Re Mychal Denzel Smith’s “The New Fight for Racial Justice” [Sept. 15]: It appears that the outcome of the civil rights movement has been to replace “Blacks not welcome” with “This is not about race.”
When Cops Kill
I have lived in St. Louis all my life. What happened to Michael Brown is sad, and it’s even sadder that this is not unusual [“The Struggle Renewed,” Sept. 15]. Years ago, two unarmed young men were killed here by police officers in a fast-food parking lot. One is said to have jumped on the hood of the car and shot the driver fourteen times. No one was prosecuted.
Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who is in charge of the Brown investigation, will do all he can for the cop. His father was a cop, and the police back him in every election. When St. Louis County violates the law, making the ACLU go to court to get reports that should have been released promptly, it shows how far it will go for cops. As long as the police believe they will be protected from prosecution, they will violate the rights of citizens. It is time for the county to get off the corruption train.
Why is no one talking about the fundamental problem exposed at Ferguson? The police policy all across this country is shoot to kill. Force should be used to injure and stop an unarmed suspect, and deadly force used only when the suspect is firing a weapon or threatening to do so. Sure, this is slightly more dangerous, but that’s why police wear bulletproof vests. If we believe life is sacred, let’s practice it.
The Teachout Moment
In your endorsement “Teachout for Governor” [Sept. 15], you use the phrase “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” but don’t identify its source. Perhaps you count on your readers to know that the words are those of Paul Wellstone, who is still sorely missed here in Minnesota and beyond.
Those are indeed the words of progressive Senator Paul Wellstone, although he rendered them with “Democratic” capitalized in both instances. As it happens, the quote appears, attributed to Wellstone, in John Nichols’s “Populist Dems Rising” [Sept. 29].—The Editors
Idiocy, Emptiness, Hopelessness
Art that celebrates excess, as the work of Jeff Koons does, according to Barry Schwabsky in his review of the artist’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art [“Hope Against Hope,” Sept. 15], is bound to raise the ire of those of us opposed to, in Schwabsky’s words, the “blissful idiocy” that such work promotes. Schwabsky is right when he points out that such excess for its own sake (or for the sake of a market) results here in “art as an endless distraction from its own emptiness,” a pithy statement that gets right to the heart of the matter.
To dispel the hopelessness that such art engenders, we will have to liberate ourselves from the emptiness of excess in all its forms by returning to some of those “invidious standards of cultural distinction” that Koons and others disavow. Of course, all bets are off if nausea is the hidden aim of Koons’s work—a sickening overdose of “gilded cake.”
New Left Revitalized
As a progressive, I was encouraged by Gara LaMarche’s “The New Left Revitalization” [Sept. 1/8], about increased collaboration among liberal donors and activists. As a retired educator, however, I was disappointed by the absence of any mention of coordinated progressive efforts to counteract right-wing corporatist attacks on public education. I’m guessing there was no collaborative liberal activity on behalf of teachers, teachers unions and public schools to report.
The truth is, too many progressives have bought into the Republican lie that our public schools are failing, that teachers are to blame, that teachers unions exist only to protect underperforming educators, and that eliminating due process for teachers and privatizing education will fix everything.
This strange acceptance of the right-wing narrative seems even more bizarre in light of the Democratic Party’s rhetorical focus on restoring the middle class and standing up for women. Teachers have always been underpaid and underappreciated in our culture, in part because of the perception that education is “women’s work.” And 76 percent of US teachers are female. How can a party that claims to fight for women and average Americans be so complicit in right-wing attacks on hardworking public servants and their efforts to unionize to elevate their profession and to improve the education of our children? And how can the press sit by while an institution fundamental to our democracy is threatened?
William Edward Smith
“The New Left Revitalization” is very encouraging. There has been a parallel development in the Jewish progressive world with the creation several years ago of the Jewish Social Justice Round Table (JSJRT), now made up of more than thirty organizations. Gara LaMarche cites the Rockwood leadership program as a key factor in developing new alliances; similarly, the Selah program—a Jewish adaptation of Rockwood—has enabled former rivals to work together.
LaMarche didn’t include broad-based organizing groups like PICO and IAF. PICO has broken out of old constraints to partner with other organizations to take on national issues; for example, it joined the JSJRT in a strategy to identify key congressional districts for pushing immigration reform. The coming together of grassroots groups with national organizations focused on issues or solidarity portends important changes in the progressive movement.
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Director, social justice organizing
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
As a dyslexic, it took me a while to figure out what was so disturbing about this illustration. The arrows are pointing to the right! Is the new left moving right for its revitalization?
merritt island, fla.
Our art and editorial departments debated into the night over the arrows’ direction, finally deciding that they must point “forward,” hence, ironically, their starboard tack. —The Editors