GERALD FORD & THE SOUL TRAIN
Attention Alexander Cockburn: Don’t be crediting Karl Rove for the postal holiday for Gerald Ford [“Beat the Devil,” Jan. 22]. I’ve gotten a day off from being a postal clerk three times over the years (for Nixon, Reagan and now Ford). I’m surprised that we still get them, but I’m certainly not lobbying Congress to end it. There are two ex-Presidents in their 80s who may give me some days off before I retire. The real worry is which soul superstar is going to go when an ex-President goes. We lost Ray Charles with Reagan and James Brown with Ford. I don’t want to lose Chuck Berry or Little Richard just yet.
TROOPS WHO SAY NO TO THE WAR
Marc Cooper’s “About Face: The Growing Antiwar Movement in the Military” [Jan. 8/15] recognizes a growing resistance within the military to America’s never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a resistance largely ignored by the mainstream media. Invoking “the troops” is a handy mantra for stifling debate about the war by insisting that we betray our soldiers if we question their mission.
Jonathan Hutto and other signers of the Appeal for Redress courageously remind us that they are already betrayed by their Commander in Chief. Cooper rightly notes the risks these servicemen and -women take in signing the Appeal, risks that no doubt keep others from speaking out against the war. We have a very diverse military, made up of many who do question their mission.
About Face is also the title of a radio program sponsored by the Phoenix Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeacephoenix.org) on KPHX-AM Sundays at 1 pm EST (aaphx.com). About Face is a live call-in program that addresses issues such as post-traumatic stress, inadequate VA funding and homelessness that confront service members, veterans and their families. The program hosts are all Vietnam combat veterans; guests include a wide range of local and national peace activists, veterans’ advocates and topical experts. We are looking for sponsors to keep the show on the air. We can continue for a few more weeks, but it’s getting tight.
Jonathan Hutto and several of his colleagues were on the January 14 program to talk about the Appeal for Redress and related events since Cooper’s article came out. A longer pre-recorded version of the program aired on the Progressive Radio Network (progressiveradionetwork.org) on Saturday, January 20.
co-host, About Face
I find your publication very informative, unlike many mainstream sources. Your letters from military families [“Letters,” Oct. 16; Nov. 27] rang true. My son has enlisted and has re-enlisted. Our stretched Army and Marines have a hard time finding “suitable volunteers,” I guess. Maybe it’s due to the following: My son arrived in Iraq for an eight-month peacekeeping mission, which turned into a nearly fourteen-month ordeal. I would hear that he would be home soon, but months went by–and another and another. It is very agonizing waiting, hoping they will be healthy and safe.
Let’s hope those running this war, and those reaping the profits, listen to people who actually have to fight it, and their families, and take into account the deaths and injuries–which continue to mount.
BARBARA H.K. TRAVIS
TORTURE IN ART
I’m always pleased to see Arthur C. Danto’s name in your pages and was enjoying his review of Botero’s grisly but affecting work on Abu Ghraib [“The Body in Pain,” Nov. 27] until, toward the end, I was surprised to realize that Danto was going to finish without referring readers to the paintings of the great American artist Leon Golub. Golub’s huge canvases depicting death squads, interrogations and mercenaries, most done in the last quarter of the twentieth century, in some instances predict many of the details in the horrific photos from Abu Ghraib, giving the lie to our leaders’ protests that we don’t believe in torture. Botero focuses on the pain of the victim, Golub on the pleasure or indifference of the victimizer. As Golub was fond of repeating, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
New York City
One of my earliest pieces in The Nation was devoted to Leon Golub’s paintings of mercenaries, many of which represented torturers in some presumably Third World country, interrogating hooded victims, naked and helplessly bound. They were great paintings, in my view Golub’s masterpieces, and incidentally among the first scenes in high art of torture since the Counter-Reformation, when graphic depictions of martyrdom became an important genre. The torturers themselves were, as the title entails, soldiers of fortune, of no identifiable nationality, who were clearly relishing their labor. In political truth, American “advisers” were involved in the practices, but Golub’s was a protest against the inhumanity of the dirty wars of modern times. The interrogators were generic.
For this reason, I did not mention him in my review of Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib paintings, in which it was common knowledge that the perpetrators were American military personnel, possibly enacting official policy. In interviews, Botero explained that he was not anti-American; that he’d done the paintings because he had always regarded America as embodying the values of freedom and human rights. They were intended to hold the mirror up to our betrayal of these great virtues. Golub’s paintings were a cry of despair at a universal inhumanity. Botero’s were a lament that America was, after all, no exception.
