled region. I was merely calling attention to an obvious fact, which is plain to cooler observers of Middle Eastern politics.

ADAM SHATZ


Jersey City, NJ

Adam Shatz’s “left” is a very white affair, one that leaves Robin D.G. Kelley in a caucus of one. The Congressional Black Caucus makes up fully half of the Progressive Caucus on Capitol Hill, reflecting the fact that the African-American population is the real center of US progressive politics, and the only mass base. But you can’t hang there, so black America must be gerrymandered out of the left. Not that we’re anxious to be included in your left surveys and mappings and such. You see, it’s you guys who live in the tiny little neighborhood. Your maps are wrong, and your surveys keep counting the same people over and over again. You must be running out of white folks.

GLEN FORD
Co-publisher, The Black Commentator
www.BlackCommentator.com


Chapel Hill, NC

Adam Shatz “took an informal investigation of left-wing opinion” but in fact limited himself to left-wing intellectuals‘ opinions. There is another, broader left that includes the many activists and organizations concerned with the issues Shatz discussed–a left that, while far from homogeneous, largely shares the following characteristics:

We believe in social justice and human and civil rights. A foreign policy built on those principles will be one that gives maximum security to US citizens by reducing insecurity, repression and a variety of injustices worldwide. We know our history and distrust the foreign policy motivations of the government, seen largely as an agent of US-based capital. We understand that we and our fellow citizens are the subjects of a disinfotainment campaign intended to keep us distracted, ignorant and prejudiced, living as consumers rather than as citizens. Thus, we seek dialogue, outreach and education. We are generally nonviolent and are skeptical of and tend to resist military action. We support international relations based on democratically structured negotiations and agreements that build international law on a foundation of self-determination and economic and human rights for all people. Thus, we are particularly disturbed when Bush’s military initiatives coincide with his repudiation of the International Criminal Court and a host of treaties and agreements. Some of us even read The Nation and would like it to be understood that we, too, are among the left.

DAN COLEMAN