O’Fallon, Ill.



O’Fallon, Ill.

In the six years I’ve been a military wife and a Nation reader (introduced to it by my Army officer husband), I’ve seen my viewpoints reflected in your pages but not my life. Karen Houppert’s excellent “Against the War but Married to It” [Nov. 10] remedied that. My husband deployed for six months following 9/11, leaving me alone with our two small children, scrambling to explain to them, and myself, why he was gone. If I squinted hard, skipped past Alexander Cockburn’s columns and deleted my ZNet e-mail before reading it, I could almost see the justification for the invasion of Afghanistan. It wasn’t how I thought Bush should have responded to 9/11, but the fact that the invasion had support even on the left made it a little easier to convince myself that it served a greater good. I’ve told my husband it’s a good thing he has not (yet) been deployed to Iraq, since I can’t see managing to perform the same hat trick on myself this time around.


Pensacola, Fla.

My husband is currently in Iraq on a twelve-month mission. As a “waiting wife” I thank Karen Houppert for her article. It couldn’t be more representative of the way I feel, especially about having to withhold my opinions–wanting to become more active in the antiwar movement but not being able to as it would risk my husband’s rank. To hear about other wives who feel the same way gives me a tremendous feeling that I am not alone. Thank you.



New York City

Rebecca Perl’s important “The Last Disenfranchised Class” [Nov. 24], about voting rights for ex-felons, liberally quotes former prisoner Jan Warren. Warren is now doing good works for formerly incarcerated people as associate director of the College and Community Fellowship at the Center for the Study of Women in Society, Graduate Center, CUNY. Our mission is to eliminate the barriers to education and civic participation of formerly incarcerated women and their families by supporting ex-offenders in their pursuit of higher education and by encouraging their leadership in change-oriented criminal justice movements. To date, fifty-eight women have received aid and mentoring through CCF. Fifteen have received degrees and forty-seven remain active. Two are in doctoral programs, and fifteen are pursuing master’s degrees. Surely, such women, and others, deserve the right to vote.

College and Community Fellowship

Arlington, Va.

Your cover story on felon disenfranchisement misses a technical detail. People in prison cannot vote, but they still count for purposes of political apportionment. Peter Wagner’s review of New York (www.prisonersofthecensus.org) reveals ten State Assembly districts with 2-5 percent of the population in prison. My quick analysis of Texas shows that approximately 12 percent of the population of House District 13 lives behind bars and is prohibited from voting for or against the person who nominally represents them in the state legislature. Thus, prisons do more than just lock (too many) people up. They transfer voting power from urban, minority, typically Democratic districts to rural districts with very different characteristics. The s implest solution is for the Census to allow people in prison to provide their “usual residence” rather than assign them the institution’s address.


Washington, DC

Felons who have served their sentence are not the “last disenfranchised class.” Citizens of the nation’s capital have been disenfranchised since 1801. They do not have voting rights in the Senate or House, yet they have served in every war since the Revolution, on juries and pay federal and state taxes. Isn’t it time to end disenfranchisement in the nation’s capital, too? Visit www.letsfreedc.org.



Hopkins, Minn.

Joan Jacobs Brumberg, in her article on juveniles and the death penalty in Virginia [“A Killing Tradition,” Nov. 17], notes that 16-year-old Virginia Christian was executed the day after she turned 17. Amnesty International’s A Punishment in Search of a Crime notes that 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. was put to death in South Carolina in 1944. And as I recall, the “liberal” Commonwealth of Massachusetts sent a 16-year-old to his death in the late 1940s for murder, while the US High Commissioner of Germany at almost the same time commuted the death sentence of a 17-year-old soldier, saying he was too young.



San Francisco

I found it curious that Makani Themba-Nixon and Nan Rubin state that the “media justice movement had a coming-out party” in August 2002 [“Speaking for Ourselves,” Nov. 17]. Media justice has a long and integral history among independent media arts organizations. A few examples: Filmmakers created Third World Newsreel in the 1960s, Scribe Video Center and National Asian American Telecommunications Association in the 1970s, Paper Tiger and Deep Dish TV in the 1980s and the Independent Television Service in the 1990s. National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture’s member organizations have worked for decades to effect media-related change on local, regional and national levels–advocating for diversity and community-based perspectives; creating alternative exhibition, distribution and broadcast outlets; demanding access for all citizens to the making of media; and developing innovative production programs for youth and emerging producers.

