Kudos on ‘Arab Awakening’
Your special issue on the Arab Awakening [Sept. 12] is one of the best in years. Great in-depth coverage we’ll never get in the commercial press, giving real dimension to the various movements and changes in the Middle East and North Africa. Thanks to all your contributors and editors.
Love and Honor but, Above All, Obey
Katha Pollitt’s examination of the contradictions in which Michele Bachmann has become enmeshed—putting herself forth as a leader while at the same time holding to St. Paul’s directive that wives be submissive to their husbands—is right on target; it reminds me of the heartfelt denunciations decades ago by a bestselling novelist of such biblical passages [“Subject to Debate,” Sept. 12].
Pearl S. Buck, who grew up in China the child of American missionaries and who knew a thing or two about the fundamentalist mindset, wrote in her bittersweet 1936 biography of her mother, The Exile: “Since those days when I saw all her nature dimmed I have hated Saint Paul with all my heart and so must all true women hate him, I think, because of what he has done in the past to women like Carie [Buck’s mother], proud free-born women, yet damned by their very womanhood.”
In his February 12, 1936, review of the book in The Nation, Mark Van Doren quoted these powerful lines, which are, unfortunately, back in the news long after we would have thought they’d be relevant only to historians.
The Sentencing Project’s report that Michigan “has closed twenty-one facilities” since 2002 is misleading [“Noted,” Sept. 12]. I have watched from the inside for twenty-nine years. Many of the reported closures have simply been consolidations. In the 1980s and ’90s Michigan built regional brick-and-concrete prisons (population about 1,200) with adjoining “temporary” prisons (pole barns, population about 1,000). Many of the temps have been closed on paper in the past decade and placed under the administration of the adjoining regional. The total population of the remaining prison is the sum of the temp and the regional. People are still in the beds of these “closed” prisons.
RAYMOND C. WALEN JR.
Bigots Turn on the Spigots
Mark Oppenheimer needs to spend less time reading philosophy and more time reading the newspaper [“Sentimentality or Honesty?” Aug. 29/Sept. 5]. He claims that in the United States “even outright bigots tend not to think anymore that their bigotry should be written into the law” and that “America pretty uniformly sides with liberal democracy.” Is Oppenheimer oblivious of the fact that in a convulsion of Islamophobia, bigots in more than twenty-one states are pushing legislation to ban Sharia? Or that across the country bigots have tried to write their bigotry into law by persuading zoning boards and land commissions to block the building of mosques? We have a long way to go before we can blithely conclude that America uniformly sides with liberal democracy.