Tom Waits and others cheer The Doors' drummer, John Densmore, for not selling out to the corporations.
In "A Different Israel" [August 5/12] Martha C. Nussbaum wrote that
she became relaxed in her "moralistic heart" while accepting an honorary
degree from the University of Haifa in May. She indicates she was able
to wear the Star of David during the ceremony, while she never does when
in her "anti-Zionistic frame of mind." The University of Chicago
professor of ethics and law says her relaxation resulted from the
peaceful cooperation in Haifa among Israelis and Arabs. The reason given
for accepting the degree was to oppose the "ugly campaign" among
academics to boycott Israeli universities.
One should distinguish between relaxation and anesthesia! Perhaps if
Nussbaum had gone to Ramallah instead of Haifa, as an acquaintance of
mine did recently, her "moralistic heart" would have remained awake. As
Nussbaum did, my acquaintance is converting to the Jewish faith of her
father and of her husband. Unlike Nussbaum, having seen the Star of
David used by occupation troops as a graffiti symbol of hatred and
humiliation, she does not feel comfortable wearing hers. Perhaps in
Ramallah the campaign to boycott would not have looked quite so
CLAIBORNE M. CLARK
In Haifa University Martha C. Nussbaum found another Israel. But her
praise for the university as a symbol of coexistence and peace belies
the dismal reality of that campus, which does not (according to
one of the many fallacies in her article) have "many Arab faculty
members" but only six, out of 600. Her stress on the Arab-Jewish nature
of the campus is particularly annoying, as Haifa University has been
singled out in the past two years for its harsh and oppressive treatment
of Arab students.
There is a university other than the one Nussbaum described after she
received a precious prize there. I have been in the university since
1984, and I think what Nussbaum describes is more in line with the
aspirations we had back then but has very little to do with the
realities on campus today.
Haifa University nowadays is an institution that tried to expel me in
May because of my claims that Israel committed an ethnic cleansing of
the Palestinians in the 1948 war--a claim that contradicts the Zionist
narrative of that year. I have been prosecuted, and my tenure nearly
annulled, for my support of an MA student who was disqualified for his
revelation of an unknown massacre perpetrated by the IDF in the village
of Tantura in 1948. Had it not been for overwhelming international
pressure exerted on this "peace-loving" university, I would have been
out of a job.
This university has silenced its Arab students. They are barred from any
political activity on campus, while the Jewish union can openly preach
its Zionist ideology. Arab students are discriminated against in
accommodations and scholarship policies, and their basic rights as a
national group totally denied.
It is hard enough to watch helplessly the demise of pluralism and free
speech in Israel in general and at Haifa University in particular. It is
worse when it is supplemented by embarrassingly pro-Israeli stances in
the United States that either fail to see reality or, worse, are
knowingly serving the present Israeli regime and its evil policies.
New York City
I agree with Martha Nussbaum about a "different Israel." I was invited
to give a lecture in June at Ben Gurion University, where progressive,
liberal and left scholars, activists and professional community workers
in and outside national and local government were discussing ways to
build a more just, peaceful and secure society in Israel.
I also met with ninety community organizers from Shatil, an independent,
foundation-funded organization. For more than twenty years Shatil has
worked in almost every distressed community in Israel and with its most
excluded population groups. It has Israeli-Palestinian Arab, Bedouin and
Druze staff, and Jews from many origins and cultures. They are engaged
in coalition-building around the environment, intergroup relations,
poverty, health, housing, education and welfare, and social insurance.
With the informal support of some government planners, it is organizing
an antipoverty movement, because the government is cutting back on the
amount of social allowances and healthcare.
What was devastating to these articulate and involved progressive people
was the sense of hopelessness about the larger political and military
picture that surrounds them. They see no peacemakers on the horizon.
They view Sharon and Arafat as warmongers and can't identify a single
leader on either side who could shift the kaleidoscope toward peace and
They were buoyed momentarily in June because for the first time a group
of Palestinian scholars, activists and poets wrote an open letter in
Arabic to their leaders calling for an end to suicide bombings and for
negotiations. Just as many of us here are working hard to improve the
quality of life and conditions for people in this country despite Bush
Administration policies, so are many Israelis. There is another
Israel, and it must be seen.
Claiborne Clark's odd logic holds that if a nation is doing anything
bad, there cannot possibly be any good in it. This demonization of an
entire people is just the sort of nonthinking that produces ethnic
violence all over the world; it is all too common between Palestinians
and Israelis. To counter this pernicious tendency, we need to find
examples that show that cooperation is possible and that peace and
justice are not impossibly utopian aspirations. I therefore welcome
Terry Mizrahi's letter and agree with everything it says. I can add that
the group of Palestinians whose letter opposing suicide bombings has by
now been widely published is headed by Sari Nusseibeh, a courageous
politician, philosopher and university administrator who is one of the
best hopes for responsible leadership on the Palestinian side. Nusseibeh
is so far from supporting the boycott of Israeli scholars that he has
written books with some, and he makes a point of speaking at
international conferences that include Israeli speakers. When in the
United States, he insists on addressing both Arab and Jewish audiences.
Clark also gives an inaccurate impression of my article. I said that I
decided to accept the honorary degree both as a statement of opposition
to the boycott of Israeli scholars and as an opportunity to make a
public statement about issues of global justice that have implications
for the just solution to the conflict. As I recorded, I was encouraged
to make such a speech and did so. (My position is roughly that of Amram
Mitzna, mayor of Haifa and candidate for leadership of the Labor Party,
who favors immediate resumption of negotiations, eventual evacuation of
the settlements and a partition of Jerusalem.) I can now add that the
identity of other recipients of honorary degrees at the ceremony,
including Joschka Fischer, the German Green Party foreign minister,
encouraged me to believe that this ceremony was a celebration of dissent
and the search for justice. What surprised me was that I found in Haifa
an entire city that makes peaceful cooperation and the search for a just
solution a way of life, that understands Zionism as I do, as a moral
commitment, not a commitment to nationalistic triumph. No moral
commitment is without struggle, since we live in an imperfect human
world. But it seems right to focus on reasons for hope at a time when
too many are losing hope.
I had not heard of Ilan Pappé before I went to Haifa, and I am
not in a position to speak about his grievances against the university.
I therefore prefer to cite an official statement by the university,
responding to his letter:
"During the course of the past years Dr. Pappé has waged a
puzzling and eccentric one-man campaign to defame his colleagues and the
University of Haifa. The university has reacted with great patience to
his curious and unethical behavior as the issue of academic freedom and
freedom of speech is of great concern to us. Dr. Pappé's letter
is predictably and consistently inaccurate. Here we will address only
the most conspicuous nonissues raised in his letter.
"1. Contrary to his claims that there are only six Arab lecturers at the
University of Haifa, there are in fact sixty-two, nineteen of them in
tenure-track positions. This modest number is constantly rising.
Moreover, there are more Arab faculty members at the University of Haifa
than at any other Israeli university.
"2. The University of Haifa is proud of its efforts in recruiting Arab
students and offering them a wide range of affirmative-action programs.
The Arab students are, themselves, aware of these programs and, as such,
tend to choose Haifa over other colleges and universities in the
country. In fact about 18 percent of our student body are members of
Israel's Arab community. No other university in the country has such a
large percentage of minority students.
"3. We are dismayed by Dr. Pappé's bewildering claim that Arab
students have been barred from political activity while their Jewish
peers preach Zionist ideology with impunity. Nothing can be further from
the truth. Despite the impossible situation of daily life in Israel and
the tense, close encounters between Jews and Arabs on campus, we have
upheld a brave policy of full and uncensored freedom of expression. Our
only limitations were short and limited moratoriums on demonstrations
during exceptional periods (when, for example, some of our students were
killed in terrorist attacks). These limitations applied to Jews and
Arabs alike. Moreover, even during the most stressful times, we did not
limit other features of free speech (fliers, information booths,
political assemblies, etc.).
"4. Dr. Pappé's assertion that Arab students suffer
discrimination in student housing is a mystery. During the course of the
academic year 2001-2, the percentage of Arab students in our dorms
reached 30 percent, while the percentage of Arab students at the
university is about 18 percent.
"5. Contrary to his claims, the university made no attempt to expel Dr.
Pappé. One of his colleagues did indeed lodge a complaint with
the internal faculty disciplinary committee. The complaint focused on
Dr. Pappé's unethical efforts to disbar his colleagues from
international forums for daring to contradict his views. The complaint
had nothing to do with his political views, which are shared by other
members of the campus community. Moreover, Dr. Pappé has omitted
the important fact that he was never summoned by the disciplinary
committee, as the committee's chairperson decided not to pursue the
complaint in its present form.
"6. As for the MA thesis mentioned by Dr. Pappé, the claims in
this study were the subject of a court case, during the course of which
the student-author of the paper tendered a court-sanctioned, written
apology for misrepresentations. Following the court settlement, the
student was offered the opportunity to revise his MA thesis.
"In sum, Dr. Pappé does not appear to be concerned to give
readers of The Nation a full and accurate account of the facts.
Needless to say, despite his odd and unethical behavior, we shall
continue to invest efforts and resources for securing our island of
sanity in this troubled region.
--University of Haifa"
MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM
LE PEN IN FRANCE...
Far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen's upset in the first round of French presidential voting was variously ascribed to rising xenophobia in Western Europe, a crisis of the French left, rising crime rates in France and other possibilities. Doug Ireland, in "Le Pen: The Center Folds" [May 13], subscribes to all three. Yet the evidence doesn't necessarily corroborate these explanations. Instead, what we saw was a major breakdown of France's two-round runoff method of electing the president.
A full 64 percent of voters supported candidates other than the two who advanced to the runoff. Many left voters, looking to send a message of dissatisfaction to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round, split their support among seven candidates. Together, left-leaning candidates, led by Jospin, garnered more than 40 percent of the vote--and divided, none polled enough votes to make the runoff. Le Pen, with 17 percent of the vote--a mere 250,000-vote increase, virtually the same popular vote he won in his other failed presidential runs--benefited from this vote-splitting.
Jospin learned what Al Gore knows all too well: In a plurality electoral system, spoiler candidates and split votes can plague the results. France's use of instant runoff voting rather than a two-round runoff would have prevented its electoral meltdown. With IRV, left voters could have sent a message to Jospin by awarding their highest rankings to other candidates but would have had the option of ranking Jospin as one of their runoff choices. During the ballot counting their votes would have coalesced around Jospin as their front-runner, who would have made it to the instant runoff over the marginalized Le Pen, who has very little runoff support from any other parties or candidates.
