An anniversary in prison and mom's payback

Readers weigh in on recent stories on a strange wedding anniversary, a kid leaving Mom for Dad and "A Memo to American Muslims."

Published October 26, 2001 6:27PM (EDT)

In "Crystal is the customary gift. I got dog drool," Susan Musgrave described having her 15th wedding anniversary in prison.

In "Payback Time," Debra Gordon writes about watching her teenage son go back to live with his father.

And in "A memo to American Muslims" M. A. Muqtedar Khan says he and his fellow Muslims must "search our souls" after the events of Sept. 11.

Readers respond to all three stories below.

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For me, an important part of a piece about struggle in the face of adversity is an ability to empathize with the main character or characters.

I can't empathize with Susan Musgrave. Wanted to marry a felon after reading the beginning of his book? Married him? Had a kid with him? Still regards him lovingly after he robs a bank with a gun and returns for an 18-year stint in the clink?

This world needs a little less intelligence and clever writing, and a little more wisdom.

-- Brendan Howard

I have read and enjoyed her "Cargo of Orchids," and her husband's "Jackrabbit Parole." However, I find her Salon article to be self-serving and disgusting.

Her husband is a violent, convicted bank robber who had what many men in his position don't get -- a second chance. He blew it.

Surely there are many talented people behind bars who deserve a second chance. They should be cursing Steve's very existence.

I seriously question Ms. Musgrave's moral and ethical judgment. It was reported after Steve's arrest in Victoria she tried to start a bank account for donations to "help Steve." Of course, the Canadian bank had no interest in facilitating misguided "help" for a bank robber. Especially one stupid enough blow an outstanding second chance.

-- Joel Coates

There is a really disturbing lack of focus here. The writer admits that her husband committed crimes, yet her complaint mostly circles about ... her not getting to bring in "William the Conqueror" silver to the jailhouse visit? Sorry, but doing crime implies that you may get caught, prosecuted and sentenced. I saw nothing in this story to indicate that anyone was being treated unfairly by the justice system.

I just don't get it. I've always respected that Salon brought comprehensive coverage on issues relating to prison and crime -- people jailed under draconian sentencing laws, truly horrific prison conditions, loss of civil liberties under now-common trial and arrest procedures. These are incredibly serious issues, and seem to carry more weight every day that passes.

I have great sympathy for the fractured family the author and her husband have created, and it's sad that she had to stick her special pillow in the locker. But I fail to see why this story would run at all, much less at a time when true journalists should be turning attention to the aftermath of Sept. 11, and the civil liberties violations of individuals who never did anything illegal.

-- Vikki

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Debra Gordon is a fool for missing out on her son's transition to adult life just because of a job opportunity. Just like countless men before her (and now, it seems, countless women in the present), she has her priorities askew.

Her article does not address her obvious apathy and passivity in approaching the situation. Does she feel she has to prove herself in the "man's world" of business? Couldn't she take the time and effort to live near her ex, de facto providing her son with two primary households?

How sad someone should make such a bad choice, and then choose to wrote about it, with an almost perverse pride in a poor decision.

For shame, Ms. Gordon, for shame.

-- Mark J. Benedyk

Imagine my shock at finding my personal life on your site. How timely and comforting to know I'm not the only one in this situation.

Last night my older son (who is 15) left our house to move in with his dad. He wants to live "like a bachelor in a swinging pad," where he can walk around in his underwear, drink out of the carton and belch at will. This was a quick transition, just over a week from decision to move, and I'm by no means done dealing with my feelings about it. But he's already gone, and I'm left riding the pogo stick of relief and grief. I think his younger brother will miss him most.

-- Kris Hasson-Jones

I was struck by King Kaufman's article "Stand Beside Her." As a follow-up, could links to local organizations be provided? I am sure many people across this country would like to know how they can help American Muslims and Arab-Americans "go back to their regular lives."

-- Maia Discoe

In your first memo, you urged American Muslims to "purify their own lot"; I would suggest that the greater Muslim world needs to do the same. As an American who is as critical of my country's policies, both domestic and international, as anyone (my father only half-jokingly calls me a commie-pinko), I am more than willing to look in the mirror, however I must take issue with much of your, and many others from the Muslim world's, criticisms.

You state that Muslims respect and desire democracy, and I am aware of, and condemn, the coups of which you wrote; however, to suggest that 6,000 American troops keep the House of Saud in power, or a few billion dollars in aid keep Mubarrak in power is ridiculous.

If the Saudis or Egyptians or any other Muslim people desire true democracy, I suggest they demand it. If they are jailed or beaten or slain, I suggest they declare jihad on their oppressors. There is not a democracy in the world for which blood was not spent. If an Islamic "Solidarity" movement emerged, I guarantee that the American people, if not the American government, would support it fully. Furthermore, hatred for America (and Israel) and its policies are as much a matter of domestic politics within Muslim nations as they are of American foreign policy; the regimes you condemn encourage their populace's hatred of America to divert attention from their own governments' failings.

