Letters to the Editor

Don't let junkie turn misspent youth into profit; Brazil's "raceless" society; what's the truth about Waco?

By Letters to the Editor
September 3, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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My son, the junkie


Harvard and heroin


Seth Mnookin knows the deal: Squander your time and money on drugs and Salon will give you an opportunity to write about
it. His mother did the same: Her book on her son's addiction was
"accepted," of course. Why are they playing wounded
fauns? Without this drug addiction, would he have been published? Would she?


There's nothing subversive about using drugs. This
article permitted the boy to turn a wasted youth into profit. If he
hadn't been given this opportunity, and if his mother hadn't been given
the same opportunity, perhaps the gravity of that waste would have
genuinely been understood. I call for ignoring what we don't condone:
Don't give space to a laundry list of an addict's hackneyed habits.

-- Maggie Balistreri

When I read this article, I cried -- for my parents, for
my brother, for my sisters and me. My mother lived for years in
denial, she and my dad always on the brink of angry words over my
brother. My dad knew that they needed to stop enabling him, but my
mother wouldn't let go -- she was sure that her love, and that alone, would save him. It
hasn't. My brother is seemingly fine now -- at least that's what my mother tells me.
But I keep waiting to find out from my sister that mom and dad are yet
again paying his bills and he's spiraling down.


His addictions have really hurt my family. One sister won't speak to
him or my parents anymore. The resentment of the other siblings is real
-- why does mom seem to love him more than us? We are all adults now,
but the time and energy an addict takes is time and energy away from the
other children and grandchildren.

I miss the close relationship I had with my brother before the drugs. I
miss the person my brother was before the drugs. But that's all gone.
It will never be the same. I'm just grateful he's still alive.

-- Patricia Smith


It's refreshing to find writing that doesn't glorify or romanticize the drug
experience but also doesn't gloss over the recovery process with 12-step
truisms (however valuable they may be).

The fact that Wendy Mnookin's experience with therapists was so
confusing reflects the conflict within the treatment field itself over
the causes of addiction and how to treat it. Therapists should know by
now that there are no "root" causes of addiction, and that the best move
a family can make is to take care of itself, but there are those who
persistently refuse to get the hint. The advice she finally got from
Nar-Anon should also have come from these treatment professionals.


I look forward to the day when the experts will be on the same page with
recovering people and their families. For now, though, the best and
most consistent help to be found is in the rooms of the 12-step

-- Jeffrey Zeth

"Coal to Cream"



I'm uncertain why the poor and disenfranchised of Brazil are worse off because
they don't identify their oppression as racially motivated. If this
discrimination is practiced against the "poor," and the poor are therefore
categorized as "black," the bias seems to be classist as opposed to
racist. Are these people poor and disenfranchised because of institutional discrimination
practiced against their darker skin color, or is their skin color considered
pejoratively dark because they are of a lower economic class? It might be a
chicken-egg argument -- but would bringing racial consciousness into the
issue be helpful or harmful? Would it address real social inequities, or simply affix a
new name onto an existing struggle?

-- Chris Lepley

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Black people do not embrace race, we simply embrace one another in an effort
to survive the imposition of the caste system of race which imprisons us all.
Like the untouchables of India, we did not invent the system, but we do have
to face it each day as individuals and as a group. Unlike the Jewish
Diaspora, the African diaspora cannot assemble as a tribe into an autonomous
state for our protection. But like all dispersed people, we can acknowledge
and embrace our shared heritage which has allowed us to survive. Try to
recognize and accept the usefulness of our collective efforts to reinvent
and maintain our humanity -- not only for ourselves but for the good of
America as well.


-- Angela Salgado

Ever since the rise of a movement to recognize multiracial identity, some
black-identified intellectuals have gone on a Brazil-bashing frenzy, raving
that all the social problems of Brazil and other Latin American nations lie
in their recognition that "race" is a continuum and not a simple
matter of "white" vs. "black." Now Eugene Robinson
has joined the crusade, eager to inform us that the "one drop" myth of
"racial" identification, which is based on the premise that even small
amounts of "black" genes are so inferior that "whiteness" is forever
destroyed, brings economic prosperity and equality. How long will our
intelligence be insulted by this nonsense?

The United States would do well to emulate the Brazilian example of recognizing the
numerous mixtures between "white" and "black" -- as well as the fact that the "white
race" contains "black" ancestry as well. Until "black" elites stop forcing unwanted and
false "black" identities on other Americans, we must admit that "black" is
a stigma and not a legitimate race or culture.

