New Paltz, NY

“The World’s Other Superpower” by Jonathan Schell [April 14] came as a welcome boost to our spirits at this moment of dismay and disbelief at what the American war machine has unleashed on Iraq. I wish I could share Schell’s optimism about “people power,” but history, unfortunately, does not. Growing up in Germany during the heady years of the Weimar Republic, I witnessed its liberal, progressive, even left-radical majority collapse almost overnight when confronted by armed Nazi goon squads. Faced by the power of brute force, singing, banner-waving, slogan-shouting protesters are no match, even with the Internet. Finally, we grow weary and go home. Is there then no way to confront and possibly defeat the monster? Yes, history is full of precedents, but none are pretty or peaceful.


Kennesaw, Ga.

I oppose Operation Iraqi Fiefdom waged by the Coalition of the Killing, and I understand that defeat of George W. Bush in 2004 is urgent. Such defeat is the only route I see to an America in which I can again take pride. Had Bush run on a platform of alienating US allies, involving us in a series of wars, destroying the environment and further enriching the richest citizens while leaving poor children behind, Al Gore would be our President today. Yet although Bush has implemented all these grim policies, his approval rating hovers around 60 percent, and pundits say he appears unassailable in 2004. What plan of action remains to people who think as I do? How does one influence the beliefs of an electorate whose only standard for a President appears to be likability?


San Francisco

“The World’s Other Superpower” has made me proud to be an American again–something our President has certainly never done. It made me realize on a fundamental level that this is just as much my country as it is for these war-crazed Washington bullies who got us into this horrible murderous nightmare. My father was a World War II veteran. He always said, “Real patriots ask questions”–now I get it! And let us not forget Mark Twain, who said that patriots love their country always and love their government only when it’s deserved.


Ooltewah, Tenn.

Iraq will be needing a constitution. We could give them ours–it’s a great one, but we’re not using it anymore. Keep a copy; if we overthrow our own Republican Guard, we’ll need it again.



New York City

Tom Hayden’s “Seeking a New Globalism in Chiapas” [April 7] is excellent reporting on the pernicious consequences of US-sponsored neoliberalism in Mexico and the growing Latin American resistance to it. During two decades of neoliberal reforms, poverty and inequality in Latin America have increased, as have regional disparities. There has been almost no growth in per capita income since 1980, one of the worst performances in the region’s modern history. Forty-four percent of Latin America’s 500 million people now live in poverty and nearly 20 percent in extreme poverty.

Moreover, the centerpiece of US neoliberal economic policy, the effort to extend NAFTA to the rest of Latin America in a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), is skeptically viewed as self-serving. While Washington lectures Latin America on the moral and economic virtues of free trade, the Bush Administration has readily jettisoned its principles to protect its constituencies. In addition to imposing new tariffs on imported steel, the 2002 US farm bill approved an 80 percent increase in agricultural subsidies last year, promising over $180 billion to US farmers in the next ten years. US corn now sells in Mexico for 25 percent below cost. In consequence, some 700,000 campesinos and food-processing workers are predicted to be out of work next year. This situation only accelerates immigration to the United States and inflames grassroots anti-neoliberal protest and revolt in these hard-hit rural areas.

Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Ottawa, Canada

Re Tom Hayden on Chiapas: In the introduction to the 2002 edition of her classic Silent Surrender, Canadian economist Kari Levitt writes: “An international trade specialist once observed that NAFTA is unique because none of the three countries who are party to it believe they have gained. All claim to have lost employment to one or both of the other partners. How can this be when there has been overall economic growth in all three countries? The explanation is that what appears to be an agreement about mutually beneficial trade is in reality an instrument for the redistribution of income from labour to capital–in all three countries.”



Madison, Wisc.

Richard Goldstein’s March 24 “Neo-Macho Man: Pop Culture and Post-9/11 Politics” was one of the best articles I’ve read in The Nation. George Bush as Eminem in political drag–now that’s a chilling prospect!


Middletown, Calif.

Richard Goldstein’s excellent essay is right on in all respects but two: It misjudges the motives of both Eminem and the women who like him (me). Yes, Eminem is macho, misogynistic, sadistic and profane. He is, as he tells us over and over, the product of his fatherless underclass culture–and therein lies the message. He looks at his life through the comic-book medium of his art, spewing out every profanity and depravity to which his culture gives rise (which Goldstein quotes and uses against him), followed by the agonized scream, “Don’t you want to grow up to be just like me?” Now, that’s a conscious and aware wake-up call–even the kids get that the answer is “no.”