Yes, electoral systems do matter--sometimes dramatically. Just ask Al Gore.
Center for Voting and Democracy
New York City
I've long favored instant runoff voting, but Hill's suggestion that there has been no marked increase in French racism and its political expression is shockingly ostrichlike. Hill's facts are wrong: The parties of Jospin's governing coalition--Parti socialiste, Parti communiste, les Verts and Mouvement de radicaux de gauche--together polled only a little more than 26 percent. Hill's claim that the 10.5 percent won by three anti-Jospin Trotskyists and the 5.5 percent won by the Pôle republicain (which asserted that there was no real difference between Jospin and Chirac) should be included in the score of the left "led" by Jospin could only be made by someone ignorant about French politics. Le Pen got nearly 1 million votes more than he did in '95 (while the governing parties of left and right together lost some 5.5 million votes, as I pointed out).
Hill may not think that's a significant increase, but the French obviously did--daily demos poured more than 500,000 of them into the streets after Le Pen's victory to oppose his racist program, which includes setting up special "camps" for immigrants and special trains to deport them; and nearly all major parties, unions, media, sports stars, the patronat (MEDEF) and even the Catholic Episcopate called for an anti-Le Pen vote in the runoff.
Those who, in their obsession with process, exclude the content of politics from their considerations do so at our peril. The increasing demand in France for replacing the Gaullist constitution of the Fifth Republic does nothing to address the root causes of mounting racism while allowing politicians to pretend to have responded to the electoral evidence of France's racial fracture. And the most visible expression of this demand--the Committee for a Sixth Republic (C6R) led by Socialist deputy Arnaud de Montebourg--sadly does not include IRV in its proposals.
...AND CHÁVEZ IN VENEZUELA
In "The Coup That Wasn't" [May 6] Marc Cooper contrasts Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez with former Chilean President Salvador Allende, saying, "Chávez has failed to produce much of the radical change he promised." Cooper needs a wake-up call. This is 2002, a time when the constraints on economic policy in Latin America are greater than ever. Never has capital been more mobile and more capable of disciplining governments that attempt to embark upon radical change. If Allende were governing Chile today, he'd recognize the constraints and think twice about nationalizing one industry after another, as he did in the early 1970s.
Considering the constraints the Chávez government has had to operate under, it has achieved some notable reforms. In a recent interview with Le Monde Diplomatique editor Ignacio Ramonet, Chávez lays out some of his government's achievements: "We have lowered unemployment...created more than 450,000 new jobs.... Venezuela has moved up four places on the Human Development Index. The number of children in school has risen 25 percent. More than 1.5 million children who didn't go to school are now in school, and they receive clothing, breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. We have carried out massive immunization campaigns in the marginalized sectors of the population. Infant mortality has declined. We are building more than 135,000 housing units for poor families. We are distributing land to landless campesinos. We have created a Women's Bank that provides micro-credit loans. In the year 2001, Venezuela was one of the countries with the highest growth rates on the continent, nearly 3 percent.... We are delivering the country from prostration and backwardness."
Cooper makes no mention of this, nor does he say anything about the hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelans who descended upon Caracas in defense of their temporarily ousted president. Most scandalous is Cooper's repetition of the coup plotters' version of events, as he claims that Chávez "turned police and armed supporters against peaceful protesters...provoking a shootout that injured scores and killed more than a dozen." Cooper never points out that this version of events is highly contested. Several witnesses to the bloodshed, including former Fulbright scholar Greg Wilpert and Kim Bartley, an Irish filmmaker, contend that unidentified snipers initiated the carnage, shooting into crowds of pro-Chávez demonstrators that had surrounded the Presidential Palace.
Repeating the coup plotters' version of events and invoking Salvador Allende's good name are shameful.
It has been claimed that Latin American governments opposed the coup in Venezuela. This is not accurate. Some governments denounced the coup (Argentina, Brazil), but other countries welcomed it (Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, among others). The OAS did not call for a return of the Chávez government; instead it called for the holding of elections as soon as possible, a de facto recognition of the coup.
In fact, it was part of the coup plan to use the OAS as a way of legitimizing itself. In fact, the coup government invited the OAS head, Cesar Gaviria (from Colombia), to go to Venezuela to help with the "transition to institutionality." The OAS, however, was overtaken by events. The coup lost power, and by the time Gaviria arrived in Caracas, Chávez was back in power.
So we should not be fooled. The OAS was going to be used by Washington and the coup plotters. The "defense" of constitutionality by the OAS took place after Chávez was returned to the presidency.
Woodland Hills, Calif.
The global economic constraints described by Justin Delacour are indeed real. And if, as he suggests, Allende would today have to think twice about nationalizing foreign firms, then how can he defend Chávez's record? Instead of enacting authentic reform, Chávez chose the posture of a loud-mouth demagogue, only narrowing his parameters by rattling the cages of his very powerful adversaries. His playing pattycake with Saddam and Qaddafi and hide-and-seek with the ignoble Colombia guerrillas pissed off Uncle Sam and elicited laudatory editorials from Havana's Granma--and it put food on the table for exactly nobody and created jobs and housing for just as few.
Chávez might as well have nationalized the entire Venezuelan economy, for nothing could have further alienated his domestic financial and investment elites than his hypercharged revolutionary, but hollow, bluster. Yet Chávez imposed the same budget-slashing austerity of any neoliberal IMF adjustment program. Indeed, the only statistics I need to rebut Chávez's self-congratulatory list of accomplishments quoted by Delacour are the myriad pre-coup polls showing the Venezuelan president's popularity plummeting to around 30 percent. It seems the Venezuelan poor don't read Ignacio Ramonet and are ignorant of their impressively improving status.
As to who shot whom on the day of the botched coup: Wilpert, Delacour's star witness, has written in online accounts that armed Chávez supporters were involved in the bloodshed that took more than a dozen lives. Chávez has as much as admitted the same. That other forces may have been involved in the firefights--unnamed rooftop (or were they grassy knoll?) snipers, uniformed police acting on behalf of the opposition, sectarian squads, etc.--is still unclear. What is certain is that armed bands of Chávez supporters were present at an otherwise peaceful rally and were directly involved in the lethal mayhem. In an authentic civilian democracy, the president of the republic does not tolerate armed gangs, even of his own supporters. And they certainly don't show up, ready for action, at opposition rallies. In short, your enemy's enemy should not always be considered your friend. It's possible for both the US government and the Chávez administration to have similar if not equal disdain for democratic rule.
Professor Nelson Valdes is an always astute observer of Latin American affairs, but on this issue he's a tad off the mark. I fully share his suspicion as to the depth of democratic commitment to be found among OAS members. That said, during the thirty-hour period that President Chávez was displaced by Pedro Carmona, virtually no Latin American government recognized the latter's administration. This continental balk was hardly a dramatic rupture with Washington. But the gesture certainly contributed to the vacuum that eventually sucked the usurpers from power.
BRAVE'S NEW WORLD
Ralph Brave scores points off Francis Fukuyama by ridiculing the concept of human nature Fukuyama attempts to defend in his brief against genetic engineering and the "posthuman future" ["The Body Shop," April 22]. It's true that as part of an effort by some social conservatives to derail the uses of cloning and related biotechnologies to fabricate designer human embryos, Fukuyama falls into genetic determinism and other varieties of essentialism to characterize what he would like to preserve. But does the fact that human nature is changeable mean, therefore, that the production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests? Draw the line wherever you want and the technological-medical imperative will eventually roll over it. If you don't mind someone making stem cells from twelve-day clonal embryos, how about better stem cells from two-month clonal fetuses, transplantable livers from six-month clones, or bone marrow from clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains? If you don't mind parents genetically engineering their offspring so as to not develop hemophilia, how about to not be less than average height, to have perfect pitch, greater upper body strength?
Brave seems to think technology is, uncomplicatedly, something "we" produce to satisfy "our" needs. Thus the automobile industry has always just given us the vehicles we demanded, the fuel industry just wants to keep us mobile and comfortable indoors and the processed food companies just want to feed us. As we sit in traffic jams contemplating the climatological and health costs of such technological advances, we might also think about the consequences of adopting Brave's laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology, which looks as strange in the pages of The Nation as Fukuyama's technological skepticism does coming from the author of The End of History.
STUART A. NEWMAN
I used to feel heartened when Stuart Newman stepped forward as a scientist expressing concerns about genetic technologies. But his blatant misreading of my review now worries me. Nowhere do I advocate a "laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology," or that "production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests" or "clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains." Although Newman says it is impossible to "draw the line" to prevent unethical biomedical practices, it is done every day. Otherwise even Newman's own research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate limb development would be suspect.
On the serious issue of clonal embryos for stem cell research, the potential ability to create genetically matched tissues or organs to treat disease and injury is no small matter. The current need of transplant patients to use antirejection drugs for their entire lives, drugs that suppress the immune system, making them unable to defend against infection or cancer, is a treatment compromise that needs remedy. Criminalizing both the research to address this and the resulting therapies themselves, as Newman, Fukuyama and George W. Bush advocate, is what I would label "strange."
ALLAH GOD'S CHILDREN
Christopher Hitchens reminds us that of the three religions of Abraham--Islam, Christianity and Judaism--Islam is the only one that admits the legitimacy of the other two ["Minority Report," April 15]. A further reminder: The reason Jews have been able to pray at the Wailing Wall for nearly 500 years is that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Successor to the Prophet, Commander of the Faithful, Shadow of God upon Earth, ordered his chief architect to construct a porch for them to pay their duty to God at the most visible surviving portion of their ancient temple.
Christopher Hitchens, admired for his analysis of modern-day events, should be a bit more careful in his examination of earlier ones. The enlightened paradise of Muslim Spain may have indeed been dealt its death blow by Ferdinand and Isabella, but its much-vaunted tolerance ended many years before, in the twelfth century, when power was seized by the Almohads, a fanatical Islamic sect from Morocco, which does bear comparison to the Taliban. They waged a campaign of terror on all Christians and Jews, especially those with political power. Many Jews fled to the more tolerant Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, while others fled to more tolerant Islamic kingdoms. Among those who fled southward was the powerful family of Maimonides, which hailed from Córdoba but could suffer the brutal regime no longer. So it is a bit disingenuous of Hitchens to hold Maimonides up as a symbol of Muslim tolerance. Even in its best periods, Islamic history is no less checkered than our own.
A LAUGH, A CRY...
