It is clear from his review of Olivier Todd’s book on André Malraux that Stefan Collini has no doubts as to what is the major catastrophe in recent British history: the completion of the Channel Tunnel [“Grand Illusion,” Feb. 28]. The review is immensely entertaining (I was carried back to High Table at an Oxbridge college at once). Still, a question will not go away. How did this French poseur manage to write Man’s Fate or The Imaginary Museum?
In the February 28 Nation, both Eric Alterman and Jonathan Schell mention the Iraqi woman who hugged the mom of the slain soldier at the State of the Union address. Both imply that there was something less than legitimate about this moment, but neither gave the identity of the Iraqi woman. Identified by Bush as Safia Taleb al-Suhail, the woman was a longtime Iraqi in exile and proponent of a US invasion of Iraq, did not live in Iraq at the time of the invasion and was appointed last year by the US-approved interim government as the Iraqi Ambassador to Egypt. I don’t doubt al-Suhail’s sincerity in that SOTU moment, but her background makes it clear that she is not some average Iraqi whose heart and mind was won over by the US invasion.
ANOTHER SOTU MOMENT
Eric Foner, in “‘Freedom’ Belongs to All” [Feb. 14], nailed Bush and his flacks when he said, “Bush is a master at appropriating for conservative ends language associated with his opponents.” As Foner states, Bush said “freedom” or a related term forty-nine times. He used “justice” or a related term only five times, deceptively at that.
Bush said, “In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without liberty.” That, too, is deceptive; neither in the long run nor the short run can freedom exist without justice. Bush qualifies justice again in “history has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by liberty and the author of liberty.” Bush must think that justice is but an afterthought in God’s plans.
In such statements Bush and the Republicans reveal not only their invincible ignorance but that what they mean by “liberty” is unaccountable, irresponsible, unjust license. Right now they seem to have persuaded much of the American public that justice is not very important. The Democrats should correct that impression.
SWASTIKAS & MAGNOLIAS
Patricia J. Williams’s comments on Prince Harry’s swastika-decorated partying [“Diary of a Mad Law Professor,” Feb. 28] appeared simultaneously with news stories here concerning the ad hoc resurgence of the same emblem on the uniforms of some of the cadets at Virginia Military Institute. VMI has always nurtured the culture of wounded Southern resentment with its memorialization of its cadets who marched off to the battle of New Market in the latter days of the Civil War. A scan of the social makeup of our troops in Iraq will reveal the overwhelming preponderance of young white guys from the South who’re continuing to volunteer for the business of empire. Both here and in Germany, racially fueled militarism is on the march, with “homeland security” contributing the jackbooted resonance of Heimatsversicherung. Most recently, the Pentagon’s online war game (www.americasarmy.com) presents the Anglo-Saxon crusader on a special mission to exterminate Third World enemies. Prince Harry, you’re not alone.
JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH
For once, I disagree with Katha Pollitt [“Subject to Debate,” Feb. 7]. There is one biblical story where abortion was likely on the mind of the mother-to-be. Recall that the Virgin Mary was scared out of her mind; she was poor, pregnant, and her husband knew he wasn’t the father. I imagine thoughts of using a garden herb, or maybe a sudden fall. It took the assurances of angels from on high to convince Mary that this pregnancy was a good thing. (Note that they said, “Fear not,” as opposed to “Don’t do it.”) So she was persuaded to let this one go full term, helped by a supportive spouse (after he, too, got messages from on high), by kings with expensive gifts and by certain knowledge that this baby would be free of birth defects and that she as mother would be highly respected. If all women could be so reassured, there would be no need for abortions.
OVER THE RAINBOW
I was delighted to see “Visualizing a Neo-Rainbow” by Danny Glover and Bill Fletcher Jr. [Feb. 14]. We who worked and voted for Jesse Jackson here in Iowa still refer to ourselves as Jackson Democrats, and we still measure each campaign by the Jackson campaign. He gave us hope. I wish everyone could have experienced the hope-filled faces, as I did, all across the state. For most of us it was life-changing. We knew we were in the presence of a great man. We also saw what new politics could be.
Johnson County Co-Chair, Jackson ’88
Danny Glover and Bill Fletcher are right on. Here in Oregon, a coalition of various progressive organizations, working within and outside the Democratic Party, were important ingredients in the victories in November here for Kerry, in four of five Congressional races, getting control of the State Senate and in winning all four statewide office races. We in Oregon are continuing with such coordination for the future.
DEMS TO THE PASSING LANE
David Sirota is on target when he argues that the Democratic Party should return to its populist roots and ignore the siren song of those calling for a weak-kneed “centrism” [“Debunking ‘Centrism,’” January 3]. Sirota offers extensive polling data showing that Americans oppose business as usual. Here’s more: According to a BusinessWeek poll, 77 percent of citizens believe that “business has gained too much power over too many aspects of American lives.” In another study, only 11 percent of respondents viewed corporations as “making the world a better place.” And as for the so-called “free trade” policies touted by the DLC, support is on the decline even among more affluent Americans, as offshoring and outsourcing reach from blue-collar homes into white-collar ones.
The DLC’s recommendation not to employ economic populism in the red states is especially shortsighted. Millions of farmers have been ruined by agribusiness giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, and many communities have responded with laws putting new restrictions on corporate farms. Anticorporate sentiment is alive and well in the heartland, and a corporate-accountability platform is precisely the kind of agenda that can unite urban and rural voters into a progressive majority.
As we show in our book Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power, for more than 200 years anticorporate sentiment has been the backbeat of American politics, and it remains so today. If the Democrats developed enough of a backbone to deliver a full-throated challenge to corporate America, they could build the kind of party to rock the house.
KEVIN DANAHER and JASON MARK
LIVE SIMPLY SO WE CAN SIMPLY LIVE
Mark Hertsgaard, in “A Challenge to Enviros” [Jan. 3] wrote about Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus’s challenge to environmentalists. It’s true. We do “need to rethink how [we] do [our] work.” We haven’t stopped George W. Bush’s environmental rollback, and most people don’t even know it’s happened. There are many reasons for this. Kerry refused to run as an environmental candidate, and Gore downplayed the environment in 2000. The authors are right. Single-issue politics and a focus on technical fixes are also to blame.
For the past decade the environmental movement has failed to embrace what the rest of the world calls sustainable development. Most Americans have no idea that the Bush Administration and other UN member states agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 to create a National Strategy for Sustainability and begin to implement it by 2005.
Well, 2005 is here and Bush has ignored this. The environmental community has its biggest opportunity in years. Sustainability is the bedrock on which all life depends. And in the United States we are living anything but sustainably. We’ve despoiled our streams, polluted our farmlands, cut our old-growth forests; we use mostly nonrenewable energy and are rapidly depleting our natural resources. It’s time to take sustainability seriously and begin to implement it. Fortunately, many states and municipalities have already established sustainability plans and programs; and the Citizens Network for Sustainable Development is at work on a National Leadership Campaign for Sustainability.
Once Americans realize how far we are from living sustainably and how much better our lives could be if we did, we’ll hold our government accountable for decisions that weaken our environment. Sustainable development is the antidote to single-issue politics and technical fixes. It depends on a holistic understanding and a systems-based approach to solving local and national problems.
WARTS & ALL
Re the exchange between Sarah Clark of Wal-Mart and Liza Featherstone [“Letters,” Feb. 28]: A bit of letter swapping changes “Wal-Mart” into “Mal(l)-Wart.”