Letters: White powder and supervillains

Readers respond to recent articles on anthrax alarms, Rumi translator Coleman Barks and the lighter side of Osama bin Laden.

Published October 19, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Read "White powder in my morning paper" by Jessica Branson Oreskovic.

So, Salon writer Jessica Oreskovic is afraid to read her New York Times Magazine and fellow scribe Will Hermes can't bear to listen to the Grateful Dead -- the sky is falling, the sky is falling! Somebody should tell these Chicken Littles to just knock it off and quit bothering us.

-- Susan Gula

Let's summarize Ms. Oreskovic's experience:

A self-indulgent gen X'er, just back from a trip to Baja, believes she's been targeted for bioterror assassination.

The purported vehicle for this assassination attempt is a randomly delivered newspaper -- not the sort of threatening letter that delivered the few actual bona fide cases of anthrax to TV and government public figures. Oreskovic evidently believes terrorists regard her in the same league with Tom Brokaw and Sen. Daschle, however.

Local police and emergency workers perform field tests, and assure her the powder appears to be nonthreatening.

Oreskovic's concerns are unallayed, and she escalates her demands for comprehensive medical evaluation, eventually having a tantrum at the local emergency room.

All tests confirm what common sense would have told any of us in the first place: No one's out to get you, Ms. Oreskovic.

Thanks for contributing to the 2,300 false alarms to date. You're part of the problem, not the solution, though.

-- Rich Black

Read "Honey, I blew up bin Laden" by Merle Kessler.

Thank you, I really enjoyed this article. I have this fantasy of seeing Merle Kessler locked in a room with bin Laden (aka the Potentate of Politically Dictated Correctness -- and terror). Can you imagine the pain Kessler could inflict on that fanatic? Laughter has probably been outlawed for a long time by these thugs. I think that's why they're called terrorists, because they are out to rob you of enjoyment.

If they wanted to kill all of us, they'd go about it differently, but bin Laden wants -- no, needs -- an audience, and we're letting him steal the whole darn show! Can we please have some fun now? The "required" sadness that bin Laden has tried to impose on us is draining my energy, not to mention that it reminds me of the "required political correctness" that used to be in style before the "required flag waving" came back.

Remember, any day is a good day, so please print more fun articles for us. And let's laugh a little -- really, it's OK, even patriotic! Laughter defeats terror every time.

-- Dillon Doyle

Here's the pitch:

We send a killer cyborg back in time to kill bin Laden's mother before he's born.

-- Richard Edwards

Read "Bin Laden as Lex Luthor" by Gale Holland.

I find it quite interesting that Gale Holland sees similarities between bin Laden and Lex Luthor. Back a few weeks ago when President Bush vowed to stamp out evil in the world, I kept expecting to see him addressing the country while fully decked out in his Batman costume.

-- Thomas Christner

At risk of sounding like a big ol' comic geek, I have to disagree with the conclusion that bin Laden is Lex Luthor. He's actually Doctor Doom.

Doctor Doom was a former friend of the Fantastic Four. Like Luthor -- at least, the classic version -- the root of his evil was spawned by an accident that caused a physical deformity: the scarring of Doom's face, to Luthor's baldness.

However, Luthor has generally been motivated by greed and personal revenge, while Doom has loftier motives. He believes he is truly right, and is doing what is best for his people. Bin Laden, likewise, seems to be motivated not only by a hatred for America, but also by a desire to see American presence removed from his homelands.

Victor von Doom (his real name, I'm not making this up) cares about the people of Latveria, the little third-world country where he rules, and is hailed as a hero -- much as bin Laden enjoys popular support in some parts of the Middle East.

Doom has repeatedly attacked the Baxter building, the New York skyscraper that houses his arch-foes, the Fantastic Four -- and I don't need to spell out this particular parallel.

By contrast, the current version of Lex Luthor is an American businessman -- a rich, white millionaire seeking to extend his economic control over the world with little concern for morality. In the current comics, Lex Luthor has even been elected president of the United States of America!

Perhaps the correct comparison is George W. Bush as Lex Luthor?

-- Kynn Bartlett

Kudos to Gale Holland for her humorous yet insightful comparison of bin Laden as the real-life counterpart to Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. Just as contemporary comic scripters have injected moral ambiguity into their one-dimensional villains to increase dramatic depth and realism, the real bin Laden appears determined to remove any trace of ambiguity about his motives and goals. If bin Laden becomes any more like a comic strip baddie, the U.S. will have no choice but to put Colin Powell in blue tights and a red cape.

-- Dann Gire

Read "Rumi: No. 1 in Afghanistan and the USA" by Amy Standen.

Ms. Standen's article is really quite fine. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- if we heard more of Rumi on TV and radio and sang his poems on the way to elementary school, we would be more at peace with the world.

-- Richard Carter

I don't wish to denigrate Rumi's importance, but it's a sad commentary on our nation's ignorance that my local Borders gives a shelf and a half to Rumi and Sufism, and only half a shelf to books on Islam generally. No wonder we have so many misconceptions about the Islamic world.

-- Anne Burson-Tolpin

By Salon Staff

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