To Tony Kushner: Thank you so much for your words, for the heart and
soul behind them, for your humor and for bringing tears to my eyes each
time (so far twice) I have read "A Word to Graduates: Organize!" [July
1] I hope to organize more.
PUSHING PILLS FOR PROFIT
I applaud Marc Siegel for exposing the hazards of direct-to-consumer
drug advertising in "Fighting the Drug (Ad) Wars" [June 17]. You might
think that as a women's health advocate I'd welcome direct-to-patient
appeals and an emphasis on prevention. But ads are not unbiased. Their
promises to cure and prevent everything from allergies and depression to
cancer and heart disease downplay--or leave out altogether--the serious,
sometimes life-threatening side effects of the pills they push.
AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen, has urged healthy women to
ask their doctors to prescribe a heavy-duty drug to reduce breast cancer
risk, despite a wide array of dangerous side effects, from endometrial
cancer to deep-vein blood clots. Because the Food and Drug
Administration, still leaderless, is turning its back, new consumer
health coalitions like Prevention First, whose members accept no funds
from pharmaceutical firms, are calling for a ban on these ads. Lowering
the risk of breast cancer, indeed good health generally, is much more
likely to result from clean air and water, healthy food and unbiased
information than from popping pills with life-threatening potential.
BARBARA BRENNER, executive director,
Breast Cancer Action
'THE [UNEXPURGATED] HOUSE I LIVE IN'
I was pleased to see Dick Flacks and Peter Dreier highlight my
grandfather and Earl Robinson's song "The House I Live In"
["Patriotism's Secret History," June 3]. In the wake of the September 11
attacks, the song is making a significant comeback. When I noticed in
November that it had been played on Entertainment Tonight, I
wrote a piece about the song and my grandfather's politics, which
appeared in the February issue of O. Meanwhile, the short 1944
movie by the same name starring Frank Sinatra appears regularly on the
Turner Classic Movie channel, and Michael Feinstein has recorded the
song, the proceeds of which he is donating to the September 11 fund.
One important fact about "The House I Live In" will not be apparent to
those who only see the Sinatra movie or hear his recording. My
grandfather wrote the following lines in one of the verses: "The house I
live in/My neighbors white and black." Flacks and Dreier correctly note
that "the song evokes America as a place where all races can live
freely"--however, that particular line was omitted from the Sinatra
versions, recorded and onscreen. I believe only Paul Robeson's recording
includes those lines.
Readers who want to learn more about my grandfather should see, in the
Spring issue of American Music, a scholarly article by Dr. Nancy
Kovaleff Baker, "Abel Meeropol (a k a Lewis Allan): Political
Commentator and Social Conscience."
New York City
Jack Newfield's June 17 lead article "The Full Rudy" called Rudy
Giuliani "a C-plus Mayor who has become an A-plus myth." What would it
have taken to give him a failing grade?
You might re-examine the pluses you award him (e.g., for the drop in
crime, which began under Dinkins and was pretty much nationwide) and two
minuses the article didn't mention: Giuliani's heartless treatment of
Haitian refugees as a federal officer during the 1980s and the vicious
racism that marked his successful campaign to oust New York's first
black mayor. Newfield could have shed some light on why he and a few
other white liberal journalists supported Giuliani in that campaign.
JOHN L. HESS
Jack Newfield's comment about the former mayor of New York, "They
don't allow this kind of behavior in trailer parks!" is inappropriate
and deeply disappointing in a progressive magazine. Replace "trailer
parks" with "public housing" or "Indian reservations," and you'll see
what I mean. The Trailer Trash stereotype is an expression of bigotry
based on socioeconomic class. That residents of mobile homes are largely
white and rural should not make working-class people fair game for
WHICH WAY TO THE POOL?
In a letter in the July 8 issue, John Bradley presents the appealingly
egalitarian notion that women might "have it all" by following the
strategy of high-achieving men: choosing a man "younger, poorer and less
educated than themselves." I would be much obliged if Bradley could
identify that pool of men who would even consider a date with a woman
older, richer and more educated than themselves, let alone be willing to
marry one, raise her children and tend to her emotional well-being.
AIPAC--SHOW US THE MONEY!
Michael Massing's June 10 piece, "The Israel Lobby," is the first
article I've read in a US publication that even mentions the power of
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In England, I
listened to a show on BBC radio that dealt with the same subject. It
amazed me that I had to go to another country to get an in-depth
analysis of the relationship between this powerful lobbying group and
Washington. It seems that since 9/11 one has to do this more and more to
get the real story--or any story at all.
Port Matilda, Pa.
While it isn't news that AIPAC is so influential in Washington, it is
noteworthy that the organization and its effect on policy is so
underreported. I can't imagine a story on guns without mention of the
NRA or one on workplace safety without mention of the influence of the
AFL-CIO. And when did an abortion story last appear without position
statements from NARAL and/or Right to Life?
MARK J. STEVENSON
San Rafael, Calif.
Michael Massing is correct: "AIPAC is widely regarded as the most
powerful foreign-policy lobby in Washington." Much of its power lies in
the concealment from the media and therefore from public scrutiny of the
degree of its financial dealings and the political use of this wealth.
Unlike other lobbies, AIPAC keeps its cards close to its chest. Despite
the Federal Election Commission rules requiring lobbies to register with
the FEC and open their books to the public, this behemoth has managed to
do neither. It rules in secret and is so massively involved in
Washington politics that few senators or congressmen will vote on an
issue without ringing up AIPAC to determine which way to vote.
AIPAC, collecting money from over a hundred Jewish PACs, directs just
how it will be spent, pouring millions into the campaigns of candidates
who vote the AIPAC way while funneling millions to the opponents of
those seen as voting out of step with AIPAC.
In an attempt to bring this monster under public scrutiny, in January
1989 then-Under Secretary of State George Ball, then-Ambassador to Saudi
Arabia James Atkins and then-Illinois Congressman Paul Findley filed a complaint with the FEC,
charging AIPAC with failing to register as a political action committee.
After almost nine years, as AIPAC fought this through the courts, the
plaintiffs received a favorable 8-2 decision in circuit court, only to
have the Supreme Court toss the too-hot issue back to the FEC, asking it
to review its decision.
In December 1999 the FEC waffled, citing insufficient evidence. The
surviving plaintiffs have appealed that decision. I refer readers to two
books: Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out and The
Passionate Attachment, by George and Douglas Ball.
EDWARD W. MILLER
NOW--HAPPY TO HEAR IT...
New York City
Your April 8 "In Fact..." column carried the following item: "Some
thirty public television stations suspended Bill Moyers's NOW
during pledge drives, apparently on the theory that the program's
controversial stories might offend donors." While we appreciate The
Nation's interest in public television's programming, the
implication of this story is wrong.
We at PBS do not know of any member station that has pre-empted
NOW during pledge drives out of concern that the show might
offend donors. Just the opposite, station and viewer feedback on NOW
has been overwhelmingly positive. Stations frequently alter their
schedules during pledge drives. Such long-running shows as American
Experience, Masterpiece Theatre and NOVA have all been
pre-empted to accommodate the specific formats and objectives of pledge
drives, so it would not be at all unusual for the same to happen with
Senior vice president
Co-chief program executive, PBS
DAVE DOES DAVIS
Thank you, thank you, thank you for Gene Santoro's "Folk's Missing
Link" [April 22]. I first heard Dave Van Ronk at The Catacombs or the
Second Fret in Philadelphia in the early sixties. When I moved to
northern California in 1971 I despaired of enjoying him in person
again--I knew he didn't like to fly--but then I discovered that he,
somehow, had a special relationship with a little club in Davis,
California, called The Palms, in a rundown barn south of the freeway. I
got my semiannual Van Ronk fix there. Now he's gone and the barn is to
be torn down, but I will keep the faith by teaching still more
generations of field-trippers in my ecology courses the tune and lyrics
of "Rompin' in the Swamp." Ave atque vale, Dave.
ARTHUR M. SHAPIRO
THE INCLINED PLANE OF HIS HEAD
Sierra Madre, Calif.
Calvin Trillin is quite right in observing that Dick Cheney has
perfected the art of the tilted head ["Cheney's Head: An Explanation,"
June 24], but I don't think Cheney invented the maneuver. A perusal of
1988 campaign footage will reveal that Michael Dukakis often assumed the
slanted-head position. He was preceded by the master of that maneuver,
the late Rod Serling, who frequently appeared with his head at an angle
in his opening segments for The Twilight Zone.
FINKELSTEIN REBUTS NEUBORNE
In response to advertisements in The Nation for my book The Holocaust Industry, you took the unprecedented step of both effectively calling me a liar and providing Burt Neuborne with maximum space to defend himself ["Letters," Feb. 18]. In this brief rejoinder I will ignore Neuborne's witless comparison between me and Osama bin Laden. I will also not engage Neuborne's professional history. It bears notice, however, that a distinguished civil liberties record doesn't preclude--as the example of Alan Dershowitz vividly testifies--gross lapses in the name of tribal solidarity and for personal enrichment. Rather, I want to focus on the central question: Did Neuborne serve as lead counsel in a campaign to blackmail Switzerland?
A committee headed by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, exhaustively investigated the main charges against Switzerland. In his letter, Neuborne alleges that the committee's findings "validated the core allegations underlying the Swiss bank litigation." Consider, however, the Volcker committee's central findings:
(1) The lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks systematically denied Holocaust victims and their heirs access to their bank accounts after World War II. Yet, the Volcker committee found that "for victims of Nazi persecution there was no evidence of systematic discrimination, obstruction of access, misappropriation, or violation of document retention requirements of Swiss law";
(2) the lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks systematically shredded documents to cover their tracks. Yet, the Volcker committee concluded that "no evidence of systematic destruction of account records for the purpose of concealing past behaviour has been found";
(3) the lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks pocketed $7 billion to $20 billion left in the accounts of Holocaust victims. The Volcker committee was unable to provide a monetary value for Holocaust-era dormant accounts. Since publication of the committee's report, however, new official data have become available. The value of accounts belonging to Holocaust victims thus far totals all of $10 million in current values with accrued interest. This figure is unlikely to climb anywhere near the $1.25 billion extracted from the Swiss banks in the final settlement (let alone the $7-20 billion initially demanded) after all the accounts are examined. Reporting on these findings, the Times of London headline read: "Swiss Holocaust cash revealed to be myth."
