Katha Pollitt [“$hotgun Weddings,” Feb. 4] makes many very excellent points about the horrors of “bridefare,” but she does not address a major tragedy of the benefits-for-wedlock policies–i.e., the oppressively heterosexist and homophobic assumptions and ideology that undergird such programs.

Though one might never know it from pop-culture representations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, a recent report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, analyzing the impact of welfare reform on GLBT people, estimates that there are 900,000 to 2.5 million low-income GLBT people in the United States, many of whom have children to support. This excellent report (see details many other ways current and proposed welfare policies and practices are detrimental to GLBT people and their children. For example, in addition to the potential for discrimination and mistreatment associated with coming out to their caseworkers, current policies that privilege marriage often serve to coerce lesbian and bisexual women who apply for public assistance to establish the paternity of potentially violent former male partners. These policies can also force GLBT minors to return to homophobic parents–the same parents who may have kicked them out of the house for being queer–in order to receive benefits.

Not surprisingly, many of the same right-wing ideologues who promote bridefare are also pushing, among other things, a constitutional amendment (nicknamed “super-DOMA”) that would bar same-sex unions, as well as legal bans on adoptions by GLBT people. Those on the right are not interested in aiding this type of “family formation”–they would much rather punish GLBT people in need of public assistance and use antipoverty policy as another way to further their campaigns of stigma and hate.



New York City

Jack Newfield felt called upon to denigrate several other athletes–all of them black–while exalting Muhammad Ali [“The Meaning of Muhammad,” Feb. 4] as America’s “Dalai Lama, who personifies peace and harmony.” Jackie Robinson was criticized for becoming a Republican and Michael Jordan was faulted for being unwilling to do anything controversial.

In his race-conscious comparisons, Newfield was grossly unfair to two black former heavyweight fighters. Jack Johnson, the first black champion, low-rated by Newfield as an “apolitical hedonist,” was in fact a proud man whose defiance of the lynch-law standards of his time aroused a frenzied national search for a “White Hope” to dethrone him.

Joe Louis, whom Newfield scorns for being “modest” and a “patriot,” was assertive enough in the ring to be “the greatest” with his fists (if not in self-praise) during the twelve years of his championship. If Louis is charged with being a “patriot” because of his readiness to serve in World War II, it may be noted that there were 11 million of us, black and white, who shared his view that the war against Hitler was a just war.

Appearing with Paul Robeson at a tribute to black war veterans, Joe Louis expressed warm support for that redbaited artist and activist. The champion hailed Robeson as “my friend and a great fighter for the Negro people,” and said, “There are some people who don’t like the way Paul Robeson fights for my people. Well, I say that Paul is fighting for what all of us want, and that’s freedom to be a man.”




Thank you so much for your coverage of the campus unrest of our times [“War on Campus,” Dec. 3]. Professor Berthold is not the only one under attack at the University of New Mexico. Students, faculty and those from the campus community who question, demonstrate or educate about “the war on terrorism” are scorned by a local politician and the shrill campus Republicans. My English 102 students struggled hard to understand the events of September 11 and beyond, and they deserve the respect of those who claim to stand for our foundational freedoms. One freedom that is often overlooked is the right of intellectually curious students to have access to information so as to formulate their own educated opinions. Letters to the campus newspaper demonstrate a variety of positions on our current war. They also show Professor Berthold to be a very popular teacher, even when students disagree with the positions he takes.


Los Angeles

Neither I nor have ever called for the firing of anyone from any university for expressing views that are leftist, idiotic, traitorous or otherwise, as David Glenn implies in his article. One of my employees–a young graduate of UNC–did make an emotional statement to this effect, which Glenn quoted, which is fine. But since I myself disagree with the statement, which did not appear in my magazine, I should not be accused of hypocrisy on free speech issues by Glenn or anyone else. My issue with so-called teach-ins was their totalitarian exclusion of opposing views. It ill behooves leftists who have not uttered a word of protest or concern while the conservative viewpoint has been purged from the faculties of virtually every major university in the country–including those that provide subsidies to Nation editors–to pose as defenders of academic freedom.