Concerning Iraq, while I despise what is happening to the Iraqi people because of the U.N. (not U.S.) sanctions, Saddam Hussein is to blame for the sanctions. Iraq is still the third largest exporter of oil today, yet instead of buying food and medicine for his people (the very reason the oil selling exception to the sanctions exists), he continues to arm his military so he may stay in power and build palaces and monuments for himself. Why doesn't the Arab world condemn this man? Why do they not declare jihad on him? He has killed far more Muslims than any other nation in the world. He has killed more of his own people than coalition soldiers did in the Gulf War. Iraq should be the richest and most powerful of the Arab nations, because it has both oil and water, yet as you point out in your article "Iraq: Between Power and Pain," Saddam has turned it into a "dump."

As to the "Palestinian problem," it is here that the Muslim world seems to be in a communal state of denial. You state that "Any observer of the Palestinian problem who does not nurse malice towards Islam will understand why many Palestinians would resort to suicide bombings against Israel." I do not nurse malice toward Islam, yet I do not understand. The "Palestinian problem" lies not in failed negotiations, tit-for-tat violence or occupation of lands, but in many Muslims' denial of the very right of Israel to exist. Many Muslims deny thousands of years of Jewish history, claim Jerusalem is not a holy city to the Jews and that the Temple on the Mount did not exist. You state that if we armed Palestinians with F-16's and Apache helicopters, they would fight "fair and square" with Israel; what a disingenuous statement. What of the MiGs and other Russian arms Arab countries used to attack Israel? Arabs did fight "fair and square" with Israel in 1948, and 1967, and 1973 (actually, the Arabs had massive advantages) and each time, they lost. I find it odd that those who start wars, then lose them, still feel they are in a position to make demands upon the victors, while posing as the victims, when often they are simply the victims of their own actions. I do have sympathy for the Palestinian people, though it mainly stems from the fact that their leaders have served them poorly, and their Muslim brothers have often used them as pawns in their own political games.

While I disagree with many things you say, I do not write this solely to contradict your words. I write this not as a Muslim, Jew or Christian, Democrat or Republican, nor as a follower of any other ideology, but as an American who is more than willing to listen to all sides of the story, so long as others are willing to do the same.

-- Sean Walsh

Understandably, many Muslims wish to distance themselves and their religion from the terrorist acts that were committed in the name of Islam on Sept. 11. I am perfectly willing to accept that they are sincere in disavowing these horrible acts, and I bear Muslims in general no particular ill will. However, the fact remains that any time people put their faith in a "holy text," a variety of interpretations will arise, some of them more objectionable.

If there is one thing that is obvious from history, it is that God is whoever and however we imagine him (usually him) to be. For example, as is well known, the Christian god has been used to justify manifold abominations; to name just two: the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries and the defamation of the Jews by the Catholic Church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which prepared the way for the Holocaust. We must wake up, use our brains and cultivate humanitarian impulses based on rational thought, rather than allow ourselves and encourage our children to rely on a "holy text" whose relevance is to be accepted on faith alone, simply because it is part of our tradition.

-- K. Dykema

Thank you,, for publishing this amazing essay. It alone is worth the price of my Premium subscription to your thoughtful and insightful zine. Keep up the good work.

-- Steven Leider

The self-justification I have been hearing from the Muslim community has disturbed me quite a bit. Hearing that a Muslim agrees with my feelings about the mixed loyalties of the Muslim communities gives me pause. I have found it incomprehensible that the U.S. Muslim community and the so called moderate Muslims of the world turn a blind eye to the ongoing teaching of intolerance and violence in the countries they praise and support. As an Irish-American, I have been disgusted and have condemned the money and support the IRA and the Provisional Army get from American citizens. I see no difference between these folks and the moderate Muslims.

-- Sandra Gogas

Ah yes, the usual Moslem excuse for Islamic terrorism against Israel; it is wrong to murder innocent Americans, but murdering innocent Jews, including pregnant women and small children is excusable, in fact, religiously demanded because even Jewish babies are oppressors.

There is no hierarchy of terrorism; the random murder of Jews in Israel is just as wrong as the random murder of Americans in the U.S. And kindly remember, Islamic terrorists do not confine themselves to murdering Jews in Israel, they have also attacked restaurants in France, Jewish social agencies in Argentina and elsewhere, thrown cripples off ships and much more.

Contrary to the apologists for Islam, this is a religious war, not a political one; the Moslems have made it so. By using their holy writ to justify the murder of innocent people, they have made plain the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, as well as the hypocrisy inherent in their beliefs and behavior.

-- Barbara Bernstein

By Salon Staff

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