Letters to the Editor

Was it the guns, or the racism, that caused last week's shooting? Plus: Mourning Times Square; Cintra's sour grapes; beautiful days with Mister Rogers.


Letters to the Editor
August 17, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)


Guns and money

BY JAKE TAPPER

(08/11/99)

CORRECTION: In a story about former George W. Bush fund-raiser Richard
Dyke, owner of Bushmaster Firearms, Salon News repeated a police reporting
error that a Bushmaster rifle was used in the shootings
at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. In fact, the Bushmaster
rifle was found in accused killer Buford Furrow's van, but was not
used in the shootings. Salon regrets the error.

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L.A. killer's "wake-up call to America to kill Jews"
BY VIVIENNE WALT
(08/11/99)

It seems to me that America's news outlets do not want to discuss the real danger posed by organizations like the
Christian Identity Church. There seems to be little discussion of the role that racist political ideology plays in
the lives of individuals such as Eric Rudolph or James Krupp, or
groups like the oddly accepted Reform Party. (Check out Jack Gargan's
views on immigration.)

As a visible minority (I'm black) and as an American, I am frightened
and worried by this lack of critical national discussion. Those of us who are easily identified as non-white,
or Jewish, or gay, know that racist ideology often turns into violence.
I guess until this violence is visited upon white America, all that
will be discussed is gun violence -- as if there were
nothing more than the possession of a weapon behind a man's desire to kill.

-- Stuart Perkins

America the armed
BY HAROLD MEYERSON
(08/11/99)

Harold Meyerson's article seems somewhat illogical. He points out
that nut cases never have any trouble getting guns, and then calls
repeatedly for stringent gun laws. Thus, he appears to be arguing
only for disarmament of the potential victims. The fact is, we live
in a society that worships violence. It's too bad we have this sort
of situation, but it starts from the top down: Our chief executive
bombs foreigners with cruise missiles every few weeks, to the applause
of supposed liberals -- when they're not busy calling for new gun laws.
Maybe some gun control at the top would help?

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-- Gordon Fitch

It isn't the anti-Semites, the anti-choice
Bible-thumpers, the neo-Nazis, the Manson-worshipping teenagers, the disgruntled postal workers
or the day traders. It isn't the violence on television
or the movies or song lyrics.

It's the guns, stupid. Let's get rid of the easy
availability of guns.

-- Evelyn Gray

Los Angeles

Harold Meyerson writes that "a certain freedom and ease" has departed from the lives
both of Jews and of schoolchildren in the wake of the school shootings
at Columbine. What freedom and ease is he talking about? Jewish life has always
been at least slightly tinged with angst, even in nations friendly to
Jews.

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As for the lives of schoolchildren, those scarcely bear speaking
of. Schools are not citadels of freedom and ease. They are stages upon
which a war of all against all transpires, occasionally breaking out into overt violence.
Let us not indulge ourselves with fantasies about the "freedom and ease" enjoyed by
adolescents. Such qualities are found from time to time (if rarely) in
synagogues, but in high schools they do not exist.

-- R. Warner

We do not want the government to have control of who has dangerous weapons
and we do not want crazy extremists to have access to weapons. What do we
do? Place the responsibility for gun ownership in the private sector.

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Make civil responsibility for crimes committed with guns the responsibility of the most
recent legal owner. Liability for improper use of guns is an insurable
risk. When a gun manufacturer sells a gun to a distributor the liability
falls on the distributor, who will have to have insurance to cover his
potential liability. This liability will continue down the chain of purchasers.
Insurance companies will tell you who you can sell a gun to, not the
government. No one with assets to protect will sell to a high-risk buyer,
or to a reseller who sells to high-risk customers. This liability must be
absolute. The last legitimate (and insurable) buyer of gun is responsible for
any damage done with that gun, no matter how the gun was acquired.

Years ago I read of a study in New York state where they determined that if
hunting licenses had been denied to anyone with poor credit they would have
prevented 90 percent of hunting accidents. Insurance companies will take a
potential gun buyer's entire profile into consideration on the costs of
coverage for a gun purchase. Crazies and losers will not be able to afford
the insurance. If the seller still sells the gun to the crazy he retains
liability.

We cannot register a car without insurance. We do not need to register guns
in order to require insurance. The last insurable owner should be
responsible for who he sells to.

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-- Alan Donaldson


You meet the nicest folks in porn theaters

BY CRAIG SELIGMAN
(08/10/99)

The current incarnation of Times Square is the purest symbol of gross consumerism run amok, and a sad commentary on how scared we are as a people to venture into new cultural territory. Why is this crummy section of town so crowded by tourists when all they see is chain stores on steroids and overhyped celebrity-owned cheeseburger palaces? You want New York City? Go to Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo. Hell, go anywhere where you don't already know the name of every restaurant on the block.

The "new" Times Square is the way Giuliani would like all of New York City to be: generic, safe, owned and controlled by the wealthy, and with no culture represented beyond that of middle-of-the-road suburban white America.

