Letters to the editor

Flirt at your own risk. Plus: Good Grief! "Peanuts" deserves some respect! Should Sherman Alexie speak for Native Americans?

Published February 17, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Strangers in the night


Christine Schoefer's article was quite interesting and informative, but missed one salient facet of flirting: It's cruelty. For any man or woman who is unattractive to the opposite sex -- and especially those for whom this has always been the case -- "flirting" might better be described as "taunting."

It is one thing for a person to flirt or be flirted with when they are confident in the knowledge of their own attractiveness. They can enjoy flirting in its more innocuous social context. But for people who are the opposite, whose self-knowledge is of a sadder sort, flirting becomes inherently degrading.

This is best summed up in a short passage I read in a book many years ago: "She stroked his hand in the friendly and familiar but uninviting way women had with unattractive men." It is cruel to "flirt" with people who are obviously outside of the society of courtship, and unnecessary.

-- Rob Anderson

Flirting is as dead as politeness in this country, at least in the big city. Nowadays, if you practice one or the other (or both), people think that you are crazy or perverted. The best way to put a worried look on a woman's face is to give her that "half smile" or to make eye contact in public. Times have changed and there are a lot of dangerous people out there.

-- Dave Wrobleski

All praise to Christine Schoefer! Americans are stumbling, demented buffoons when it comes to flirting. I'm a 30-year-old single man who has spent much time abroad, and the staggering lack of flirtatious grace in American women should be a national source of shame. It seems especially true of my generation. For the sake of education, let's just clear a few things up:

1) Flirtation is not "slutty." They did it in Victorian times, OK?

2) Sneaking peeks at someone and then looking away, hiding behind your hair, standing in one place and waiting to be noticed (and becoming bratty when you're not) and being afraid of your own shadow does not qualify as flirting. You therefore have no right to complain when it doesn't work.

3) When all else fails, try starting an actual conversation -- perhaps even without a life vest.

-- Tom Foreman

What's up with Schoefer? Everybody in America flirts. Perhaps our style is a just a bit too subtle for her. Maybe she notices flirting more when she's abroad precisely because she's traveling and therefore a little looser and more aware of those around her.

Ease up, Christine, and enjoy the eye contact.

-- Stuart Cohn

Forget Charlie Brown

I totally agree that "Peanuts" lost its luster once I grew up and entered high school in 1979. But that's just one side of the coin.

I suspect part of the fact I find it so "not funny" is because I've aged and the strip hasn't. How many things from childhood do we still engross ourselves in? Not many, because they are boring and not funny anymore. Like most kids, I transitioned to "Doonesbury" and "Bizarro."

But even as an adult, "Peanuts" was like an old childhood friend. It was somehow comforting to see that "Peanuts" was still there when I was disillusioned and needed a chocolate cream and a pat on the back, and that there might be a place where I could get advice for only a nickel.

So may I humbly suggest that people cut "Peanuts" and Charles Schulz some slack? We all grow up, but good grief, thank goodness Charlie Brown didn't.

-- Joseph M. Hardegree

Of course Schulz repeated jokes and motifs. The final Sunday strip was his 18,000th, or so they say. Do you expect that many new jokes? Cartoons are half about familiarity and repetition. Today's top cartoonists (Larson, Watterson and Breathed) couldn't hack it and split with the cash. Schulz stayed and worked every day -- a dying art, that -- and seemed to me still capable of brilliant moments. Just a couple of months ago Charlie Brown suggested to Snoopy that the real way for a watchdog to bark is to go, "ROWRGHR!", to which Snoopy replied, in the last frame, "ALL CAPITALS?"

Your parents never let you have a dog, did they, Mr. Cullen?

-- Chuck Wilson

The godfather from Dallas ends the party

There were many of us at the Reform Party meeting in Nashville who saw it very differently from Sifrey.

An important detail that he missed was the fact that all of the disruptive behavior at the beginning of the meeting was initiated by supporters of Jack Gargan and lasted a very short time. Many of those who voted Jack Gargan and Ronn Young out of office were in tears after the votes because they were very sad about what they had to do to preserve their party.

There was no power grab led by Ross Perot. If there had been, he could have easily controlled the elections of pro-Perot committee members and had them elect Russ Verney as party chairman again. Rather than get involved in the issue, Perot did exactly what he said he would do -- he stayed out of the internal workings of the party and let the members handle it themselves.

-- Mike Hicks
Dallas County chairman
Reform Party of Texas

Sherman Alexie's cultural imperialism

I read Alexie's review of "On The Rez" when it first appeared, and agree with much that Jonathan Miles has to say. However, I don't think you have to go as far as Alexie's fiction to find examples of his cultural imperialism. In his review, Alexie wonders if Frazier ever asked if the Oglala Sioux wanted to be written about. But did Alexie ever wonder if the Oglalas wanted him to defend them against Frazier? After all, if we're going to create "cultural enclosures," we should all stay on our own side of the fence. And that includes Spokane/Coeur d'Alenes who presume to speak for other tribes, or Indians as a whole.

-- Shelley Silva

I haven't lived on my "rez" for 12 years, having left Santa Clara Pueblo, N.M., to live in New York to pursue video-making. Sherman Alexie's position and response to Frazier's recent successful book about, but not for, Indians is not without some historically rooted bias. Basic to the critical response by Alexie is the national miseducation about Indians that is historically bound to the fact that native people have had almost no access in contributing to the world of ideas as respected writers. Who was the last native critic to write for any major magazine or newspaper?

Alexie simply is using his opportunity as a critic to point out that until there is wider representation of actual native people in print and all other media, books like Frazier's repeat a familiar cycle of momentary interest in Indians that is like the same road going nowhere. We need more voices like Alexie's to share them so the public can know us firsthand.

-- Beverly Singer

Do the multiracial count?

The people of the United States of America have classified themselves into a corner. The racial classification was first developed by European scientists back in the late 1700s and has since been abandoned by scientists of the 20th century. It explains nothing about human biological variation which is very real and fascinating. Sickle-cell anemia is not a "black" person's disease. It has absolutely nothing to do with one's skin color. Sickle-cell anemia is not an African disease. It is not found everywhere in Africa, and it is found out of Africa in parts of the Old World Tropics. Malaria explains the geographic distribution of sickle-cell anemia, not race. Race is not just some antiquated relic of two centuries ago, it is a dangerous concept which continues to emphasize differences rather than similarities, and which continues to divide us.

-- Dan Cring
biological anthropologist
University of Louisiana

Rodriguez says that multiracial people will "resist the dilution of any non-white racial group." But not diluting the minority also means not diluting the majority. Whose purposes, then, does this resistance actually serve, the minorities or the majority?

A demographer says: "What we do know is that it's going to use up a lot of RAM." Surely the number of possible graphs is problematic, but shouldn't the way the racial information is interpreted interest us more? Focusing on the task of managing the data denies and hides the possible implications of living in our multiracial society.

Rodriguez suggests that somehow the new data may free us to think about the "real" demographic issue of the future: class. Yes, class is of increasing concern. But does Rodriguez really believe that one's class will no longer be tied to one's color (gender, etc.)?

-- Brook Partner

By Letters to the Editor

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