Letters to the Editor

Unacceptable emotional violence; black men are not "beasts"; reading Japan wrong.

Published April 28, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The rumor that won't go away



While no one can justify and certainly cannot condone the actions of
the boys in
Colorado this week, there are certainly mitigating circumstances
which deserve our
undivided and deep attention. As the mother of a young man who was
"different" all the way through middle and high school, I am outraged
at the knee-jerk
reactions of the media and professional pundits calling for less
freedom, more "tracking" of people who exhibit "antisocial" behaviors. The problem does not
lie with individual
students who don't follow the herd either socially or
philosophically. It lies with the
level of disrespect for and lack of civility to anyone who is
different from "us" that is so
pervasive in our society. The level of emotional violence and
physical harassment
directed at so-called outsiders in "idyllic" small-town America is
comparable to the
gang-related physical threat we so deplore in our inner cities.

Churches, politicians, media celebrities and parents
who teach and propound, either directly or indirectly, intolerance
of anyone or any group
who does not fit your particular vision of "the way it ought to be";
teachers and school
administrators who turn a blind eye to (and students who feel somehow
justified in) the
literal, unrelenting torture of classmates who do not meet your
religious or social
standards must accept a part of the blame and the shame for these
tragic occurrences. We
all know who we are.

-- Victoria Glynn

Sumner, Wash.

I find it ironic in the extreme that the friends of Eric Harris and Dylan
Klebold hotly deny rumors that the two young killers might have been gay,
that the rumor "defames" them.

These two young men cold-bloodedly murdered 13 people. It seems to me
that calling them gay defames gay people, not themselves.

But that's high school -- being gay is considered worse than murdering
your classmates and teachers.

-- Ali Rasley

I'm disturbed by Salon's continued "reporting" that the pair of Littleton
murderers were gay, when there is no evidence whatsoever -- none -- that they were. This "reporting"
all stems from the taunts that the two regularly received.

Perhaps no one at Salon ever went to high school, but nowadays, as has been
the case for decades, hurling an anti-gay epithet at someone is simply the
worst insult you can use. These boys were merely being insulted and goaded
by their tormentors, not outed.

-- Eric Westby

After almost a week of nonstop coverage that quite frankly has begun to
fray my nerves, Dave Cullen's terrific article made me remember how cruel
the food chain can be in high school. Whether or not the two murderers were
gay, goths, racists or just different is almost a moot issue. They were
teenagers, for God's sake, obviously ridiculed and ostracized to the point
where, tragically, they retaliated with violence. I guess some of our most
prominent newspeople will never understand why something like this could
happen because they never grasped the viral-like rage that can inhabit a
person who is classified a freak in their youth. What happened was
unforgivable and inexcusable, but so are the epithets that some teenagers
have to endure. As adults, can we really just sit back and pretend that
this kind of tragedy is such a mystery? Let the blame game continue, but
unless everyone's willing to accept responsibility for what happened
(because we are all capable of violence, whether we want to admit it or not),
nothing will change.

-- S. Baber

Austin, Texas

The continuing saga of the beast with two soles


The title chosen for Douglas Cruickshank's article on (among other things)
Darryl Strawberry is quite disturbing. Why is it that black males who are
found to have committed indiscretions are so often referred to as "beasts?"
While it is unfortunate that Strawberry seems unable to restrain his wayward
appetites, he has harmed no one but himself by his habits -- unlike, say,
alleged wife-beater Tommy Lee or child-molester Roman Polanski, neither of
whom I have ever seen any mainstream publications refer to as "beasts."
Could it be that you see all black men as "beasts," liable to revert to their
naturally wild states?

-- Abiola Lapite


The phrase "beast with two soles," as used in the title of the April 22
"Rogues' Gallery" column, is not a reference to Daryl Strawberry, who is
a fine and talented fellow, his "wayward appetites" and the problems
they're causing him notwithstanding. In fact, the title of the column is
a joking allusion to Chuck Jones' amorous activities with Marla Maples'
shoes -- hence "soles," not "souls." The "continuing saga" is the trial,
which as of today (April 28) is still in progress.

Caveat poster


While I respect the Internet community's desire to distribute
information without fear of reprisal, I have some doubts as to how
effective anonymity is when a poster is trying to blow the whistle on
illegal or unethical practices. If a poster is truly motivated by a desire to correct an ethical or
legal wrong, wouldn't a court of law or a regulatory agency be a more
suitable vehicle for their grievances?

It seems strange that the Internet community demands due process in
protecting their anonymity, yet uses anonymity to deprive others of
the right to face their accuser. Simply because there's a risk of being
litigated by some big, bad corporation doesn't exempt someone from being
held responsible for what they say.