Indeed, the world's leading authority on the Nazi Holocaust, Raul Hilberg, has explicitly charged that the Holocaust industry conjured up "phenomenal figures" for the monetary value of Holocaust victim assets in Swiss banks and then coerced the banks into submission. "It was the first time in history," he goes on to observe, "that Jews made use of a weapon that can only be described as blackmail." No amount of liberal posturing by Neuborne can alter the fact that he played the pivotal role in a blackmail campaign.
NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN
BLACKLIST FILM--'SEASON'S BEST'
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Every now and then a major Hollywood film centers its plot upon the defense of the First Amendment. Imagine the surprise of Nation readers when Stuart Klawans dismisses The Majestic with three paragraphs of pure, if shallow, contempt! ["Films," Jan. 21] Don't be fooled, though. This film is the best of the season, and Jim Carrey is at the top of his form. The more you know about the real Hollywood Blacklist, the more you'll be able to appreciate the subtleties that seem to have eluded Klawans.
HUEY, MEET MO
John Nichols's "Huey Freeman: American Hero" [Jan 28] was immensely useful. I would like to add a feminist dyke cartoonist, Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, which appears in alternative papers. Bechdel's main character, Mo, who works at a women's bookshop, cries foul over Bush, flag-waving, big-box stores (e.g., Bunns n Noodles, Bounders n Muzak, Papaya Republic, Baby Gag) and the general straight and gay cultural/political landscape is not to be overlooked. Readers can find her on the web at www.planetout.com/entertainment.
Hundreds of readers, aged 16 to 94, replied to our request for
letters detailing how September 11 changed (or didn't) "your views of
your government, your country, your world, your life." Many responses
are personal: A husband and wife separate; family members no longer
speak to one another; a woman searches for, and finds, her biological
father--all impelled by the fallout of that day. New Yorkers--and
others--report sleeping less soundly; a Brooklyn man leaps from bed in
the night at the sound of crashing booms, rushes to the window... and
finds it's a thunderstorm. A woman recovering from a Caesarean section
watches the towers fall from her hospital room and wonders what sort of
world her son, born the day before, will grow up in. A reader whose 9/11
birthday has become a deathday vows to light a candle this birthday "in
hope for our world that one day 9/11 will become a day that...changed us
for the better." Below is a selection.
Largely because of my age--75--September 11 didn't change my life one
iota. Except for this: My reaction to the fascist foragings of John
Ashcroft and the dude who sponsored him, "Shrub," has been to rejoin the
ACLU after an absence of twenty-seven years.
How has my life changed since September 11? My life goes on much the
same--except that I'm not living in America anymore. In America, people
are not disappeared. In America, cherished constitutional rights are not
abolished with the stroke of a pen. In America, disagreeing with the
government doesn't make you a terrorist. In America, ordinary citizens
don't have to wonder whether their e-mail is being read and phone
conversations taped by government agents. In America, there is no
Ministry of Truth (for telling lies) or Ministry of Love (for making
war). America doesn't wage unending war. America doesn't casually
threaten first-strike use of nuclear weapons. I see the nation I love,
in its fear and rage, stinging itself to death like a scorpion.
New Haven, Conn.
Our government's militaristic response to the crimes of 9/11 and the
failure of the Democratic Party to challenge Bush's flawed and
self-serving war on terrorism pushed me, after thirty-four years as an
active antiwar Democrat, into working for the Green Party in our
November 2001 municipal elections. Today, I am a Green Party candidate
for the US House of Representatives.
Unlike the "Arthur Andersen Democrats" and the "Enron Republicans"
against whom I'm running, I am a patriot who is not afraid to challenge
the so-called Patriot Act, which guts the Bill of Rights, or the "war"
on terrorism, which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians, created
more terrorists, earned more profits for military contractors and made
the world safer for oil companies but more dangerous for the rest of us.
Vote Green in November.
September 11 changed my life because of the government's immediate
response and continuing abuse of it as an excuse to erode civil
liberties. So what have I done? I subscribed to The Nation for
the first time ever (I'm 25), and so far have given away three gift
subscriptions. I began giving money monthly to environmental and
pro-choice organizations, as well as regular donations to the ACLU.
Motivated by John Ashcroft's total disregard for the Constitution, I
will be going to law school in the fall of 2003 to join the ranks of
those who work on the side of justice that strengthens and protects
I was in the Pentagon on September 11. Our office was on the opposite
side of the building, and as we filed out none of us guessed how
horrible it was until we saw, from the parking lot, the columns of
smoke. That first evening, amid the shock and sense of loss, I thought,
"This is what blowback really means." No one can excuse Al Qaeda's
murderous hatred, but I now realize that this terror network was made
possible by the arms and money we provided the Afghan mujahedeen during
our demented anti-Soviet crusade. Those Americans who supported these
thugs and psychopaths should be ashamed. Whenever I see that antidrug ad
that claims that buying pot helps terrorists, I am reminded that our own
cold war "patriots" helped to slaughter 3,000 people, and tried to kill
me at my desk.
Prior to 9/11 I spent my 83 years maturing in a cocoon spun by
America's fuzzy, heroic image. While well aware of its flaws, I had been
sustained by an aura of essential good will as we fought fascism,
rebuilt Europe, forgave former enemies. My cocoon erupted on 9/11, and I
emerged irate but deeply troubled by the vision of an America that would
justify such an attack. I realized our Marshall Plan spirit had morphed
into a superpower mentality, where political problems are solved by
bombs rather than sweet reason: Witness Vietnam, Baghdad, Panama City,
Belgrade, Afghanistan. With knee-jerk enthusiasm we've obliterated
infrastructures and dealt out "collateral damage" to poor nations. No
wonder we've become a target for organized hate. Can we curb our
arrogance and revive our image as people of good will before we
LLOYD EDWARD SLATER
I am of the generation that reached maturity in the 1960s and '70s. A
time of struggle and pain, yes, but also of hope. We marched, fought,
demanded a new world paradigm. Comes Reagan and my righteous generation
finds greed. What then happened to that promise? Sweet upward mobility;
the dawn of our renunciation. The 2000 election fiasco. A leader takes
power by judicial coup and not a whimper from the streets, and I cannot
comprehend. I am lost.
September 11. Our hand is forced. The time for intelligence, discussion,
debate, understanding, reflection has come, yes?
No. Wrong again. Now we love our fear. Good versus Evil this is, and we
joyfully surrender our liberties, our humanity and embrace a permanent
state of war with an omnipotent, omnipresent enemy. Our new paradigm:
sadism. I am not prepared for such a savage reversal of fortune. I am
After the savage attacks on September 11, I felt scared, angry,
confused. Days later, I found my way to an interfaith service at All
Saints Church in Pasadena. I was deeply moved by the scriptural
readings, prayers and songs offered by Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Buddhists and others. Out of that healing event, we created Interfaith
Communities United for Justice and Peace (www.icujp.org), which has been
the center of my personal efforts to contribute to greater understanding
and lasting reconciliation between people of all nationalities and
beliefs. At a study group arranged by ICUJP, I sat next to an
African-American Muslim teacher. He turned to me and said he didn't have
a Torah. I responded that I didn't have a Koran. At the next meeting, we
exchanged our holy scriptures. It brought us closer together, and we
have become friends.
STEPHEN F. ROHDE
After the initial shock/grief came the stunned recognition of the
despair and deep hatred felt against the United States, then finally the
gut-wrenching knowledge that the vast majority of US citizens love being
hated. They shower approval on the Administration and Congress for every
piece of legislation that increases US killing power, entrenches inroads
on constitutional freedoms and inflicts economic and physical handicaps
and health hazards on all the populations of the planet.
The Pentagon/Administration response to the "act" was so fast, the
erosion of civil liberties so quickly and deftly accomplished, flags
blanketed the continent so speedily and providentially--I can't help but
think that the act of terrorism was not only expected but that
contingency plans had been prepared months, perhaps years in advance--a
Stalinist-type master plan. These duplicitous plans have been welcomed
and incorporated into everyday living with hardly a ripple to indicate a
residue of thoughtfulness or alternative possibilities.
Yes, I am changed. I am ashamed of my country and bitterly acknowledge
that there is no prospect of new directions.
September 11 changed my life by directing my 94-year-old,
still-functioning wits and remaining energies from the sheltered
smugness of an assisted-living home out again into the real world with a
determined campaign to compel G.W. Bush to answer this key question: Why
were no jets commanded to divert those three lethal hijacked planes
after each had appeared off-course on radar and all failed to obey the
orders of air controllers? Why, Mr. Bush?
JANE SHERMAN LEHAC
Liars! From the very top on down, my government does not know the
meaning of the word "truth." In light of the billions of dollars we
spend on electronic communication monitoring installations at Menwith
Hill, Britain, and at several sites in the continental United States, we
taxpayers have been deceived. Our NSA claims to have worldwide
monitoring capabilities over all electronic communications.
It is inconceivable that with all the electronic communications before
9/11, some intelligence was not deciphered and passed on to the
appropriate officials. When, where, by whom was the necessary
intelligence intercepted, interpreted, analyzed, collated and forwarded
to the responsible agencies and parties? Polygraphs everyone?
JAMES B. BURKHOLDER
Colonel, US Army, retired
September 11 has reinforced all my negatives: suspicion of government
motives; frustration at the perpetuation of failed policies; horror at
the immense war budget; fear of nuclear proliferation; opposition to
oppressive and domineering globalization; anger at support given to
repressive regimes while raving and ranting at Cuba; despair that an
equitable Middle East solution cannot override oil interests; and
finally, that we are doing absolutely nothing to address the grievances
of "terrorists" while eroding our own democracy and allowing degradation
of the environment.
September 11 is an American hegemonical construct, a good guys vs.
evil vision that is as much a part of American cultural imperialism as
McDonald's or the latest Hollywood movie. Sycophantic French politicians
and intellectuals (like Bernard Henri-Levy) quickly proclaimed that "we
are all Americans." The result has been a frustrating diversion from the
real issues. To limit the discussion to terrorism--who has the world's
biggest arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? Who refuses
to sign any treaty outlawing them, or landmines for that matter?
Who--and for good reason--refuses to reject genocide or pre-emptive
nuclear strikes? The biggest threat to world peace today is not
minuscule terrorist groups but the US government. As an American who has
lived in France for the past twenty years, for me September 11
epitomizes the self-centered worldview of too many of my countrymen.
I have not felt so alienated from this country since Nixon was elected
to a second term after Watergate and all his misdeeds in Southeast Asia.
I was so devastated by the instantaneous deaths of so many people, and
then so appalled by the nationalistic frenzy, the lust for revenge and
the level of pure propaganda in the mainstream media. So much emotional
manipulation, so little cogent analysis. Having Bush in the White House
made it all much harder for me, given his general ignorance of foreign
affairs and his entourage of cold warriors. I have never appreciated the
alternative press, especially The Nation, so much.
