Letters

Readers respond to "A Call to Conscience," by former U.S. diplomat Roger Morris. Plus: Does the demise of the Soviet Union foretell the fate of Cuba after Fidel?

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[Read "A Call to Conscience," by Roger Morris.]

In Salon’s readership are, at most, a small handful of U.S. diplomats. “A Call to Conscience,” then, can best be read as yet another hope that “somebody else” can be called upon to change their behavior or disrupt their lifestyle in order to assuage the Salon reader’s conscience over what is happening in Iraq and Gitmo.

How about this, Salon reader: Change your own behavior and lifestyle!

When Henry David Thoreau was called to Framingham, Mass., to denounce slavery in the American South, he turned down the invitation to denounce those evildoers far away and instead turned on the self-satisfied audience, delivering the speech “Slavery in Massachusetts.”

Elsewhere, Thoreau ridiculed those who said proudly, “I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico; – see if I would go.” He knew that these same people did not need to be drafted into battle because they “directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute.”

So how about a “Call to Conscience” to a larger set of Salon’s readers: the taxpayers. Now you’ve seen the pictures and you know what your taxes are paying for. It’s time you learn how to stop.

– David Gross

Since Bush’s election, I have rarely felt hopeful about my country. That the administration has trampled on the “universal principles” Roger Morris describes weighs on the chests of many people, whatever their politics. In contrast, Morris’ piece is a deep breath of fresh air.

The values of diplomacy and erudition that are widely respected by public officials of every stripe are not only ignored by the Bush administration, but flouted as nothing more than bothersome constraints. The contempt Bush and others in his administration show these principles weakens America, and makes a mockery of our professional public service, a requirement of modern Western-style democracy.

Reading Morris’ article, I felt like puffing my chest out, clicking my heels together, and saluting his America. I can deconstruct America as well as the next college graduate, but Morris’ call to conscience is something to be proud of.

– Ingrid Carlson

Why should Foreign Service families, who have already dealt with terrorism, deprivation and many other problems because of the often difficult life that comes with serving overseas in this modern world, have to give up their incomes and their pensions because of the folly of G.W. Bush?

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There will soon be an election, and the thousands of Foreign Service officers can and do pray that the American public will make a better choice this time. It will certainly make things safer for the ones serving in Muslim countries right now.

– The writer, the wife of a U.S. diplomat serving abroad, requested that her name be withheld

[Read "Whose Country Is It, Anyway," by Miriam Leiva.]

Miriam Leiva speaks eloquently about the dissonance between exiled and domestic activists, something I’ve experienced as a result of my Ukrainian heritage.

I was born in Canada, brought up in the virulently anti-communist, anti-Russian, Ukrainian diaspora. We protested, we marched, we held vigils, much as the Cuban diaspora in Miami does today.

Then a funny thing happened.

The Soviet Union suddenly melted away one December morning, like a magical spring day. The Ukrainian diaspora’s politicos soon put away their protest signs and bought offices in Kyiv and started meddling in Ukrainian life.

However, they were quickly, and rudely, disabused of their fantasies about Ukraine. It had changed immeasurably in 50 years of Soviet communism and the population on the ground wanted nothing to do with the annoying, meddling and selfish diasporians.

And of course the disillusionment was mutual. We in the diaspora couldn’t understand why we weren’t being warmly welcomed, since from our perspective we had sacrificed endless toil to preserve the idea of Ukraine in the face of Soviet political and Russian cultural oppression. But it turned out Ukraine wasn’t the same country our parents left behind when they were young.

Those of us who grew up in the West learned a Ukrainian language frozen in time from the 1940s, heavily influenced by the majority language in the countries we grew up in. They didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand them — you’d be surprised how quickly something as basic as language evolves!

In the end, the problem was, “We stayed, you didn’t.” In her essay on Cuba, Ms. Leiva echoes the displeasure of many modern Ukrainians with the Ukrainian diaspora.

I expect those of the Miami-based Cuban diaspora are in for a rude awakening the day after Castro goes. The Cuba they left behind wasn’t preserved in amber after all.

– Taras Ciuriak

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