If Eminem is an “aggrieved man reacting with righteous rage,” he should be. And if he scares the rest of us into realizing we have a big problem here, all the better.

Goldstein seems to suggest that women who like Eminem take “guilty pleasure” in being bitch-slapped. That’s wack. Eminem is my canary in Ashcroft’s PC mineshaft, and I’m singing right alongside him, “F**k you, with the freest of speech these Divided States of Embarrassment will allow me to have!” as I fantasize bitch-slapping Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. Ah, righteous rage and guilty pleasure–the perfect antidote to neo-macho, post-9/11 politics.


Los Angeles

It seems attitude is now an acceptable compensation for intellect. It is becoming increasingly clear that America is the loud, drunk fratboy at the party that people hang around more out of fear than respect. Being macho has always been linked with being cool. As the American culture of cool seeps into the political arena and as Gen-Xers like myself grow old, the prospect of real intellect and compassion taking over seem more and more grim. The best we can hope for is a Democratic candidate to shave his head, grow a goatee and show some real corporate butt-kicking, social changin’ attitude. Till then we’re stuck with DJ Dubya and MC Rummy.


Penngrove, Calif.

Regarding the 9/11 firefighters, Goldstein says, “Not that the good guys have disappeared. The firefighters who gave their lives in the Twin Towers are heroes of 9/11, as they should be.” In all the post-9/11 coverage, did anyone notice the absence of women heroes? A firefighter from Sonoma County, California, did. She and others have gathered the stories of these courageous women in a book called Women at Ground Zero. That blatant omission is no accident–it’s just another example of Goldstein’s neo-macho ideology at work.


San Rafael, Calif.

The clarity of Richard Goldstein’s argument made me remember two seemingly unrelated incidents: the 1988 presidential debates and comedian Bill Maher’s talk/entertainment show. First, the debate. Bernard Shaw of CNN waylaid Michael Dukakis with his capital punishment question, “What would you do if your wife, Kitty, was raped?” It put him on the hot seat, asking in essence, how should a man of action–a potential leader–handle violent situations? protect himself? protect us? Dukakis answered like a robot and was judged right then to have lost the debate.

On a Bill Maher show, the Iraq war was “debated” by comedians. The tone was all about machismo, with Dennis Miller goading his debate partners with name-calling, offensive language and posturing (i.e., why pay attention to Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize or his opposition to the war, when he’d run a “turd presidency”?).

The stakes have risen to the level of life and death but are submerged by an attack on liberal male leaders as emasculated failures. Unless we want to hand this country over to the attack dawgs, we must anticipate this barrage and formulate a vocabulary and an attitude that fights back. For ideas, look to the lesbian-feminist revolt of the 1970s; look to Queer Nation and ACT UP in the 1980s. The sissies had a comprehensive strategy, an alternative viewpoint, some pretty sharp teeth and an impressive record of self-defense.


Orinda, Calif.

Richard Goldstein is quite right that critics and artists must lead the way toward a new political vocabulary. But just dissenting won’t get us there, and it won’t do progressive values justice either. We ought to take back the language of core American values, enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, and carried along in the stream of American culture right up to the magnificent speeches by Senator Robert Byrd. For some quick ideas about what language to use, take a look at–and the sooner the better.



Greensboro, NC

Wow. Like many people around the world, I’ve been feeling queasy for months, and Wallace Shawn finally diagnosed what’s been ailing me [“Fragments From a Diary,” March 31]. The truth that the faces of the Administration have been glowing since shortly after 9/11 may be an obvious one, but one that is so sick-making that I had not seen it, and instead just felt sick about… something. Thank you, Mr. Shawn.



Spring Mills, Pa.

Bob Blau’s April 14 letter about pernicious names like “freedom fries” was right on the mark. I remember my grandparents talking about “liberty cabbage” (sauerkraut) and “Salisbury steak” (hamburg steak) when I was growing up. Blau did not go far enough with his proposal for the Statue of Liberty, however. My modest proposal is that we simply scrap the whole thing, break it down and ship it back COD to “old Europe,” a perfect resting place for the symbol of “old America.” We should replace it with the true symbol of the “new America,” an upraised clenched fist with an extended middle finger.