Oakland, Calif.

David Glenn exposes the inevitable result of the “hostile environment” cabal, which is one sad inevitable result of identity politics. When the focus is exclusively on race or sex, what do you expect? That pro-Israeli shills wouldn’t see criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism? Such could only happen here in California, where Cal students bum-rushed the Daily Californian for running David Horowitz’s stupid anti-reparations ad instead of directing readers to consider the source and let Horowitz hang himself. The left has suffered because of people who have to begin every political statement with the words “as a…(fill in the blank).” Only when it returns to emphasizing how we’ve all been injured will it help address the real gaps in our lives.


New York City

David Glenn refers to the editors of the pernicious New York Pest saying they were “rethinking their support” for increased CUNY funding because faculty have dared to criticize US policy in Afghanistan. What a joke! Both the malignant New York trash papers, the Pest and the Daily Ooze, have been enemies of City University for years. They have never let mere truth interfere with their endless drumfire of defamation of the university, its faculty and its students. The trustees (busily trying to suppress student and faculty dissent) and the chancellor have never seen fit to respond to these dishonest tabloid attacks. Shamefully, instead of doing their job, which is to defend the university as a free space for the debate of any and all public issues without censorship or interference, they prefer to attack unpopular views on campus and meddle irresponsibly in curricular matters beyond their competence. That is a greater menace to the fundamental moral and intellectual health of our society than crazed terrorists or anthrax-laden mail.



Chico, Calif.

David Horowitz says that he and FrontPage shouldn’t be stigmatized for comments made on NPR by one of his junior editors. Fair enough. Let’s see what FrontPage itself had to say ( FrontPage describes the September 17 teach-in on terrorism, sponsored by UNC’s Progressive Faculty Network, as a “nauseating” “shameful” exercise in “spewing hatred for America.” Fine, fine, fine. Far be it from The Nation to discourage vigorous polemic. But then there’s an editorial box below the article: “Tell the good folks at UNC-Chapel Hill what you think of their decision to allow anti-American rallies on their state-supported campus. Chancellor James Moeser can be reached at…,” followed by phone number and e-mail address. This call was not simply tucked into a corner of the website. According to the Daily Tar Heel, Horowitz’s staff aggressively faxed the article to right-wing radio hosts and other media outlets.

Note that the editorial box did not say, “Here are the e-mail addresses of the professors who spoke at the teach-in. Write to them and point out where their logic has gone astray.” (Had this been the request, I might have been tempted to join in myself. Personally, I lean toward Christopher Hitchens’s view of the war.)

Nor did it say, as Horowitz’s letter implies: “Write to Chancellor Moeser and complain about UNC’s double standards–the university gives a platform to leftists but suppresses conservative voices.” For there is no evidence that UNC has done any such thing. In early October, the College Republicans sponsored a “patriotic rally” with no interference from the university. Moeser, whose office was besieged by angry phone calls instigated by FrontPage, was no more and no less responsible for the Progressive Faculty Network’s teach-in than for the College Republicans’ rally.

Beneath the coy phrasing, there is really only one meaning to FrontPage‘s “Tell the good folks…”. It’s impossible to parse that sentence as anything other than a call for censorship. In his NPR appearance, Horowitz protégé Scott Rubush at least had the courage to make the call in plain language.



Brooklyn, N.Y.

E.J. Graff’s fantastic article on the gender movement makes one important error [“The M/F Boxes,” Dec. 17]. Graff says that “all the major lesbian and gay organizations…have added transgendered folks to their mission statements.” As a legal assistant at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s largest lesbian and gay legal group, I and others lobbied for such inclusion, only to be rebuffed by its overly cautious leadership. I’m pleased to report, however, that Lambda’s board voted in January to include bisexual and transgendered people in their mission statement, falling in step with national groups like the ACLU.