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-- Juliane Schneider

New York

God is dead. So is art ... Show us your tits!
BY CINTRA WILSON
(08/11/99)

This sounds like sour grapes from someone who moves
in "art" circles about the popular art that is displayed in one of your "old fuddy-duddy"
galleries. I've always found that art is in my eye, and I have never
needed some elitist snob to interpret beauty for me. I
have found art in the graceful reach of a suspension bridge
across a river gorge, and in photographs of women grabbing
their ankles and spreading themselves so wide that I could
do a gynecological exam without a speculum. I have also
found it in advertising -- for I do not make the judgment
that, simply because a thing is done for money, it is not art.

-- Mark Holdgrafer

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What a refreshing shock Cintra Wilson's writing is. In a journalistic era where the
line between kitschy pop-cult trivia and serious social significance has been all
but erased, Cintra reminds us that there was once a thing called "high art." And her
wit is sharp enough to shave the pom-pom fringe off a Hawaiian hula lamp.

-- John Hamilton

Pittsburgh

Lunatic fringe
BY SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
(08/13/99)

I agree that too many Jews use anti-Semitism as a unifying and
identity-forming crutch. I am guilty of it too. As a teen in Hebrew
school, I immersed myself in Holocaust history, tortured myself over the
grizzly details and made pilgrimages to the memorial museums in Los Angeles, Washington
and Jerusalem. But now I believe those displays only serve to scare the
crap out of people, instead of teaching about the wonderful, rich Jewish
culture that was nearly lost.

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Freedman is right -- one of the biggest threats to Jews is not a gun-toting
whacko, but intermarriage. And I am soon to be guilty of that too. The
greatest challenges for me and all Jews are to hold onto our roots,
rights and traditions, and to educate non-Jewish friends and family
about the positives aspects of our culture. No one likes a whiner.

-- Deborah Fellner

Redwood City, Calif.

Violent acts of anti-Semitism may indeed be rare. But Samuel Freedman
is wrong if he thinks anti-Jewish sentiments are rare as well. With a name that most people would
identify as Jewish, Freedman probably doesn't get to hear what people
say when they think there are no Jews around. As a Jew with a name that
doesn't sound Jewish, and "non-Jewish" looks, I do.
And it's scary.

I've heard people complain that they were "jewed down"
by a ruthless businessman. I've heard people assert that negative
traits ranging from greed to obesity are linked primarily to being
Jewish. I've heard presumably intelligent, rational people talk
about the "Jewish Mafia" that secretly controls all institutions of
power. And believe it or not, I've even heard that old calumny about
Jews using the blood of Christian babies to make matzo.

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Maybe American Jews are not likely to be the targets of
anti-Semitic shootings or arson. But my experience as a Jewish fly on
the wall tells me that concerns about pervasive anti-Jewish sentiments
are not exaggerated or unwarranted.

-- Michelle Heyer

Brilliant Careers: Fred Rogers
BY JOYCE MILLMAN

(08/10/99)

Joyce Millman's profile of Mister Rogers mentions his numerous
honorary degrees; I can proudly attest to witnessing the bestowing of one, at
Boston University in 1992. I don't remember much about the commencement
speaker, who droned on long enough to bore nearly everyone there, but I'll
never forget Mister Rogers. On a broiling hot day, on a football field packed
with thousands of graduates and their family members and friends, Mister Rogers
rose to say a brief prayer. After the thunderous standing ovation began to
subside, he looked out at a sea of young people whose lives he had no doubt
helped shape and said, quietly, "Would you like to sing the song?"

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Oh yes, we wanted to sing the song; 5,000 graduates and thousands of our parents
and siblings crooned "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" together. And
it was.

-- Daniel G. Dupont

Millman might only remember one time that "Rogers' Zenlike serenity publicly snapped," but I remember a time in the late 1980s when NPR reported that the KKK was distributing
recordings of someone imitating Mister Rogers to elementary school children,
somewhere in the Midwest. The recordings were an attempt to get the children
to turn their thoughts to racism and other forms of bigotry.

Some weeks later, NPR reported that Fred Rogers had heard what the KKK was
up to and planned to sue them in federal court. I don't know whether the
case ever made it to court, but I remember feeling so glad that Mister Rogers
had decided to fight the good fight, not just for his name and reputation,
but for children everywhere.

-- Beth Byers

Ketchup and convertibles
BY KAREN ACKLAND
(08/10/99)

Just what we're thirsting for; another whining screed from a self-indulgent baby boomer who doesn't like to dirty her hands with the prospect of growing up and dealing with parenthood. As expected, she wants to have it both ways.

First, she would like applause for spending an entire weekend (gasp!) with two children. Karen, I have a news flash just for you -- plenty of people take care of two children several days a week! Sometimes every day! Sometimes more than two children! Yet at the same time, she wants to assure a couple of snotty strangers in a convertible that, really, she is as classy and original as they are (if only she didn't have these damn kids around). Finally, she has a need to define herself to the world to prove how thoughtful and unique she is. Karen, trust me on this: As a parent of two perfectly typical kids, I don't care who you think you are. I'm too busy cleaning up spilled Pepsi to notice.

-- Bob Mitrovich

Ackland is so gifted in taking what might make
us cry and making us laugh instead. What a boon -- to stepparents
particularly, but regular old Moms can relate, too.

-- Susan Samuels Drake

Soquel, Calif.


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