FEMINIST GENERATION GAP?
New York City
It certainly is flattering to have a five-page comprehensive review of our book, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future ["Riding the Third Wave," Dec. 11], but Michelle Jensen repeats the same pattern we critique: If it doesn't look like it did thirty years ago, it must not be feminism. The sad part of Jensen's second wave-lensed review of Manifesta is that she overlooked our subtitle altogether and rendered invisible the hundreds of examples of young women--their lives and activism--that are the purpose of the book. Women like Farai Chideya, Tali Edut and Sabrina Alcantara-Tan and the work of the Third Wave Foundation, Bust and WILD: For Human Rights--institutions founded and run by young women.
We don't mind the contentious review. We've had many (they have wildly different opinions about what we did right and wrong), and they prove that feminism is as various as women are. But the contrast between the exasperated academic reviewer and the dozen or so huge, totally enthusiastic crowds of young feminists that have greeted us at college campuses over the past few months makes us think that we were on the right track with Manifesta--even without the socialist feminist theory Jensen so craved.
I suppose it's easier for Richards and Baumgardner to paint me as an unreconstructed second waver than to engage with the political substance of my critique. What they can't quite grip, and this is where feminist "wave theory" reveals its simple-mindedness, is that I am their cultural contemporary. I like my platform shoes, my Dawson's Creek, my Hitachi Magic Wand, my Butchies and my campus popularity as much as the next girl: I just don't call it politics. I don't care one whit about what feminism "looks like" (which is why their superficial inclusion of a few token women of color fails to convince me); I care deeply, however, about my generation's ability to advance a historically conscious movement to liberate all women, no matter where they may be located in structures of class, race, sexuality, nation or generation. The manifesto to consult, for a truly liberatory blueprint, is the Redstockings': "We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman. We repudiate all economic, racial, educational, or status privileges that divide us from other women."
VIETNAM IN FACT & FICTION
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
H. Bruce Franklin in "Antiwar and Proud of It" [Dec.11] tells of the aircraft carrier Constellation's crew petitioning for Jane Fonda's antiwar road show to be allowed to perform aboard. In 1971-72 I was a Marine lieutenant out of the Air Force Academy stationed in Okinawa when Hanoi Jane's show performed in the city of Koza. It was exuberantly attended by thousands in uniform, many just back from Vietnam, as Nixon pulled the troops out. I returned to the States in '72 to resign my commission out of a sense of the evil of the man (this was pre-Watergate break-in) and increasing discordance between principle and reality, but a vehicular accident broke my back before my request cleared. Support for the antiwar movement was feverish even among the uniformed, many of whom attended the show so that they could have their pictures taken by intelligence personnel and go on record.
GREGORY C. O'KELLY
I beg to differ with H. Bruce Franklin on the 1945 transport of the French military and Legionnaires to Saigon. I was on Army transport ships then. We were civilian merchant marines, not enlisted men. I doubt that the Navy would protest--that would be considered mutiny. But whoever did it, I deeply wish that Misters Truman and Nixon had listened. "They're not listening still. Perhaps they never will."
CLARENCE "BUD" OHSE
If Jerry Lembcke found "not a shred of evidence" that Vietnam vets were spat upon, it doesn't mean there was none. I am acquainted with a man who was on active duty stateside in the mid-sixties and was walking down the street of a western Massachusetts city when someone came up and spat in his face. He didn't run looking for sociologists to tell his story to, but it happened. It is good to recall and affirm the strengths of the antiwar movement. It is not good to create new distortions in the attempt to offset old ones.
KATHARINE W. RYLAARSDAM
The crews of the US ships being used to transport an invasion army to Vietnam in 1945 were indeed all in the merchant marine; it was the enlisted crewmen (i.e., nonofficers) who unanimously protested this complicity with colonialism.
While there may possibly have been isolated cases of servicepeople being spat upon, there is no contemporaneous evidence of such incidents. More important, although such behavior was never part of the antiwar movement, it is an image of antiwar protesters rampant in American culture today. Both these topics are explored with thorough documentation in my book, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies.