I wouldn’t want Nation readers to think this movement was born with the Independent Media Centers in 1999; organizations deeply rooted in their communities have been and will continue to work for “independent ways to tell our stories” (www.namac.org).

National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture

Brooklyn, NY

Poor people have been leaders in the media justice movement. Since the mid-1980s organizations like the National Union of the Homeless and, later, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union have been creating their own media to raise awareness of growing poverty in America and document the creative actions of a movement to end poverty, led by the poor. We developed a grassroots media strategy that includes an award-winning website (www.kwru.org), the media linchpin of a growing national network of poor people’s organizations called the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. In 1999 I founded Human Rights Tech to share the lessons we learned and to help groups (including the Coalition of Immokalee Workers) build their own media organizing infrastructure. Poor people’s groups have been making alliances and have organized a series of Break the Media Blackout Conferences dating back over twelve years. The broader media justice movement can learn from these pioneers.

Human Rights Tech


Jews, gentiles, gays, straights and others wrote in to vent their ire or sing the praises of “Oy Gay!” Kera Bolonik’s November 17 review of the TV sitcom Will & Grace. Some readers found W&G “mundane, trite, trivial and downright dull,” “a white, middle-class (yuppie) show,” and Danny Scott of Louisville, Kentucky, opined of the review, “not since Bush was flown onto the deck of the Abraham Lincoln have I observed such a blatant attempt to latch onto something decent and usurp it for the promotion of a self-centered, narrow agenda.” Others “thoroughly enjoyed” the “in-depth analysis” and the “respite from the week’s more disturbing news stories.”    –The Editors

New York City

Just had to let you know how much I enjoyed “Oy Gay!” It held special appeal for me, a New York-based Jewish woman with a Jewish fiancé and several close non-Jewish gay male friends!


Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Hurrah for Kera Bolonik! As a straight Jewish woman, I’ve been keenly aware and appreciative of the positive Jewish subtext of Will & Grace. I’d spent years throwing things at the television every time a “new” sitcom brought out the latest rehash of Bridget Loves Bernie. I have no doubt that the neurotic, assimilated (dare I say, self-hating) Jewish-lite characters who populate our TV screens reflect the underdeveloped Jewish identities of the writers who created them. Thanks to the writers of Will & Grace for challenging the paradigm!


New York City

Will & Grace is as “radical” in its depictions of gays as Good Times was in its depiction of African-Americans. Instead of J.J. saying “Dyn-o-mite,” W&G has Jack screeching like a sissy/fairy. Boy, how far we’ve come since Stonewall. (As for Grace as a radical depiction of Jewish femininity–if it is radical to embody the stereotype of a Jewish American Princess: cannot cook, materialistic, not as polished as the goy girls but can laugh at herself, then Grace is radical.) I have not worked, marched, protested and stood up for gay rights so that people can call themselves liberal for watching the gay equivalent of Amos ‘n’ Andy.



The only way Will and Jack could possibly be more stereotypical gay men would be for one to be a drag queen and the other a leather daddy (or Catholic priest). As a gay man of about Will’s age, income and social position, I tell you from the heart that this character is as insulting as he is ignorant about the gay experience. Yes, the show brings the topic of homos into homes across America, but at a cost: It reduces the chance of any gay man to be taken seriously, reduces the chance that any random person I meet will think I behave like an adult or have adult relationships and responsibilities, and reduces any chance of reaching a state of equality in this country.


Watertown, Mass.

Jack is mindless, obsessed with Cher, sex and dance clubs. Will is uptight, superclean and obsessed with dance clubs. If these are not gay stereotypes, I don’t know what is. But the real problem is that the gay characters can’t be sexual. When I see Will in bed with a man, without a shirt, then I’ll agree the show is revolutionary. And sure, it depicted a Jewish wedding, but if being first equals quality, we’d all be clamoring to rent The Munsters–first to show a husband and wife in the same bed.


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