Letters to the Editor

As bad as Horowitz thinks the left is, the extreme right is worse! Plus: Deciding who can say the N-word; is commerce saving Nepal or ruining it?

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 13, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Together at last


David Horowitz continues to exercise his constitutionally given right to twist facts to the point where it no longer is a right-wing spin, but an example of Newspeak. When extreme left politicians like U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters accuse an opposing politician of racism, this is not racism, such as that espoused by Patrick Buchanan.

The extreme left would never place Horowitz in a concentration camp, or beat him into submission for his heritage and belief structure -- it is against the most basic tenets of liberal philosophy. The extreme right, from late-'30s Berlin to late-'90s Jasper, Texas, has proved itself entirely capable of such atrocities. Horowitz's conversion to conservatism will not save him from the extreme ends of your political persuasion.

-- George Lang

Oklahoma City

Enough. There are, in fact, certain African-American political figures who demagogue
the race issue in an irresponsible way -- but the picture presented by
Horowitz, of a Democratic party about to be taken over by such folks, is
wildly distorted. He is at least consistent in his one-sided hatred of all
things liberal, finding no fault with a Republican Party that tolerates the
race baiting of Jesse Helms, and that still employs the Nixonian "Southern
strategy" in presidential elections.

-- David C. Orr

Bethany Beach, Del.

Patients' Bill of Rights goes to committee

Since 1996, former doctors and other employees of insurers and HMOs have testified before the House and Senate on the profit-protecting treatment delay and denial tactics of insurers and their HMOs. Dennis Hastert's threats of higher costs, lost jobs, a body of uninsured and "government interference" are thin spin against the fact that the largest HMO insurance contractor had a 33 percent increase in profit last year, and the average salary, exclusive of stock, for insurance and HMO executives was $6.8 million each.

Under section 514 of ERISA (the Employees Retirement Income Security Act), Hastert and his fellow politicians and government employees enjoy the right to sue their insurer -- but if you are a private citizen, you do not. Evidently Hastert and some other Republicans enjoy flaunting their new positions as a privileged ruling class -- entitled to rights they deny the average citizen. The Republicans who opposed the bill should be retired by the voters.

-- Rebecca Renfro

New Bern, N.C.

Sharps & Flats: "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic"

Christina Nunez tries just a little too hard to sell Prince's (I really
can't bring myself to address him in his chosen fashion) latest recording. At least this release does sidestep the bombast characteristic of much of his mid- to late '90s output, but it's a
middling effort at best. Nunez's attempt to portray Sheryl Crow as a slight
talent compared to Prince's towering genius is a weak ploy as
well. While unspectacular, Sheryl Crow's output has been consistent and
confident, which is more than could be said for Prince's recent efforts.

At one time, as the writer correctly notes, Prince was a revolutionary and
exciting talent. Unfortunately, even while hiding a lack of inspiration under layers of
overproduction and unmemorable riffs posing as songs, Prince seems unaware
of the irony of his situation. Just as he has ceased to be Prince, but instead a symbolic reflection of his own bloated ego, his music has become artifice and caricature, rather than substance.

-- John Stanton

The N-word

What is so bitterly funny about this mess is that one can listen to
countless rap musicians and hear the same word, somehow invoking racial
pride; and you can listen to hundreds of black comedians and see how the
word, often connected with ugly disparaging remarks, invokes lots of big
laughs in their black audience. You never hear black academicians criticize
this trend -- or at least I never do. But let a white liberal professor use the word,
even abstractly, to discuss its linguistic or sociological power and he has supposedly trampled on black sensibilities and must be punished. Thank God not all words are so taboo. What bullshit.

-- Dan Bishton

Fort Wayne, Ind.

I'm an African-American with a master's degree, but I still do not know why it
is always such a shock to well-intentioned white scholars, artists and
educators that black people on the whole are a conservative community with
varying degrees of comfort with public uses of "the N-word." Many black
students have living relatives who have witnessed lynchings. All black
people over 40 can detail stories of "colored" water-fountains.

Regardless of the impression that might be gleaned by listening to certain
Lil' Kim albums or watching certain Samuel L. Jackson films, many black
people, specifically first-year black students who may already be uneasily
ensconced in a mostly white university setting, may have zero tolerance for
the N-word used in any public context, regardless of intent. It is unwise
for white professors, even those who "boast a long history of civil rights
activism," to assume that a cool academic distance is possible for everyone at
every time. If a black student then voices an objection, and experiences
"both white and black students [jumping] on her [saying] 'Don't be stupid,'"
a volatile and humiliating situation has been created for this individual.
Retaliation can be expected.

-- Stephen Winter

What is lost in this discussion: The word "nigger" -- along with "chink,"
"kike" and the rest of our questionable linguistic heritage -- once was a
"legitimate" word in American society. We need to understand at what point
our culture recognized that the insult was taboo. I would be more concerned if Professor Hardy had ignored it. In some ways, it celebrates our progress as a nation to say out loud, "Yes this word
is unacceptable. Why?" Julia Pierre and her friends miss the party if they
listen with only half an ear.

-- Ruth Hanna

Phoenixville, Pa.

I could not help but compare the complaints made by Julia Pierre and Rev. Coleman to those people who have long attempted to remove Mark Twain's classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn" from school curricula on the basis of its frequent use of the word
"nigger." These people fail to recognize that the only noble character in
the entire book is Jim, who ultimately teaches Huck the
life lessons his father and other deplorable whites could not. That Twain
uses such derogatory language is a function of satire (incredibly pointed
satire, I might add) and has helped the work garner acclaim as "the greatest
American novel ever written."

I think similar oversimplification is at work in Pierre's complaint. She is
offended by the word, and rightfully so, but has failed to realize the
context in which it was being used. Though one can only speculate to what
end the discussions concerning taboo words in Hardy's class were to achieve, I think it is reasonable to expect that Hardy in no way endeavored to increase the frequency and
carelessness of the word's use (I think the opposite is more than likely the
case). He was simply responding to a word offered by one of his students, a
word that has long been a harmful and misguided term, and a decidedly apropos
subject for his class.

-- Todd Merriman

Sacrificing Nepal

Jeff Greenwald's article left me with a sour taste in my mouth. After two decades of travel to Nepal, it shocks me to learn that he apparently has learned nothing of the local culture and outlook toward life; he still seems to regard the country as if it were put on this planet for his own personal pleasure.
Like economically undeveloped nations elsewhere across the globe, Nepalis are striving to come to terms with the global economy. The "ugly" billboards that Greenwald deplores are signs to many Nepalis of economic growth. Nepal has undoubtedly beautiful scenery and it would be a shame to lose some of it in the name of development. However, that decision is best left to the Nepalis -- not to an outsider who can afford to spend $70 a day (which would feed the average Nepali for about two months) for the pleasure of walking. The fact that a few Westerners will not be able to appreciate the "exotic" or "untouched" Mustang region does not unduly disturb me -- or most Nepalis, I would wager.

-- Sean B. Fernandes

"None of us are hip"

Susan Lehman writes, "The Times' apparent sensitivity to identity issues, for example, is so sweeping the new manual even cautions against possible offense to voodoo

Since when is being sensitive to religion in journalism "sweeping"? And why is it
so strange to care about
offending followers of voodoo? Lehman implies that voodoo followers deserve
sensitive treatment less than followers of other religions. Isn't that just her bias?

-- Daniel Sorid

Book Bag: Who's screwing who


It does not really qualify as a novel -- but even so, Kathryn
Harrison's biographical essay "The Kiss" is by far the best thing
ever written on sexual exploitation. It should have been on Fay
Weldon's list.

-- Petur Jonsson

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