And About That File in Your Cake…
As a retired Florida correctional officer, I laughed when I read Vote Fair spokesman Tim Curtis’s tale of a wife giving her imprisoned husband a ballot to fill out during a “conjugal visit” [Brentin Mock, “Florida’s Felonious Voting Trap,” Oct. 15]. There never have been conjugal visits in Florida and most likely never will be. Also, a ballot would not make it into the prison. Curtis’s comments aren’t surprising since lies are the norm with the Tea Party. I’ve been trying to register ex-felons here, and it is indeed a huge problem. I never understood why Republicans were so opposed to ex-felons voting. Now I understand the politics. Thanks.
North Haledon, N.J.
Re Katha Pollitt’s “Blasphemy Is Good for You” [“Subject to Debate,” Oct. 15]: John Hockenberry is apparently unfamiliar with the meaning of free speech. It isn’t the right to say things that don’t offend anyone; it is the right to say really offensive things. That’s the whole point. The global initiative Hockenberry advocates would be nothing more than an international agreement to cave in to a tiny number of rioters and prevent anyone from saying anything that might offend their tender sensibilities. How can he not understand how bad his idea is?
As far as blasphemy is concerned, one of my favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, said it best: “Of all the strange ‘crimes’ that human beings have legislated of nothing, ‘blasphemy’ is the most amazing—with ‘obscenity’ and ‘indecent exposure’ fighting it out for the second and third place.” You don’t like remarks you consider blasphemous? Too damn bad; I don’t care. You don’t have the right to riot and murder because you’re upset. People who do that are barbarians, nothing more.
Bernard Avishai, in “A Tale of Two Zionisms” [Oct. 15], obscures a critical factor that united all political Zionists from their earliest years. All branches of their movement, including the liberal pluralists that Avishai contrasts with the militaristic “monists,” had to deal with the fact that an Arab people made up the overwhelming majority of the population of Palestine and were resistant to subordination and/or territorial displacement and dispossession. David Ben-Gurion offered a telling summary in the late 1930s: “We are not blind to the fact that Palestine is no void…. They [the Arabs] do not need to buy land and bring in Arabs from abroad. Everything is theirs but government, and it is government they are fighting for…. The Arabs already possess the land. They need neither laws nor administration to transfer it; only we do.”(Ben-Gurion, Rebirth and Destiny of Israel)
Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, was well aware of the problem of native peoples and the need for an imperial solution. “Infiltration is bound to end badly,” he wrote in The Jewish State (1896). “For there comes the inevitable moment when the government in question, under pressure of the native populace—which feels itself threatened—puts a stop to further influx of Jews. Immigration, therefore, is futile unless it is based on our guaranteed autonomy.” That “autonomy” (he speaks of a “state” and of “sovereignty over a neutral land” in other passages) would be guaranteed by the Ottoman Empire or by a European power or group. If the state should be in Palestine, “we would there form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism. We should as a neutral state remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence” (Arthur Hertzberg, ed., The Zionist Idea).