BRUCE H. FRANKLIN
BEWARE: PROGRESSIVE = DRUGGIE!
Johnson City, N.Y.
Jane Spencer's "Caught in the WAVE" [Dec. 4] reminded me of a recent work purporting to link high school students' interest in progressive causes to drug abuse. In How Parents Can Help Children Live Marijuana Free, written by University of Utah criminologist Gerald Smith and others and published by Walt Plum, "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." are listed as some of the "social signs of regular [drug] users." The sixty-plus-page booklet, distributed to parents of students in the Salt Lake City School District with the blessing of the district, prompted parents of two students to pull their children off the debate team. Students may now be targeted not only for acting or appearing different, but also for reading The Nation!
THEY WERE PRINCIPLED IDEALISTS
Walnut Creek, Calif.
It may seem unappreciative for a former Communist to be critical of the relatively reasoned article on "The Right's Cold War Revision," by Ellen Schrecker and Maurice Isserman [July 24/31, "Letters," Oct. 9]. The very rules of engagement in this discussion seem to begin with the docile acceptance as received word of the outpourings of double and triple agents from Moscow's murky Venona files. Schrecker and Isserman are no exception, stating: "As Venona and the Moscow sources reveal, the [US] party recruited dozens, perhaps hundreds, of its members to spy for the Soviet Union."
Who were all these spies, and how come they were never named and prosecuted? Hoover's FBI says it had the party thoroughly infiltrated (hardly the difficult feat that melodramatic movies made it). What these FBI agents would most want to present to the Boss was proof of espionage. Never happened.
Schrecker and Isserman do American Communists the dubious favor of writing, "Acknowledging that some American Communists spied on behalf of the Soviet Union does not reduce the entire history of their movement to a criminal conspiracy." Thanks a lot. How much of its history does it reduce to a criminal conspiracy? Half? Three-quarters?
Are there any historians out there to say straight out that American Communists, despite their sins, were patriots who advocated something more human than corporate capitalism for this land of ours and fought hard and effectively for social justice in the meanwhile?
Yes, they were starry-eyed over the emergence of the world's first nation to proclaim itself socialist and place people above profits, and yes, they were lamentably slow to accept the reality that Stalinism had butchered the socialist dream. But when "liberal anticommunists" were doing diddly about the shame of raw racial discrimination, it was the Communists who exposed the Scottsboro rape frameup, who put their bodies where their mouths were, going South to work for black voting rights, who with the black newspapers launched the campaign that ended the apartheid ban in our national pastime, who did the indispensable on-the-ground organizing in the creation of industrial unionism.
If the Communist movement was the malign spy apparatus Radosh, Klehr, Haynes and Weisberg say it was, how would they explain its attraction to so many of the world's most leading creative men and women?
On a personal note, I worked for the Communist Daily Worker for twenty years and found my colleagues to be principled idealists, the salt of the American earth.
Will history, dictated by "liberal (?) anti-communists," harden by default into the "spy" falsehood for this significant part of the American radical left?
MY SECRET LOVE'S NO SECRET ANYMORE
I've been a subscriber to The Nation for more than twenty years, and I'm finally getting off my butt and writing. I have a confession. I'm in love with Katha Pollitt's column. Whenever I'm not sure how to express my feelings, I wait for Pollitt's column, and there they are--my feelings articulated perfectly.
I live in a rural community without residential mail service, so I have to drive to the post office. I empty my box every couple of days, and when I get my Nation, the first thing I do is open it to Katha's column and savor her comments paragraph by paragraph. Then I sit back in my minivan smiling as I hug my Nation. And that warm, fuzzy feeling lasts all day, because Katha's column makes me realize that I have a choice. I can either become depressed, or I can laugh, or I can do a bit of both.
Am I alone? I can't be the only reader whose idea of a good time is settling back into my minivan high-back seat in front of the post office in a one-stoplight town in the mountains of Colorado reading Katha's column. So why doesn't it appear weekly?