North Bend, Ore.
I'm a Democrat and former Green Beret with a BA in political science
and get my news primarily from ABC, NPR and BBC radio. After Al Qaeda
spectacularly murdered a couple thousand Americans, we "brought death"
to Afghanistan in retaliation, belying "Clinton's weakening" of our
forces. That twice as many Afghan citizens died collaterally, many
Americans died from friendly fire and Al Qaeda apparently returned to
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, might bear investigation. No?
On the home front, our Attorney General has, modestly, hidden Justice,
and God knows what else, but the anthrax murders remain unsolved. Our
National Security Adviser's patent culpability for the attack's success
is unremarked upon. Republicans' malfeasance, ideological incoherence
and compassionless corporatism, ever more glaring, go unchallenged. Do
most Americans still want a national health plan? Yes?
Nothing has changed, nor will it unless Democrats fix Dumbya and try a
testicular implant (metaphorically speaking, of course!).
Long Beach, Calif.
September 11 is a lot about the enemy from without. But the enemy from
without will never, try though it may, extinguish the American
experiment. We Americans, on the other hand, are armed and capable of
such a result. As I fear us more than them, September 11 has little
changed my life.
I am of Indian origin and before September 11 learned to avoid racism
by presenting myself in a relentlessly middle-class fashion. And if the
precise diction, discreet deodorant and the late-model four-door sedan
proved insufficient, then out came the race card. "Is my race a
problem?" I would ask with a faint British intonation. I felt a sense of
entitlement in challenging the closet racial profiler to deny his own
But 9/11 changed all that. My identity as a comfortably assimilated
immigrant who moves easily among various cultures, languages and
geographical regions has been shown to be a fragile myth. To the
security guards at the malls, airports and theme parks around the
country, I look like the sister of the nineteen hijackers. My
cosmopolitanism, my ability to read ancient Tamil love poetry, my
advanced degrees become irrelevant in the face of such appalling
"We'll never be the same," broadcasters kept pronouncing while
replaying jets slamming towers. That sounded so false, from people
worried about their makeup surviving marathon airtime. (Do I seem cold?)
My firstborn son died from an auto accident on August 11, 2001. I don't
expect to be the same. A month later, I felt families' desperate waits,
dwindling hopes. Not the urge for revenge; I lacked that option. Leaders
who scare me more than bin Laden jumped to exploit the revenge rush,
while the "commentariat" lock-stepped in boosting an amorphous war,
blowing off civil liberties. My faith in journalism tanked. I'm a
freelance reporter. An apparent economic fallout from 9/11 was the
folding of a little alternative magazine I wrote for. I still feel
powerless, but better since visiting a conference to interview
peacebuilders from several continents. Their spirits moved me.
Accustomed to danger, children dying, they hadn't given up.
Flat Gap, Ky.
Everything changed with the Supreme Court's appointment of George W.
Bush, not with the events of September 11. Like a bicycle ride along a
peaceful country road when a pack of dogs run out from nowhere and bite
your ankle, any sense of security is now an open wound. Even the dogs on
your own front porch become suspect and you lose your trust.
CATHERINE S. WELLS
Omaha Indian Reservation, Macy, Neb.
On September 11, Ariel Sharon said all Americans are Israelis,
learning that terror can strike anywhere, anywhen. With equal
conviction, Yasir Arafat might have said all Americans are Palestinians,
compelled to retaliation and pre-emption. Although these metaphors are
apt, neither is accurate.
Rather, it may be said with supreme justification that all Americans are
Native American Indians, living under occupation by a hostile government
ever ready to liquidate our life, liberty, property--our pursuit of
happiness--in conducting an endless, self-righteous campaign.
Presaging the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs has extraordinary powers, employing DOJ, FBI, CIA and military
enforcement and investigations. Intelligence responsibilities are
debated, ignoring our experiences: Feds rarely uncover evidence; they
create it, solving mysteries and preventing disasters only by
expropriating the work of others. Their goals are to destroy, not
protect; to master, not serve. Heed us, America. Our plight is
yours--our history, your future.
J. WILLIAM MORELAND
Chief Judge, Omaha Tribal Court
I'm a 73-year-old retired American academic who witnessed the events
of September 11 on CNN here in Poland. Initial reactions: outrage, angry
"patriotism" and a powerful helplessness. As reason replaced reaction,
those feelings diminished.
The attack? Inevitable. Built on US ignorance and arrogance and
exclusion. Why do they hate us? Years of ruinous intervention and
destabilization of Third World countries, especially those seeking
self-determination in leftist political movements. September 11
unleashed religious and political fundamentalist zeal, a manic frenzy of
"security" threatening constitutional safeguards.
Polish officials assured me of protection. As an Arab-American, would I
suffer abuse at home? Life-change? Yes. 9/11 sharpened my sense of
responsibility for others. Sadly, the hatred that generated the attacks
has not provoked objective intellectual examination of cause, has
only brought a violent reactionary backlash effect. The
conscience of America remains where it was: anesthetized by greed,
racism, nationalism and impotent leadership.
JAMES E. HASHIM
I drive tractor-trailers, tankers. I could do great harm to thousands
of people without learning or buying a thing, with a good chance of
getting away and doing it again. The fitful inspections of a few trucks
after 9/11 are long gone. Since neither means nor opportunity need
restrain anyone's hand for long, I was naïve enough to hope that
9/11 might launch some citizen debate on applying the golden rule to the
rest of the planet. Our collective reaction to 9/11 has taught me that
self-interest and intelligence are not as intertwined as I had hoped.
September 11 haiku:
among the rubble
the chickens come home to roost
waking us up now
I am a songwriter and visual artist, and I thought I would go home
that evening to document the day in words and images, but I found I
couldn't. I just watched the smoke rising, from my window in Brooklyn. I
found that there were experiences too deep for words or songs. That
night I wrote in my journal:
I have no songs to sing, until I can sing all songs
I try to speak, but I have no voice until I can have all voices
I would call on God but I think that God will only answer
to all of his names, spoken as one.
There were oblique benefits. There was commercial-free network TV for
four days after 9/11. The twin towers had been the worst hazard of all
on the Atlantic flyway, and during three decades of autumn and spring
migration on a few mornings, fallouts of thousands of shorebirds and
passerines lay on the asphalt below them.
The worst did not occur. If planes had been flown into the Indian Point
and Three Mile Island reactors, probably failing to penetrate the
containment chambers but destroying the surrounding cooling systems,
there could have been millions dead and dying after meltdown.
And there was unintended bathos. In the hours following, Gen. Norman
Schwarzkopf suggested that it might have been the Montana Militia.
What surprises and disappoints me is how little has changed since the
terrorist attacks. I thought the horrific death and destruction on our
own soil so clearly demonstrated hatred and resentment toward us that we
would work ceaselessly to implement an evenhanded approach to Israel and
Palestine. I thought our leaders would ask us to make some sacrifices,
and we'd give up our SUVs and other aspects of our everyday life built
on oil gluttony and being beholden to Saudi Arabia. I thought a
successful attack with box-cutters would highlight the stupidity of
"missile defense" and we'd begin to change how we spent our defense
dollars. I thought we'd finally acknowledge we need transportation
diversity and begin creating a healthy passenger rail system with less
dependence on air travel. I thought we'd become less unilateral and work
harder to build alliances and honor treaties. I was so wrong.
Stony Brook, NY
September 11 has not changed my life. It has accentuated and
invigorated my desire to return home, to Jaffa, Palestine, as soon as
possible. I am a graduate student at a US university, and I have not
felt as strong a desire to return to my culture, national history and
values as in the aftermath of what has become an American right to a
moment in time called "9/11."
I came to this country with as little animosity as possible for a Third
World colonized citizen, hoping to refute all I had learned as a child.
I am about to leave with repugnance, wrath and hopelessness toward an
arrogant, brutally hypocritical, mass-destructive autocracy, the United
States of America, governed not only by its political head but by its
willfully ignorant people.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Having come to America from the Philippines, a country colonized by
Spain and the United States and then brutalized by the dictatorship of
Ferdinand Marcos, I learned early the meaning and the beauty of freedom.
The longer I lived here, the better I appreciated how precious freedom
has been in all its manifestations.
Then came September 11. In a matter of minutes, I learned that the thing
I have held as so sacred in my life could also be fragile. Why, why? How
could there be so much hate when America is the one country that has
welcomed people of all colors, races and religious creeds to share in
its blessings of freedom?
September 11 taught me more than ever that America is worth fighting and
dying for; that out of the ashes, we shall emerge stronger and more
united, and that my adopted country will continue to be a shining beacon
for the rest of the world.
REMIGIO G. LACSAMANA
I lost my brother to murder in 1984. Some people reacted with dismay
that my opposition to the death penalty didn't change. Did they think
this principle was based on some bizarrely naïve idea that people
never commit terrible crimes? Or was it that the closer to home a
perpetrator strikes, the harsher the appropriate punishment? A family
conflict erupted after the murder: Was it legitimate to try to
understand how these two young men had arrived at the point of
committing this crime, to examine the social web of race and class in
which they and my brother intersected, or was such an examination
tantamount to offering an excuse for what they'd done?
Change the details, and precisely these same tensions have characterized
the public debate following September 11. I hope we Americans can work
through them patiently and thoughtfully, as my family and I have had to
Gays Mills, Wisc.
The events of 9/11 have strongly reaffirmed my commitment to my
intentional community, Dancing Waters Permaculture Co-op, created to
remove land from the debt cycle through collective ownership. Using
consensus decision-making, our collective is a nonviolent attempt to
demonstrate an alternative to the capitalist, consumerist ideology that
the terrorists symbolically targeted when they attacked the World Trade
The worst thing was going out into my yard while the towers were
burning. My cats were there, our garden was a jungle and the Vermont day
was so beautiful it hurt. My heart was pounding. I wondered if these
simple things that brought me such joy would even exist for another
month, another week, another hour.
Unfortunately, with the White House occupied by people who make Dr.
Strangelove and General Ripper look normal, I still wonder how long we
will have our freedom or our lives. I can't say I am optimistic, but
miracles can and do happen. Love must happen on earth, or none of us
Garfield Heights, Ohio
Having been involved with the movement to shut down the WHISC/SOA for
several years, I sat in a bus stop in Cleveland after my school was
evacuated on September 11 with the terrible feeling that these attacks
were some sort of repercussion of US foreign policy.
