Letters to the Editor

(March 9, 2009)


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President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500, USA

Dear President Obama,

War, from its origins, is the murders of the sons by the fathers; as in: so few fathers murdering so many sons. ("Son, go over to that village and kill that man's son. Otherwise, don't come back alive.")

Yours Respectfully,

Leland Mellott
Mount Vernon, Washington, USA - February 15, 2009

NOTE: This Open Letter has now been sent to newspapers in Romania, Scotland, France, Poland, Netherlands, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Spain, Austria, Chechnya, Ukraine, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Italy, United States, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan, Kashmir, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Samoa, Bangladesh, Argentina, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Seychelles, Somalia, Laos, South Korea, North Korea, Luxembourg, Hungary, Singapore, Marshall Islands, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Haiti, Madagascar, Ghana, Ethiopia, Liberia, Western Sahara, Nigeria, Albania, Finland, and Australia.

It has also been brought to the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama.


Keeping the Record Straight: Raju Peddada's "The Deconstruction Of That Sunday Morning On Madison."

To the Editor:

Thanks to you for publishing and Raju Peddada for creating "The Deconstruction Of That Sunday Morning On Madison." I think it only fair to literary fans, sleuths, and future students of mid-twentieth century literature and photography that Swans lets me point out that although I much admire Peddada's brilliant expatiation on my picture it ought to be noted that Peddada's flight was one of fancy, not fact, and the author with whom I was working was Nelson Algren. The picture, part of a Life magazine project on Algren, first appeared in my book, Nelson Algren's Chicago, published by the University of Illinois Press in 1988.

Art Shay
Chicago, Illinois, USA - February 23, 2009


Survivalism Lite: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #81

To the Editor:

Sir, I read your recent "Blips" with great interest. You seemed to be painting an accurate picture of the global crisis as best as we can see it in the present, using commentary from a number of sources. But then when you approached the subject of the US brand of doomsters, you disparaged them for lending "a hand to the repressive times ahead" and implying that like Dmitry Orlov, they are "utterly socially irresponsible."

It was not clear to me from your essay why you feel this way. The extremes of American-style "survivalist" culture (bunkers and guns) can be viewed as socially irresponsible. But the larger views of the writers you named warn of financial, social, economic, and infrastructure failures that would seem to be reasonable outcomes from the troubles we see unfolding and growing today. Much of what these writers counsel is "survivalist lite" advice such as grow some of your own food, think about alternate ways to make a living, take a hard look at how you have set up your high consumer lifestyle and plan to make changes, etc. Seems prudent to me rather than "utterly socially irresponsible."

If you have written about this in more detail elsewhere, could you direct me to those essays? If not, I would like to hear more about your view of those "doomsters."


Dan Dorman
Renton, Washington, USA - February 23, 2009


Wondering About Getting Lost: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #81

Aloha Gilles!

No, we do not need doom and gloom, but is Dmitry Orlov's article really that far fetched? We (you and I) share at least a semblance of habitation -- both in "the boonies." Might that not be a good place to be (we can grow LOTS of food here in HI!)?

I feel like I may have gotten "lost" when reading these latest Blips... His article kind of shook me a bit, though I have always pooh-poohed the millennialist types and so on. My wife, who certainly believes in conspiracies and such, sees a similar scenario... Can anyone count on $$$ (e.g., in retirement and so on, like this teacher with a TSA that I want to take out, pay penalty, and invest similar to Orlov's suggestion)?

Maybe I missed something...
Keep up the efforts, Brother,

Malama Pono,

Michael Pacheco
Hawaii, USA - February 23, 2009


Using one's Brain and a few Resources: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #80

To the Editor:

The Blips #80 advise a reader to think twice about imposing boycotts, divestment, or sanctions on Israel. The author is right. Our priority should be to understand what happened in Gaza before it's conveniently buried in yesterday's news cycle. Today's report by Amnesty International ought to be fixed in our memories. Another help against forgetting is Caryl Churchill's very short play Seven Jewish Children - A Play for Gaza. One critic calls it a "ten minute history of Israel." It was presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, from February 6 to 21. There was no charge for admission, but a collection was taken up for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP): Emergency Appeal for the People of Gaza. The script is available to download for free from the Web sites of the Royal Court (www.royalcourttheatre.com), Caryl Churchill's publisher, Nick Hern Books (www.nickhernbooks.co.uk), and her agents Casarotto Ramsay Ltd (www.casarotto.co.uk/page/sjc). There is no charge for performance rights, on condition that a collection be made for MAP.