In cases where nothing illegal or unethical happened, and the poster is
just talking shop, one must question the wisdom of blabbing secrets over
a global public forum such as the Internet. The competition reads posts,

-- Ken Parmalee

Expatriates on Japan

I can't help but respond to the absurdity of T.R. Reid's statement that
his intent was to comment on the Asian "social miracle." Of course
it's true that East Asian countries have much lower crime rates,
divorce rates, and numbers of single mothers. Is this attributable
to some sort of superiority in the Asian way of life? Not at all --
the reason that countries such as Japan have these statistics is the
homogeneity of their cultures. I was born and grew up in Sweden, and
during my youth, statistics in the above categories were certainly
comparable to Japan, or any other East Asian nation. But what
happened? An influx of other cultures, particularly Turkish and
Mediterranean, created new social spheres that threw the existing
cultural balance out of whack. Of course a nation will have a high
degree of morality when it's composed of one uniform group -- picture
an America solely populated by devotees of the Christian Coalition.
I am not trying to assail or deprecate the Asian way of life -- which
has its own beauty and harmony and distinction - but merely to point
out that if Japan, for instance, were subject to the same shifting
social dynamics of the United States (i.e., its high influx of
immigrants), its laudable numbers would
suffer noticeably.

Personally, I believe that, barring some sort of
worldwide disaster, the global trend of unification and
diversification is inevitable; and America, having long struggled
through the difficulties of integrating radically opposed cultural
norms, will again be a step ahead of those countries encountering
these troubles for the first time.

-- James Park

Having worked in Japan for nearly two years, I believe that what makes it
into print about that strange country is only now -- after the end of
the bubble economy that dazzled everyone -- beginning to reflect
reality. While many of today's economic and political analyses are
perhaps too negative and pessimistic, they are a necessary corrective
to the romanticized veneer of naive observers and the awe we felt at
its 40-year economic miracle. Japanese society is essentially feudal,
brutally authoritarian and xenophobic. A large part of Japan's
current problems cannot be solved because the old elites --
politicians, bureaucrats and business -- want to keep the system
running in their favor. It is an old and uninteresting story of
stagnation and decline.

I suppose it was inevitable that T.R. Reid would write a book on Japan.
I didn't read it, but his little
observations on NPR were superficial, misleading and silly.
Listening to his frivolous tales, I often wondered if we had lived in
the same country. Most Japan hands I knew despised the things he
said. It was as if he remained stuck in the early infatuation that
many of us felt there before we got to know the place. Reid's problem
was a common one: He never understood the difference between tatemae
-- the superficial cultural facade of "harmony" that the Japanese
routinely paint on their society -- and honne, the dirtier truth you
get while drinking in bars with friends and colleagues. That a
respected journalist never seemed to probe the depths of the country
he was paid to explore is beyond belief and mediocrity. Readers will,
I believe, get only a syrupy, semi-official version of Japan from his

As George wrote, many foreigners are really down on Japan - they
feel alienated, they find its society sterile and cruel, they complain
that appearances are far more important than reality. The one truth I
learned there is that Japan is as ugly as it comes to appear to most
long-term residents. For every tatemae claim -- such as that divorce rates are low in Japan -- there is an uglier,
truer explanation underneath: Women don't leave bad marriages because
they would lose their place in an unforgiving society. But that's not
very fun to read (or write) about.

-- Robert Crawford

Recloses, France

Dying to ride

Please allow me to correct you on a few things in your article:

You write: "Ever since 1967, when an amphetamine-pumped Tom Simpson
collapsed and died at the Tour de France, the sport
has been doping itself to the gills."

Wrong. Doping was around long before Simpson. You only have to go back one
year to 1966 when Jacques Anquetil led a strike during the Tour de France.
Anquetil was openly for doping and vigorously fought against doping

You write: "In 1991 the entire Dutch PDM team withdrew from the Tour de
France, ostensibly suffering the effects of over-doped blood."

Wrong. This has never been proven and the UCI cleared the PDM organization.

You write: "Cycling's drug infestation was long assumed to have stopped
with the non-champions."

Huh? Read the above about Anquetil. Or read up on Roger Riviere, two-time
world hour record holder. Or any number of cyclists in the '60s, '50s and

Your research into the history of the problem
stops with Simpson. You forget that by his time, cycling had been a major,
organized sport for over 50 years.

-- Chris Lowe

Is cycling the only pro sport rife with cheating or substance abuse problems? How about Major League Baseball, where the home run king admits to
using a substance banned by virtually every other sport's governing body?

You don't mention that the international cycling union had implemented blood
tests to regulate the hematocrit levels of professional cyclists (prior to
the '98 Tour de France fiasco) as a health risk, since actual EPO use is
currently undetectable. You don't mention that the level allowed is lower than
what's allowed by the cross-country ski federation. You don't mention that at
the time of Tom Simpson's death in 1967, random urine testing was already
being conducted in most major events.

Does pro cycling have a drug problem? Certainly, as do many pro sports.
The cycling community, riders, officials, sponsors and fans have a duty to
do everything they can to attempt to eliminate all forms of cheating in
races. Your article, for some reason, just makes it seem like nobody cares
and nothing is being done.

-- Larry Theobald

Sioux City, Iowa

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Paul Shirley