Increased immigration from third world countries, where people do not
identify as "black" or "white," along with a growing resistance to forced
hypodescence among multiracial and intermarried Americans, will inevitably
doom the racist fantasies of a "white" vs. "black" cold war so cherished
by Robinson and his ideological confederates.


-- A.D. Powell

Madison, Wis.

Christopher Walken to star in musical version of "The Dead"

Craig Offman writes that Gregory Mosher was "very impressed by Walken's vocal
performance in the 1981 musical film 'Pennies From Heaven.'" But as anyone
who has seen that deeply underrated film knows, none of the actors actually
sing in "Pennies From Heaven"; they lip-sync to the original recordings --
in Walken's case, the mischievous '20s classic "Let's Misbehave." Alas
for Mosher, the actual vocal performers in question -- Irving Aaronson and
his Commanders -- are dead in an all too literal sense, and thus would
probably be a bit of a letdown onstage.

-- Adam D. Feldman


Delta team at Waco?


The real tragedy regarding Waco was Koresh's holding children hostage
to his maniacal, psychotic narcissism. Frankly, my sympathies are
tapped out on religious cults, with
their pathological patriotism and gun perversions.
Why shouldn't a Delta team give assistance to overrun a bunch of murderous
fanatics who would sacrifice their own children?

These groups firmly believe they
are above the law because they wrap their ass in Old Glory, paper hang
convoluted interpretations of the Constitution or criminally act out a
hate-menu Bible. The reality is that these were marginal misfits who hid behind
their kids' Osh Kosh bibs to reinforce a psychopathic, wannabe musician's grandiose delusion.
They blamed everyone for their withered sense of self and unwillingness
to make any meaningful contribution to our nation's tattered democracy.

-- Ron Anguiano

Lakewood, Colo.


Why is anyone arguing about whether
there was military involvement at Waco? The FBI used
tanks, APCs, black helicopter gunships, automatic weapons
and military-style tactics. That sounds like a military
operation to me, regardless of what letters were stenciled
on the uniforms. Most important was the motive for
their actions: Their goal was not "hostage rescue" but
forceful conquest, a point made all too obvious by the
antagonistic behavior continually exhibited by "law
enforcement" personnel throughout the siege. They
obviously did not want to rescue anyone; they wanted to
punish and avenge.

-- Michael W. Anderson

Alameda, Calif.

I am well aware of the potential for government abuse. I am also aware of the need for
some trust in government to do the right thing. Does anyone doubt these fanatics held law
enforcement hostage for 50-plus days? Does anyone really have a
problem with the FBI consulting with Delta -- a far better trained
resource for such a situation? Does anyone really have a problem if
there were Delta personnel on site in case they were needed? How many FBI
people do you think can adequately drive an APC?

How is it that the press gets outraged over Columbine, synagogue
attacks and the Oklahoma City bombings, but it was somehow OK for the Davidians to kill, brainwash, imprison and
hold the entire country hostage? Is this a matter of freedom of religion?

Please tell me what is so fascinating to the press about
the FBI's supposed behavior at Waco. How many ATF agents would have had to die before the press decided that
enough was enough?

-- Bob Perdriau

Los Altos, Calif.

We need to hear more about these types of governmental
activities. I know that there is a "critical mass" of information that will
finally set off the American people's anger at the ever-increasing
militaristic, scorched-earth type of operations by federal agencies in this

When our children look back at this period of American history, with a
government that has committed itself to various actions that seem strangely
related to Nazi activities of the '30s and
'40s, our children will certainly see journalists like Salon as the true
heroes of democracy and truth.

-- Dave Johnson

Bone Wars


The Neanderthal/modern human controversy may seem esoterically academic, but it actually goes to the
heart of the question of human uniqueness, the essence of intelligent (as
opposed to biblical) creationism. The out-of-Africa thesis -- proposing that
all modern humans descend from one unique population that expanded over the
Earth, likely because of the "invention" of true language -- should be
understood by intelligent "creationists" as a way to see the uniqueness of
humanity, without denying the reality of physical evolution.

This is probably far too much to ask, considering the current polemical state
of this debate. The discussion of human evolution has descended into a
quarrel between fundamentalist know-nothings and academic materialists. Juno Gregory has adeptly presented the
middle ground, the realities and the facts upon which such a debate should be

-- Randy Foote

New York

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