Horror in Afghanistan… the great Charlie Mingus… field trip to the South Bronx


Horror in Afghanistan

Your October 7 cover pulled me in like a magnet. Finally, someone is writing about our victims in Afghanistan. The picture of the young wounded person is not overwrought with emotion; it is totally sad, caring, framed in black. The research is so awful, so horrible, I couldn’t wade through all of it. This is what Chelsea Manning is in prison for—telling the truth.

Ann Stokes
west chesterfield, n.h.

I would like to hug Bob Dreyfuss and Nick Turse like my sons for their courage in writing their powerful article “America’s Afghan Victims” [Oct. 7]. I have been against war since I was 5: during World War II in Macedonia, I was bombed twice, first by Germans, then by Americans chasing out the Germans and Bulgarians. I can still hear the thud of bombs on the ground around me. I can still see exhausted young men and women partisans in dirty rags and bloody bare feet, captured by Bulgarian soldiers jabbing them with their rifles down my cobblestone street. Ten minutes later the sound of rifles pierced the stillness of the hot summer afternoon—and my heart.

Ema Currier
palo alto, calif.

The US government claims to know with remarkable precision the number of people killed by the Syrian gas attack, but gets all fuzzy about the number of civilians it has killed in Afghanistan. We’re not even in Syria and somehow we “know” that number. Ugluk2

So proud that such a brave soul attended my college (Friends World) [Sarah Holewinski, “Marla Ruzicka’s Heroism”]. The problem is that getting involved in the world’s toughest problems you really do pay a price, and Marla paid the ultimate price. Ande

The Great Charlie Mingus

Many thanks for Adam Shatz’s excellent article on the great Charlie Mingus [“An Argument With Instruments,” Oct. 7]. There are always artists who fail to receive their due. Mingus is far from forgotten, but his star is not shining as brightly these days as it deserves to be. The article, in a stylish and factual way, will acquaint readers with Mingus and recall to longtime listeners his many virtues and his faults, which in either case always centered on music—his music.

Bob Oxley
newfoundland and labrador

Unwinding The Unwinding

Chris Lehmann, in “Great Perturbations” [Sept. 30], missed the point of The Unwinding and furnished a covert example of its point. When Hugo said, “No force on earth can withstand an idea whose time has come,” he left unsaid that the reverse is also true: no force can rescue an idea whose time has passed. The Unwinding describes a passing and a coming, and does so by looking sideways at the detritus washed aside by history’s changing tide—innocent people, innocent presidents and innocent Wall Street moguls—all caught up in the vital seas of change.

Lehmann wants to know the names of the people responsible. He seems to believe that a handful of human beings have the power to control history’s movement. I’m a radical rationalist, but I do not believe that the vectors of history leave traces so clear that names can be put on them. Rather, the time coming and the times passing are driven by powers better known to physicists as critical masses.

Lehmann thrashes about among his predilections trying to focus on the point of a million-headed arrow. His may indeed become in retrospect a tremor in the roar that will dethrone greed, but in order to have any identifiable effect, he must start—as the author of The Unwinding did—with an understanding that greed, taking the euphemistic title “self-interest,” exists everywhere and not merely among “the usual suspects.”

Franklin Lonzo Dixon Jr.
madison, va.

Field Trip to the South Bronx

I’m no scholar of Hirschhorn and his intentions with Gramsci Monument, but to review it merely as a sculptural installation and an art field trip is to miss its primary impact as an uneasy carnival, a jubilee, dropped in the middle of people’s lives [Barry Schwabsky, “More of Less,” Sept. 23]. People from somewhere else come to visit and gawk, but people in the neighborhood lived with it, their kids played on it, they got hired (or not) to work the coffee stand, and they debated whether it would be nice to have it back or not. Art as a way to funnel resources and unexpected pleasures into people’s lives is what’s interesting about the work.

Lauren Klein
norwood, n.j.

“As a culture, we don’t really believe that housing is or should be a ‘project,’ or that living in common qualifies as one; for most of us, a housing project can only be imagined as a last resort.” Who, exactly, are “most of us,” Barry Schwabsky? And what are those readers in publicly subsidized housing supposed to feel about that statement? Perhaps a housing project doesn’t have to be “imagined.” Perhaps it’s a reality, and a community, and a beloved home for those who are actually living in one.

I would have preferred an article from the point of view of one of the residents, who may have had something to offer on the integral and exciting community-based aspects of this latest Hirschhorn work. The irony is that this is all to commemorate the life and work of Gramsci!

Folks can have PhDs and love art and read The Nation and still be poor as shit. Please remember this.

Anne Sinkey
portland, ore.

Schwabsky Replies

“We” might be the voters who elected as mayor a man who thinks the best way to protect the residents of public housing is to fingerprint them all. Those residents can’t be under any illusions about the derogatory attitudes they have to contend with, so I don’t feel too bad about having mentioned it. As for how to understand Gramsci Monument, I took Thomas Hirschhorn at his word that the work he makes is intended above all as autonomous art. There are indeed other ways to look at it. For those who would like to know more about the reactions of Forest Houses residents to the monument, a good place to start is the daily newspaper they produced while the piece was up.

Barry Schwabsky
new york city

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