On February 17, Patrick Healy mischaracterized the play in the New York Times. ("Workshop May Present Play Critical of Israel.") The script depicts bad consciences striving to rationalize their moral dilemma. Healy couldn't spare ten minutes to read the play and so quoted from only one side of the dialectic: "They did it to themselves" and "I wouldn't care if we wiped them out." This made the play appear crudely partisan, which it isn't. In any case it's hard to believe that the New York Theater Workshop will ever produce Seven Jewish Children. It chickened out of plans to import My Name Is Rachel Corrie in 2006. The artistic director claimed that the subject matter -- Corrie was a peace activist killed by a bulldozer -- posed too great a "marketing and contextualizing challenge."

February 18, in its "The Lede," The New York Times gave a more accurate description of the play. It also reported the knee-jerk charge of anti-Semitism by the Zionist Federation of Great Britain. Christopher Hart in Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times was quoted as saying the play lacked "even-handedness." He didn't say what was even about a conflict in which one side lost 14 lives and the other 1,330.

At the end of his life Samuel Beckett composed minuscule dramas of great power. The late Harold Pinter wrote several playlets that managed to throw light on public events unfolding in the world around him. Caryl Churchill, according to Michael Billington of The Guardian, "confirms theatre's ability to react more rapidly than any other art form to global politics." Indeed, in the space of a TV news flash, she pummels our hearts and confronts our minds with a terrible journey. The highway that looked so fair is now a roadblock piled with dead children. Ms. Churchill deserves thanks for not shirking brutal contradictions.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - February 23, 2009


Invasion of the Daleks

To the Editor:

Day by day it becomes clearer and clearer that the Republican Party is made up of callous, hard-hearted, and insensitive ghouls who are collectively smarting from their recent defeat at the polls and would rather destabilize the nation than help ameliorate its problems. This is "sour grapes" of the most contemptible kind and it casts a black shame over every politician who, because of partisan bitterness, would rather watch their country fail than see it rescued by their political enemies.

The typical Republican politician, with minuscule exceptions, is a robotic creature that knows only two maxims: cut taxes and eliminate government spending -- except when earmarks can enrich their own constituency. From their cushy perch on the sidelines of America's financial disaster, their greatest effort goes into obstructionism and their greatest terror is creeping socialism. The government, they screech, has no business intruding into the internal affairs of the populace, which is a little like saying no one is entitled to throw a life raft to a drowning man. It is a position of such naked callousness that one would expect there would be some shame in it being expressed, but the myopic conservatives, who have grown accustomed to bonuses and dividends, refuse to acknowledge the degree of pain the nation is, at the moment, stoically enduring. They have been too long away from the fray that envelops their fellow citizens, too cushioned by graft and corruption, wealth and indifference to human suffering, to recognize the cry of wounded Americans struggling to keep their heads above water and a roof over their heads.

These are not merely right-wing positions that differ from the beliefs of their political adversaries, but expressions of coldhearted disdain and lack of empathy that suggest habitation in a world radically different from the one inhabited by most people in America today. It is not just their political stonewalling that is so contemptible, it is the fact that they are untouched by the misery that engulfs a vast majority of people of every stripe who are fighting for survival today. It is a deficit of humanitarianism, a blindness to fellow-feeling that makes one wonder if they truly spring from our own ancestors or have become a horde of Daleks, creatures from an alien planet, threatening the survival of our world. (As I write, a gang of them is preparing to torpedo the president's announced universal health plan from ever being passed. Where profits are threatened, the Republicans and their avaricious cohorts immediately set up their barricades.)

One of the cardinal sins is indifference to the suffering of our fellow human beings. When we trumpet our liberalism and our sense of being kindred to one another, we demonstrate the empathy on which all morality is founded -- the ability to imagine the troubled condition of others. When we lose that, we can no longer claim to be civilized. It is then that we revert to being savages.

The Republican Party as it now disports itself has lost any claim to civility. When it can blithely ignore the misery of millions of Americans who have lost both their jobs and their ability to maintain themselves and their families, we have, as a nation, sunk so low, it may not deserve rescue. There are hard-hearts and unfeeling people everywhere in the USA, not only among Republicans, but when we are dealing with one of the two ruling parties in our nation -- half of the body politic -- the crimes of the heart loom larger, and the contempt they arouse, even more infuriating.

I write not as a Democrat impugning the moral shortcomings of the adversarial party, for I am well aware that Daleks are not restricted to only one party. They can be found everywhere. But at present, the Republican Party is monstrously visible as we try to haul ourselves out of the quicksand. In the well of Congress, they use their cell phones to "twitter" their way out of confronting the country's ills and are deaf to the words of an elected leader struggling to overcome the economic malaise. But when the tsunami hits, all those "twitterings" will disappear and we will find ourselves all crowded into the same lifeboat. Partisanship will finally be abolished -- along with everything else.

Charles Marowitz
Santa Monica, California, USA - February 27, 2009


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Published March 9, 2009
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