As the antiwar movement began to take shape, I became involved as soon
as possible. I feel that a change in US foreign policy of militarization
and neoliberal economics isn't just needed, it is imperative to the
survival of this country, and possibly the world.
I participated in the antiwar demonstrations on September 29, and many
more since then. September 11 changed my life in the sense that I now
feel that being a single-issue or armchair activist isn't enough, that I
must be involved in what I believe and educated and involved in other
The first news I received of the attacks came from my government
teacher. The tragedies of that day shocked me more than any event in my
seventeen years. Something else that happened was almost as surprising
to me. Alongside pictures of toppled buildings came pictures of people
in other countries holding vigil for America. That people all over the
world cared that much about America surprised me. I knew that we have
friends and allies, but it never seemed they were that close to us. We
don't seem to feel as much solidarity with others. Instead of doing our
part in the world, we do things such as not participating in the Kyoto
Protocol and the International Criminal Court. It seems we only act when
our interests are threatened. America is shown great friendship by other
countries--we need to learn how to give friendship back.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
September 11 made me, an 18-year-old living in the suburbs, much more
cynical, and that's difficult to do. When our leaders had an
unprecedented opportunity to lead, all I got was a bunch of talk (unless
a behemoth military budget counts as "leadership"). And when I expected
citizens to be shaken from their 1990s isolationist,
stock-market-is-booming delirium, all I got was the irony of an SUV with
huge American flags posted all over it. I really don't intend to sound
rude or coldhearted; I was just as shocked, saddened and outraged when I
saw the CNN footage. But unity and resolve are not jingoism. And a just
response is not unilateralism and carpet-bombing. If the so-called Bush
Doctrine is all the "change" I can expect from our leaders (and the
willful submission of others, Democrats), then I wish I was ignorant
enough not to care. The biggest tragedy of 9/11, aside from the
appalling loss of human life, is one of missed opportunity on the part
of the government and the failure of its citizens to call them on
I cannot identify with the notion that "nothing will ever be the same
again." That's a young person's view. For those of us pushing 60, the
world turned on its head when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were
killed. With them died the strong possibility of social change. By the
time Reagan took office, many of us had stopped caring. I know I did.
Oddly, September 11 has made me care again. Not the attacks, which were
an outrage, but the federal government's response--the so-called war on
terrorism, with its shameful trampling of civil liberties, its reckless
threats to engage in war against Iraq and its self-righteous moralizing
about "goodness" here and "evil" there. I feel an urgent need to work
for peace and nonviolence once again.
My quest to tell the truth led me in midlife to my dream career. I
became a reporter for my hometown newspaper. There wasn't a lot of hard
news, but the opinion page allowed me to explore broader issues and
excite discussion in my community. That all ended on September 11, when
exciting discussion became unpatriotic. Censorship and my ensuing
protest cost me my job. Mainstream media, I learned, is often the
purveyor of silence.
But I have become the resister of silence. I print copies of
antiviolence fliers from my home computer to plaster on windshields, and
I have discovered independent media. The little girl who was afraid of
the sound of her own voice spoke to a crowd on the steps of the State
Capitol at a peace rally on April 20. The small-town reporter spoke the
truth, and her voice was heard around the world.
Orwell said, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth
becomes a revolutionary act." On September 11 this middle-class,
middle-aged middle American became a revolutionist.
The horrifying events of September 11 and the mushrooming horrors
unleashed (war, racism, loss of civil liberties) have changed me.
Disgusted by the vapid rhetoric of patriotism, I realized how profoundly
I prize this continent and its progressive heroes and how repulsed I am
by nationalism everywhere. I ache for a transformed world but am more
uncertain how we will get there. We cannot be cast forever as sacrifices
in someone else's nightmare: Bush's "limited nuclear war," religious
fundamentalisms' apocalyptic wet dreams, capitalism's age-old werewolf
As a lesbian, feminist, Marxist-humanist, I know that Bush, bin Laden,
Sharon and Hamas would certainly agree to hate and silence me. So part
of my struggle is to live: fiercely cherishing lovers, friends,
allies and the beauties of this vital planet.
September 11 and its aftermath have made me afraid for this country.
The attacks were tragic evidence that an America once loved and admired
around the world is now an object of hatred. Instead of asking why, the
Bush Administration and a complaisant Congress used the event as an
excuse to kill more innocent people in Afghanistan, justify a bloated
military budget, harass immigrants, jail suspects without charges,
institute domestic spying and erode civil liberties in the name of
"security." I worry about the callous brutality shown when our leaders
debate over when and how to launch a war on Iraq, but show no concern
for the thousands of Iraqi people who are certain to be killed in such a
war. In short, I am afraid that in waging George Bush's open-ended "war
on terrorism" America will become the most dangerous terrorist of
Chapel Hill, NC
As I watched the towers fall on TV from my home in Prescott, Arizona,
on September 11, I shed tears not only for the horror and tragedy of the
attacks, but also in anticipation of the reaction of our government at
home and abroad. Later I headed two hours north to my favorite
cathedral, the Grand Canyon, for some solitude, silence and perspective.
I quit my job and now find myself back in my native North Carolina,
about to embark on a PhD program in political science.
People hear what I'm doing and say, Good luck changing the system. I
say, Well, thank you. Because if at any age I ever lose my idealism and
vision for global social, economic and environmental justice, I pray
someone will put me on a bus to the canyon for a little perspective.
JENNIFER E. WEAVER
I have been stunned by how a coup d'état can take place in
America. The combination of irregular presidential election, traumatic
terrorist attack, administrative control by radical conservatives and
the intimidation and cowardliness of the opposition have achieved
incredible changes. Our country now has an endless war policy,
unilateral withdrawal from international agreements, illegal detentions,
threats to constitutional rights and theft of the people's resources for
military ends. The well-oiled evince a voracious appetite for world
domination and homeland insecurity. I feel like an alien in my beloved
land, now a place of nightmares.
Can we wake up and reclaim our freedom? I work toward a community of
communities across this land who dream a new vision and turn fear,
suspicion and greed into generosity and justice for all.
After the horror let go of my throat I thought, that's it, thirty-five
years of work for peace and equality down the tubes. Our leaders will
now have license to bomb anywhere, anytime, void the Bill of Rights and
shoo away dissent with the flag. They won, we lost.
But wait. History doesn't change course in a day. The world a year after
the attacks looks a lot like the world before 9/11. Liberty imperiled as
always, hard cheese for poor people and poor societies, our leaders
choosing which tyrants to support and which to overthrow, the rich in
power. But the loony system they rule is weaker, not stronger, than a
year ago--is bumping into its own homemade contradictions. If anything,
the terrorists deepened its confusion. I'm ready to rise up once more
MORE FUN THAN A BARREL OF...
In an accurate review of Jonathan Marks's loosely argued What It
Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee, Micaela di Leonardo passes on to readers
the misleading impression that the Great Ape Project uses the genetic
similarities between humans and apes to argue for "human rights" for
apes, "frequently to the detriment of the impoverished African and
Southeast Asian residents of ape homelands" ["Too Much Monkey Business,"
This is false from start to finish. First, the Great Ape Project is not
based on the genetic similarities of humans and great apes but on the
rich emotional and mental lives of the great apes, so well documented by
supporters of the Great Ape Project like Jane Goodall and many others.
Second, the Great Ape Project does not seek the full range of human
rights for great apes, but only the basic rights to life, liberty and
protection from torture, and even the rights to life and liberty that we
seek are not absolute, for they allow euthanasia in the interests of the
apes, and captivity where that is in the best interests of the apes or
is required for the safety of others. Finally, the protection of the
remaining, and rapidly dwindling, forests of Africa and Southeast Asia
where the great apes live in their natural habitat is, surely, also in
the best long-term interests of the human residents of those regions.
Readers interested in finding out more about the project for themselves
may go to www.greatapeproject.org.
DI LEONARDO REPLIES
You've got to hand it to notorious headline-grabbing philosopher Peter
Singer, who has endorsed infanticide for disabled human babies, claimed
we can solve global poverty by just consuming a little less and donating
as individuals to aid agencies (no need, apparently, to complicate
matters by considering capitalist functioning and state and NGO actions)
and called for a revision of taboos against bestiality since "sex with
animals does not always involve cruelty." Now how exactly can he hold
his mouth to call Jon Marks's 98% Chimpanzee loosely argued?
What is so refreshing about Marks's work is that he is a hard scientist
who really understands that we live and act within a shifting political
economy. Animal and ecosystem conservation and human rights for the
impoverished who live in surviving great ape territories in Africa and
Southeast Asia need not be antithetical projects, but Marks quotes
numerous Great Ape Project activists who believe they are, including the
zoologist who chillingly said to him, "Think percentages, not numbers"
in weighing Southeast Asian human vs. ape rights. Others frequently
liken apes to human children or mentally retarded adults. And Singer is
most disingenuous in claiming that the GAP does not argue on the basis
of genetic similarity. The group's official website clearly argues for
apes' inclusion with humans in a "community of equals" because they (and
Singer co-wrote this statement) "are the closest relatives of our
The issue, as Marks makes crystal clear, is not whether apes are
adorable, interesting, endangered and in need of aid--of course they
are--but how we use science to make political arguments. "Why should the
mentality of apes have any bearing on their humanness (or lack thereof)
or their rights (or lack thereof)? If you lose the ability to reason and
communicate, do you...forfeit your humanity and rights? This is a scary
moral place for apes and people to be.... Human rights should neither be
forfeitable nor accessible by nonhumans.... Singling out particular
classes of people in order to show how similar they are to apes is a
troubling scientific strategy, not least of all when the humans
rhetorically invoked are the very ones whose rights are most
conspicuously in jeopardy."
Disability groups and others quite rightly have weighed in en masse
against Singer, but nonhuman primates, too, deserve a better, more
MICAELA DI LEONARDO
THIS IS A TEST. THIS IS ONLY A TEST...
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Eighty years ago, journalist Walter Lippmann took on the standardized
testing enterprise in The New Republic, addressing such broad
issues as the effects of education, opportunity and heredity on test
scores. For example, Lippmann dismissed the claim that IQ tests measure
hereditary intelligence as having "no more scientific foundation than a
hundred other fads, vitamins and glands and amateur psychoanalysis and
correspondence courses in will power." His articles on testing continue
to be valued today not merely because he could turn a phrase but because
he had a firm grasp of the complex technical and political issues
surrounding the use of test scores.
