Responses to Alexander Cockburn, John M. Barry, Katha Pollitt and Jane McAlevey, and another Italian lesson


Keep ’Em in Stitches

Gardiner, N.Y.

Art critic Barry Schwabsky, in his reply to a reader [“Letters,” May 21], closes his discussion of the challenging nature of idiomatic aphorisms with “I admit I’m still trying to get to the bottom of ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’” Mr. Schwabsky, you are not alone! As a Catskills musician in the 1960s, I remember a comedian, Pat Henry, who was similarly frustrated. He asked the audience, “What happens if you stitch too soon and save ten—do you have to give one back?”



Shining City in the Slough of Despond

Long Island City, N.Y.

Every issue of The Nation contains interesting and valuable information. But the May 21 issue has two pieces that are so important they should have sections printed in CAPS! Alexander Cockburn’s “So Who’s the Fascist Here?” deals with the unpleasant and dangerous reality that we are shuffling like sheep toward fascism, and it’s past time someone said it out loud: “We live in a fascist country—proto-fascist if you want to allay public disquiet.” John M. Barry’s “America’s First Rebel” points out that all the talk about religious freedom is really about “my” right to “my” religious freedom, not yours. These two articles should be handed out at election speeches, made into commercials, printed on T-shirts—whatever it takes!



San Francisco

Alex Cockburn is not far off the mark when he states that “the United States is on its way to meriting the vague label of ‘fascist.’” Henry Giroux, in his latest book, Zombie Politics, Democracy and the Threat of Authoritarianism, writes, “It is difficult to imagine that anyone looking at a society in which an ultra-rich financial elite and mega-corporations have the power to control almost every aspect of politics—from who gets elected to how laws are enacted—could possibly mistake this social order and system of government for a democracy.”



Wiscasset, Me.

Alexander Cockburn’s “So Who’s the Fascist Here?” is an alarming but honest evaluation of the conditions we now face in our country. The political rhetoric and legislative agendas of the past ten to fifteen years support the conclusion of our national drift toward fascism. People who lived in Germany under Nazi control recall similar conditions: disdain for human rights, excessive corporate power, economic inequality, abuse of workers’ rights, disregard for separation of church and state, detention without recourse, gender inequality, excessive military and police power, and torture and assassinations.



Delray Beach, Fla.

The United States is hardly perfect: Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, among others. But I would not want to live anywhere else. Alexander Cockburn is, of course, entitled to his opinion. However, does he really believe that our procedures “would have been the envy of the East Germans”? That “we live in a fascist country”? That we should “quit beating up on Europe”? (I did not realize we were.) To equate our failures with Hitler’s Enabling Act is comparable to equating Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Holocaust. Shame on him.



Stay at Home, Mom, if You Can Afford It

Washington, D.C.

Katha Pollitt gets it right again [“Subject to Debate,” May 7]: women’s work is valuable if the woman—and her children—are deemed to possess social and economic value. When upper-income women stay home with their babies and toddlers, they are applauded and, I believe, rightly so. If they decide on paid employment, they can find (with great difficulty, it’s true) high-quality childcare that enhances their children’s potential. But at The Family Place, the support center for low-income parents where I work, I meet new mothers who grab at any work they can get. For low pay and no benefits they care for other people’s kids or clean their houses. Unless they are incredibly lucky, they must settle for mediocre care for their own children. (Childcare workers—women’s work, of course—earn less than janitors, prison guards or dog groomers.)

Low-income mothers know as well as their upper-income peers the vital importance of loving nurture and enrichment during their children’s early years, when physical and mental growth is more rapid than it ever will be again. Ample research shows the lifelong influence of early childhood environment and experience. But single mothers must earn a living. Their children are put at risk because of the scarcity of good and affordable childcare. More and more women are put in this bind, and everyone’s future is put at risk.



You Have Nothing to Lose but the Earth!

Bluff Point, N.Y.

Having spent fourteen years as a delegate to the AFL-CIO’s Building Trades Legislative Conference, I totally understand Richard Trumka’s and Terry O’Sullivan’s position. It is about jobs! These guys are doing what they were elected to do: procure work for the membership. And it really doesn’t matter what type of jobs, green or otherwise. Just like the upcoming presidential election, it’s all about jobs!

I am also an environmental activist who is in vehement opposition to the Keystone pipeline, hydrofracking and the like. I believe, as Jane McAlevey says in her excellent article “Blues and Greens: Get It
Together!” [May 7], labor and environmentalists have a common enemy. So, for the survival of both movements it is incumbent on both to find common ground. The environmentalists must halt the practice of using charitable donations to procure land, only to turn a buck by granting leases to big oil, natural gas and agro-giants. The unions should divest their pension funds from planet-killing industries (most pension funds are heavily invested in big oil, natural gas and hosts of other polluting industries) and invest in job-creating, clean, renewable initiatives.

This will not be an easy undertaking for either movement by any means, but a dialogue must be struck. There is an awful lot at stake. These two movements have to band together in November and rid both houses of Congress of any and all obstructionists, in either party, and push together for legislation that strengthens the agendas of both. Put teeth in the EPA and OSHA. Fight together to strengthen the Davis-Bacon Act and the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Our planet is counting on the success of both movements. Unite! Never pollute! Recycle! Work union! and Never, ever cross each other’s picket lines!



Dangling Nag

Rohnert Park, Calif.

In “The Devil, Probably,” by Barry Schwabsky [Jan. 30], we read “Novecento hanging in the Guggenheim…was once the hide of a living thing named Tiramisu.” Please pass on to Schwabsky the delicious irony that while “tiramisu” may mean a gooey Italian dessert to most Americans, the word actually means “pick-me-up” in Italian—a fitting name for this poor horse that got suspended forever from the ceiling!


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