ARTHUR C. DANTO
MOMMY WAS A COMMIE
New York City
Regarding “Decca: Still Raising a Ruckus” [“Exchange,” Jan. 22]: Jessica Mitford was not an ideologue (she did not do well with endless theoretical discussions); she was an activist who left the world of privilege at the age of 17. This was a woman who chose to alter her life irrevocably to fight the Fascists in Spain and Germany, to support the US government during World War II in battling war profiteering, to work for the Civil Rights Congress in the struggle against police brutality in Oakland and Mississippi, to engage in campaigns large and small against hypocrisy, prejudice and segregation every place she encountered them. She was above all an investigative journalist. She allied herself with each progressive youth movement that came across her path: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Free Speech Movement, the Black Panther Party. Nation readers should rush out and get a copy of Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford to meet the witty, courageous, irreverent, infuriating Decca.
CONSTANCIA DINKY (DONK) ROMILLY
New York City
Your reviewer discovers proof of Decca’s innate snobbery and chauvinism when “a 1959 letter declares that you can tell that Germans, like Southerners, are bad by ‘the backs of their necks.'” Well, I was there (south of France, age 11). Here’s the actual story as told in Decca:
Germans abound here, I’m sorry to say. The Fr. say they got a taste for French cooking during the Occupation: whatever the cause, there are too many for my liking. There was a large group of them, guzzling champagne, at the 3-star place in Baux, middle-aged fatsoes, made one shudder to look at them. Benj gave the usual trouble, just as Dink and Nebby Lou did last time: “But how do you know they’re bad?” Trying not to get into a long argument, I said, “by the backs of their necks” (which were classic: huge and beefy). “Just like the guys down South,” Benj complained. “You shouldn’t be against someone just because of the color of his neck.” Hopeless child, I should never have let you inveigle him to that Unitarian Sunday School….
DIDN’T MY LORD DELIVER DANIEL!
Daniel Lazare’s review [“God’s Willing Executioners,” Dec. 11] is a welcome corrective to the myths about the Crusades on which we were raised. I still own a few boyhood enameled lead knights. I will immediately melt them down and dispatch them to a hazardous waste facility. Lazare’s evenhandedness toward the butchery of both sides is especially appreciated. So is his portrayal of Christianity by the sword as a phenomenon of medieval Roman Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire.
But too many progressives use the sins of the past and a very broad, bristly brush to tar all forms of modern faith by allusions to “the Church,” “Christians” or “religious extremists.” I’m afraid that brother Daniel gets trapped in this lion’s den when he takes out after gentle Jesus and tries to paint him as a militant extremist whose teachings may have generated genocide. Those imperial Catholic armies were pumped up because Jesus opined that those who live by the sword die by the sword?
Lazare concludes by insulting those of us who think we can combine faith and reason. As a progressive Christian, I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round, nor stand for intolerance dressed up in secular sackcloth! My faith, the United Church of Christ, boasts Howard Dean and Barack Obama among its faith-benighted members. It has given us New England colleges, the defense of the Amistad mutineers, abolition, feminism, gay rights (and ministers) and opposition to the Iraq War. I’ve protested and prayed in UCC pews alongside fellow nuts Bill Coffin, Bob Edgar and Bill Moyers. It’s time for Daniel to be delivered–to show more faith in his modern Christian allies.
New York City
I didn’t say Jesus was “a militant extremist whose teachings may have generated genocide.” To the contrary, I said it really doesn’t matter what he preached, since the real problem has to do with divine revelation, by definition an event of earth-shattering importance that cannot “be proven according to the normal rules of evidence” and instead “must be taken on faith.” There is no way to make someone believe in the Resurrection, the virgin birth or anything else for which there is neither logic nor evidence other than at the point of a sword, which is why even the gentlest religion winds up being violent and tyrannical.
I also said that “Christian pacifism reflects a kind of inward-directed violence that can all too easily be turned in the opposite direction.” Musil’s letter illustrates this perfectly since I detect a clear note of anger beneath its jolly tone. Why does he accuse me of “insulting” those who seek to combine reason and faith when all I said is that they are wrong?
For the history-repeats-itself buff, there’s a disturbing similarity between the Quiverfull birth campaign [Kathryn Joyce, ” ‘Arrows for the War’,” Nov. 27] and the Nazi Mother’s Cross program, which encouraged German women to compete in a sort of fertility Olympics. The emphasis here, of course, is on religious rather than racial purity. But the call to populate the state with future “soldiers” is nearly identical.
Why was no mention made of the origin of the word “Quiverfull”? It comes from Anthony Trollope’s wonderful novel Barchester Towers. Poor Reverend Quiverfull had all he could manage after he was presented by his loving wife with fourteen children. Find a copy. Happy reading!