Alas, Peter Sacks is no Walter Lippmann. To Sacks, who reviewed my book
Fair Game? The Use of Standardized Admissions Tests in Higher
Education ["Testing Times in Higher Ed," June 24], the issues are
simple: Tests are evil; eliminating them is good. Sacks has undoubtedly
been aware of my work because I have pointed out errors and omissions in
his writings on testing; in fact, I do so in my book. He ignores large
portions of the book in order to characterize it as "a defense of the
hegemony of gatekeeping exams." A reader of the review might be
surprised to find that my book proposes a new consumer agency to monitor
admissions testing, discusses the perils of relying too heavily on test
scores in admissions decisions and describes research, including some of
my own, in which test scores did not do a good job of predicting
Rather than attempt to address every inaccuracy, I will focus on a
central feature of Sacks's review--his belief that the existence of
score disparities among ethnic and economic groups proves that
admissions tests are biased. In Fair Game? I point out that
determining whether tests are biased is complex and requires a
willingness to look beyond patterns of average test scores. In
Change (March/April 2001), I commented on Sacks's earlier
Change article, "Standardized Testing: Meritocracy's Crooked
Yardstick": "[Sacks] cited several studies to prove that SAT scores and
socioeconomic status are related, and alluded to [a study conducted by
the National Center for Education Statistics]. What he neglected to
mention is that this study showed that socioeconomic status was also
related to high school grades... [and to course background, teacher
evaluations and extracurricular activities]. In particular, 24 percent
of the high-SES group, compared to only 10 percent of the low-SES group,
had high school [grade-point averages] of at least 3.5..."
What the GPA and the SAT have in common is that they are indexes of
previous achievement and therefore reflect past inequalities in
educational opportunity. In The Nation (June 5, 2000), Pedro
Noguera and Antwi Akom noted that "explaining why poor children of color
perform comparatively less well in school is relatively easy:
Consistently, such children are educated in schools that are woefully
inadequate on most measures of quality and funding."
Sacks omitted the findings on grades and other achievement measures from
his book and from his Change article. Presenting the complete
results would have undercut his position that some inherent property of
tests causes the scores to be related to economic factors. (Including
all the findings might have also required him to abandon his pet phrase,
"the Volvo effect," which he uses to refer to the association between
family income and standardized test scores.)
In addition, Sacks is incorrect in implying that class-rank admission
plans like the Texas 10 percent plan, which involve consideration of
high school grades but not test scores, have uniformly led to greater
campus diversity. The Dallas Morning News, for example, reported
on June 19, 2002, that at Texas A&M, the percentages of black and
Latino students have decreased since the initiation of the Texas plan.
As I point out in my book, the plan is structured so that diversity
benefits are likely to accrue to the state's flagship institution, UT
Finally, in response to Sacks's criticism that my writing is
textbookish, I readily concede that I lack his ability to generate
catchy phrases like "Volvo effect" and "crooked yardstick." But clever
labels are a poor substitute for thoughtful consideration of the
controversies that surround the use of standardized tests.
In response to my criticisms of her new book, Rebecca Zwick takes aim
at the reviewer. She says I believe that "tests are evil; eliminating
them is good." It's not surprising she'd make up this straw man, since
attacking it also sums up the entire marketing strategy behind her book.
Zwick--a former researcher at the Educational Testing Service, the firm
that produces such standardized tests as the SAT--and her publisher have
touted Fair Game? as a source of objective information about
testing, positioned to clear up all this testing fuss with common sense
and straight facts. If one chooses to look at a different or broader set
of facts than she does, or to interpret them with a non-ETS spin, Zwick
seems to imply that one must then be a simpleton and an ideologue.
Zwick tries to make hay of the finding that high school or college
grades, just like test scores, also correlate strongly to socioeconomic
status. Not recognizing this, as Zwick takes pains to do in her book, is
to unfairly single out standardized tests as punitive to poor and
minority kids, Zwick claims.
Like so much of her book, Zwick seems to miss the big picture. The
thrust of my entire critique of the testing culture--and her book--is
that gatekeeping tests give questionable weight to one-time performance
on highly abstracted testing exercises, which by definition are mere
approximations of genuine work. And mostly poor approximations, at that.
Given this, it's no wonder that test scores are such feeble predictors
of later success, whether in school or work.
Just as Bates College and other institutions have done, with great
success, in their efforts to reduce the importance of admissions tests,
I'll take classroom performance--as measured by grades, portfolios of
student work and other documentation of student accomplishments both in
and out of school--any day over test performance as an indicator of how
a student will perform in real life, not the tested life.
Regarding the Texas 10-percent plan, Zwick says I'm incorrect in
implying that de-emphasizing the SAT has led to greater diversity for
all state institutions. In fact, I'm not implying any such claim in the
context she quotes. I draw on data only from the University of Texas at
Austin. Zwick speculates that the plan has merely reshuffled the deck in
terms of statewide enrollments of minorities. If Zwick wants me
or another reviewer to take her seriously on this point, she'd better
offer up something of substance or do some real analysis. In her book,
Zwick could only muster up this: "Data on the statewide effect of
the Texas 10 percent plan are hard to come by."
What can she possibly mean with such a vague statement? That university
officials are trying to hide some dirty little secret? Does it mean that
there are no campus-specific enrollment data broken out by race and
ethnicity? Seems improbable. Or could it mean that Zwick could find no
readily available studies by credible researchers that support her claim
that enrollments have merely been redistributed from other state
campuses to Austin? But even a boatload of data needs a theory, an
explanation of what the data mean. Alas, Zwick offers readers no
theoretically plausible explanation whatsoever as to why minority
enrollments might be expected to decline across the state as a result of
reducing the emphasis on SAT scores. In fact, there's every reason to
expect just the opposite.
As for textbookishness, that is certainly no major offense. Sign me up
any day for a dry but forthright book about testing in America.
Regarding Zwick's curious reference to me and Walter Lippmann, I won't
touch that one with a ten-foot number-2 pencil.
Micah Sifry's August 1, 2001 Nation Online article, "Greens at the Crossroads," sparked a number of letters from many of those active in the Green movement. We've published six of them below along with a reply from Sifry.
New York City
Micah Sifry gets some things right. The Minnesota Greens' decision to run a candidate against Paul Wellstone is wrong; at this moment retaining a Democratic Senate is an important part of progressive strategy. And while Ralph Nader has helped the Green Party grow, the Greens must stop hanging on his celebrity and build on their own candidates and issues. But in contending that the Greens are too far left and should stick to economic populism, Sifry misconstrues the party's nature and purpose.
Unlike most electoral parties, the Greens are a hybrid--a social movement as well as an electoral vehicle. Instead of reflecting the "left wing of the possible," whose boundaries have become so narrow that yesterday's centrists are today's liberals, we have a vision of change that seeks to expand people's idea of what's possible and persuade them to act on hope rather than despair. This vision includes proposals for economic democracy that entail a strong anti-corporate position; the Greens are on the cutting edge of campaign and electoral reform. But our concerns are far broader. Our signature issue, ecological sanity, marks us off from virtually every other formation in American politics. We take the global context seriously: We are the only party to argue that the crisis of global warming requires radical changes in our way of life, especially democratic transnational institutions that confront rampant oligarchic capitalism. And unlike the economic populists who disdain social radicalism because they believe it is "divisive," the party is feminist and opposes the death penalty and the war on drugs. In short, the Green Party aims to become an alternative to the two major parties, not a single-issue organization.
Sifry seems to think the Green Party should exercise centralized political discipline over local organizations. But decentralization is the hallmark of a democratic social movement. The results are inevitably messy and contentious. (Indeed, from my perspective, some Greens are too cautious about distinguishing themselves from politics as usual.) But this does not mean the Greens are fated to remain marginal. Opponents of Green politics may use decisions like Minnesota's as an excuse to discredit the party as such, but most of our potential constituents are capable of understanding that we are not a monolith.
This is a moment of turbulence, when many elements of conventional wisdom are in doubt. It is the Greens' role to deepen those doubts and convert them into action.
(The writer is Green Party candidate for Governor of New York State.)
New Haven, CT
For the record, however Micah Sifry chooses to describe or analyze the relationship between Ralph Nader and the Green Party, he should have included some crucial facts. For example, since the November 2000 elections, Ralph Nader has headlined about thirty-eight fundraisers for the Green Party and its candidates, including seven joint fundraisers for the national and one of the state Green parties. This has helped Greens to raise over $200,000. When the fundraisers have been with the national party, Nader has also allowed the use of his donor list for that state, to assure that the fundraisers have had the best
turnout possible. As part of those thirty-eight fundraisers, Nader has headlined fundraisers for the Green Party in conjunction with each
of the Democracy Rising super-rallies. Democracy Rising also shares the list of the DR attendees with the state Green Party where the Democracy Rising event is held.
Finance Director, Green Party of the United States (title for identification purposes only)
For the record, the relationship between Ralph Nader and the Green Party is as good as it's ever been. While Micah Sifry would not be incorrect to point to strains in that relationship, it is surely an overstatement to proclaim, as he did in "Greens at the Crossroads," that the relationship is "dysfunctional."
While it's true that Nader has not agreed to many things the party
has asked of him, it is also a fact that he has continued to actively
support our growth and development. For example, since the November
2000 elections, Ralph Nader has headlined, at last count, thirty-eight
fundraisers for the Green Party and its candidates, including seven joint
state/national fundraisers, helping Greens to raise over $200,000. Nader also talks up the Green Party in the media and in his many public appearances.
It would be unrealistic to expect a historic and powerful figure such as Ralph Nader and a 250,000-member political party such as the Greens to have a smooth relationship. We are grateful to Nader for everything he has done for our party.
Co-Chair, Green Party of the United States
Micah Sifry quotes me and I feel takes my comments very much out of context. I agree in many respects with his analysis of the challenges facing the Green
Party. But in regard to the issue of the Minnesota Greens running Ed McGaa, he seems to have done little more than justify his own fear and outrage, and paint anyone who does not share his apprehensions as hopelessly naive and out of touch with political reality. Of course I know who Senators Orrin Hach and Patrick Leahy are and the importance of the Senate Judiciary committee, but was not prepared to compare and contrast them for Sifry. What Sifry did not say in his analysis of the Green Party speaks volumes. He did not say that Badili Jones, an
African-American, and I, a Latina, are part of a grassroots of "Citizen Leaders" who are driving the Green Party to become the mechanism for making real the myth of democracy. In addition to being co-chairs of the national Green Party both Badili, in Atlanta, Georgia, and I, in Toledo, Ohio, undertake the bulk of our activism on the ground and in our communities. We are both involved in numerous
projects including efforts to address issues of racism and how it has manifested since September 11, 2001. Sifry didn't say these things because he probably didn't know these things, and he didn't know because he didn't ask, and he didn't ask because he was too busy running around acting like "the sky is falling," and blaming it on the Greens. What I expressed to Sifry when he interviewed me in Philadelphia was that both the Democrats and the Republicans have failed the ordinary people of this country and that the Greens should
not be expected to insulate the democrats from their mistakes.
How presumptuous of Sifry to assume that my indifference to his concerns about the Senate race in Minnesota stems from ignorance. As the daughter of migrant farmworkers, as someone who has stood in welfare lines, as someone who has stood in unemployment lines, as someone who has known what it feels like to be hungry in America, I know very well the consequences of continuing with our
farce of a democratic political system. And I am far more concerned about
the reelection of Cynthia McKinney than I am about Paul Wellstone, and it isn't Greens who are running against her.
Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States
East Windsor, NJ
Micah Sifry laments that the Greens "risk being hobbled by their own impatience." Just two years after our first major presidential campaign, nine months after being recognized by the Federal Elections Commission as a national party, one week after our first-ever midterm convention, the article holds us to awfully high standards of political maturity. I guess we could take that as a compliment of sorts, but I can't help feeling that Sifry is the one who's showing impatience.
He mentions "promising Green candidates in places like Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Texas," but cites a single problematic situation in Minnesota as evidence that "the Green Party is at risk of being fixed in the public's mind by the choices of its most flamboyant branch"--and he devotes more than half the text of his article to oy-vaying about that particular situation!
The movement for Green politics in the United States is clearly in its infancy. Based on reasonable standards of comparison (for instance, relative to initiatives like the Reform Party, New Party, Labor Party, and Citizens Party) the Greens are showing exceptional potential and impressive growth in all measurable areas: number of activists, registrants, votes, candidacies and electoral victories.
Constructive, empathetic criticism is most welcome, but we hope Sifry and all who wish to see a progressive challenge to the only-two-choices system will maintain some perspective. Even better--join up and help us achieve the standards we all agree to be desirable and ultimately attainable. We're on the road toward becoming America's third significant political party.
Green Party of New Jersey
Working with Anita Rios closely, as I do here in Ohio, I am not
surprised that she did not profess to an intimate familiarity with
Patrick Leahy or Orrin Hatch nor their possibly different approaches
to running the Judiciary Committee of the US Senate.
What would surprise me is if Anita had not talked passionately about
the need to empower the disenfranchised in this society. Nor provided
details of the challenges Greens face in organizing grassroots
opposition to corporate power. Opposition such as the rally Anita
helped organize near Toledo the weekend after the national convention
to urge the final and complete shutdown of the damaged Davis-Besse
nuclear power plant on the shores of Lake Erie.
I also am not surprised that Sifry chose a comment by Anita
that supported his thesis regarding Greens' supposed lack of
As for surprises, know now that you should not be surprised if we
who fight in the trenches on a regular basis ignore the tut-tutting
of armchair politicos who profess to offer guidance on the "proper"
path. If the Greens eventually gain national power it will not be
because we artfully finessed conflict and setbacks. We will have
gained national power because we fought the tough conflicts and
overcame setbacks and defeated, in an upset of millennial
proportions, the entrenched powers that are sucking the lifeblood
from this nation.
Convener, Green Party of Ohio
New York City
Since readers can easily find my original article online, I'm not going to reiterate all my arguments here, but just respond to what I see as the key points made by these letters.
1. Steve Welzer says I'm being impatient with the Greens, who are still in their infancy. Maybe yes, maybe no. As I see it, the Greens were in their infancy all through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, when organizers in a few states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine and New Mexico in particular) began building the electorally oriented state parties that became the core of the Association of State Green Parties (formed in 1997) that eventually absorbed its rival Greens/Green Party USA and became the Green Party of the United States in 2001. Some state parties are obviously much younger than others, having been spawned by the Nader campaigns of 1996 and 2000.
2. Besides, if the goal is to grow out of one's infancy, the question has to be: By what strategy? Steve is right to point to the Greens' growth and potential--all of which I noted at the beginning of my article. But new/minor political parties are incredibly fragile flowers. Stanley Aronowitz's wise letter suggests that he knows this. However, he misreads me when he says that I favor "centralized political discipline over local organizations." I don't (and in my book I criticize Ross Perot for trying to do exactly that to his Reform Party). The Greens of Minnesota are welcome to make whatever political choices they want: That is, as Anita Rios put it, what democracy looks like. But the rest of us, including Green activists and leaders throughout the country, can also either welcome those choices or criticize and attempt to revise them. That is not "centralized political discipline," but vibrant democratic discussion--another hallmark of a democratic social movement. And even though it is ultimately for Minnesotans to decide the US Senate race, since that race may well tip that body back into Republican hands, it is inevitably a question that Greens everywhere must face: Do you want your party to have that impact this year? Here's how the Miami-Dade Green Party answers that question (for the full text of their letter to the Minnesota Greens, click here): "We are a political party. So 'political fallout' is a perfectly valid factor in making decisions. Political fallout affects both our present and our future. The loss of a progressive voice. The loss of other potential allies to the Greens. And given the close split of the Senate, this could give Bush the full ultra-conservative control he seeks. We say, let Greens run for every state and local office we reasonably can. Let's get our best candidates and run for federal office as well. But let's pick and chose where that would most help us, and not hinder either Green Party image nor growth (they are intimately tied together)--and where it will not permit this nation to slide further down the slippery slope of repression."
3. Stanley makes a second criticism of me, that I believe the Greens have moved too far left and should stick to economic populism. Let me clarify on both points. I think the pressures of post-2000 Democratic whining, 9/11 and the war are impelling the Greens to push certain issues with a left style that may feel good and right to many core party activists, but will hinder the party's potential growth--especially at a moment when the party's anticorporate message couldn't be more in tune with popular sentiment. During the Green Party's convention in Philadelphia, I participated in a workshop on outreach to nonprogressives where Dean Myerson, the party's national coordinator, made a telling point. Greens, he said, need to recognize the difference between being activists, engaged in pushing their own issues, and organizers who seek to draw more people into the party by finding out what issues will move them. It's the difference between choosing to emphasize the plight of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the plight of low-wage immigrant workers, or stopping plutonium-laden rockets from being shot into space versus stopping CEOs from gorging themselves with stock options. I don't think party organizers should drop their social vision (feminism, opposition to the death penalty, war on drugs, antimilitarism, etc) at all, but I question whether they should lead with it. Stanley is doing this with his own campaign for governor of New York: focusing on a "tax and spend" agenda that seeks to rebuild the state's public infrastructure with the help of those most able to pay for it, and telling Greens that he's a meat-eater who thinks war can sometimes be justified. If Greens want to participate in their own marginalization, they can keep using language and picking issues that set them apart from less politically active Americans. My study of the rise and growth of third parties in contemporary politics suggests to me that what matters to most voters is not how a challenger positions him- or herself on some right-to-left checklist, but how well he or she connects to people's desire for a better life and shows how to carry them forward.
4. Jack Uhrich and Ben Manski both say that Ralph Nader has done lots of good things for the Green Party since 2000. I don't dispute that at all. But their letters confirm my basic point: The relationship is dysfunctional. It's all on Nader's terms. The party is the subject of his decisions at every turn, never the other way around. Part of this is a reflection of the Greens' problems with formally empowering their own leaders (as a result they have lots of behind-the-scenes jockeying and tension). But most of it is a result of Nader's reluctance to be bound to anything he doesn't control. He says that he isn't a Green because he doesn't want to be drawn into internal party disputes. But, to take a current example, that hasn't stopped his latest comments on the Wellstone race, where he dismissed the Green Party's candidate as unlikely to get even a few thousand votes, from being interpreted as an intervention in the party's affairs. Hidden, unresolved conflicts between the Nader staff and the Green base continue to fester. If you doubt that, take a look at democracywrithing.org, a critique posted by Maine Green Party activists unhappy with the top-down nature of Nader's "Democracy Rising" rallies. One could argue that none of this is any better that the actual relations between any top Democrat and their party, of course. But I don't think Greens want to brag about being as bad as the major parties on this score.
5. Anita Rios is right that I didn't ask her about her local activism; I didn't have time, nor is it clear to me what that has to do with her role as one of the party's five national co-chairs. (I did do a longer interview with Badili Jones, one of her co-chairs, earlier in the weekend). I didn't ask her to "compare and contrast" Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, but to tell me if she thought it would make a difference if the Senate was controlled by Ds or Rs, and then followed up by asking if it made a difference if the Senate Judiciary Committee was controlled by Hatch or Leahy. Her letter makes clear that she doesn't see a meaningful difference. As for Paul Dumouchelle's letter, I read only rhetoric of a peculiarly messianic kind. Parties grow or stagnate because of many things, including the decisions made by their leaders. They have to finesse conflict and articulate a strategy, not just a vision. At this time in our nation's history, we desperately need smart third-party strategies. My intention in writing this article (as well as my book) was to try to ask some hard questions about that problem. Hopefully, the discussion will continue.
MICAH L. SIFRY
In responding to comments on his article "Greens at the Crossroads", Micah Sifry made a major misstatement of fact: "As I see it, the Greens were in their infancy all through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, when organizers in a few states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine and New Mexico in particular) began building the electoral oriented state parties that became the core of the Association of State Green Parties (formed in 1997) that eventually absorbed its rival Greens/Green Party USA and became the Green Party of the United States in 2001." Sifry's statement here is generally weak as a piece of historical analysis but that is not my concern. What is my concern, is that his statement that the Green Party USA has been absorbed by the Association of State Green Parties/Green Party of the US is simply untrue, although it is perhaps a wish fantasy in the minds of some of Green Party USA's rivals.
The facts are that the Green Party USA--which was organized in 1991 as a formal reorganization of the original US Green Party (Green Committees of Correspondence formed in 1984) still exists, with annual FEC filings, a national membership, a clearinghouse in Chicago, national officers, a website, two national publications, a Program and Platform and an ongoing political campiagn of radical grassroots organizing (which does not exclude electoral organizing as a strategy/tactic). This is a simple fact which no amount of denial or evasion can change. The Green Party USA is probably one of the very few Green parties in the world that has not succumbed to the reformist deformation of the original Green vision that has overtaken so much of the Green movement. Perhaps this is why statements of its "non-existence" appear in the press. I would appreciate a comment from Sifry.