Readers respond to Jake Tapper's "Brains 1, Barbie 0" and Amy Benfer's "Bringing the War Home."

By Salon Staff
September 27, 2002 12:00PM (UTC)
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[Read "Brains 1, Barbie 0."]

I think that it's time for the Miss America pageant officials to show us the wizard behind the curtain and air portions of the all-important 12-minute interview sessions that contribute so heavily to the contestants' composite scores. This clearly was the deciding factor in this year's pageant. Why is the rest of the world not privy to it?


I think the television audience is much more likely to appreciate this portion of the competition, with its opportunity to expose vacuousness or reward genuine intellect, than they are likely to appreciate the cookie-cutter parade of sequined mannequins of which the pageant is traditionally comprised. I personally would have loved to see contestants struggle to name a female senator. I also would have enjoyed watching Erika Harold shine in this portion of the competition.

-- Erin Malone

Until Miss America is fat I will still think it is just another beauty pageant.


-- Name Withheld

[Read "Bringing the War Home."]

I have several friends who have served combat time, one who served for 20 years with the Special Forces.

Aggression levels are high for three reasons. One, they've been trained from day one to be that aggressive. Two, if they've actually been in combat their mental state is that of a killing machine. Three, just to make sure their mental state is just that way, a number of combat drugs are administered, usually under the guise of protection from chemical warfare. When you are on this stuff you want to tear the enemy's throat out and eat it. Nothing can stop you; it's like PCP and crystal meth at the same time.


Personally I'd like to see our combat soldiers detox both physically and mentally for a week or two before returning home. Send them to a nice military-sponsored resort for a while ... They've earned it.

-- Cat Leppo

Amy Benfer's "Bringing the War Home" paints a one-sided, it's-all-broken picture regarding the military's relationship with its families.


Military personnel and their families are a reflection of America. There are problems just as there are in civilian life. The unique society that is the military has a long and successful tradition of maintaining discipline through the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Also, the military has numerous and excellent family-support resources. If the writer had checked for facts (e.g., court-martial records), she would've seen that spousal and child abuse are dealt with severely.

Sadly, the spate of tragic news not only touches wife abuse: Currently there are two cases in the Fayetteville, N.C., area of wives indicted for the murder of their military husbands. Ms. Benfer makes no mention of this. All of the Fort Bragg soldiers who were accused of, or who committed, spousal murder were noncommissioned officers. Also, regarding being "stranded on a base in Guam," the writer perhaps forgot or does not know that Guam is a U.S. territory with U.S. laws. I could've let this go had you instead said "Greenland." The aforementioned is made to show how little knowledge the writer might have of the U.S. military or poor editing by the Salon editor.

I served a career in the U.S. Air Force and was raised in an Army family. Forty years tells me that your story is not the whole picture.


-- Bryan F. Niemiec, Major (Ret.), USAF

Congratulations on a genuinely insightful and relevant story. Ms. Benfer did a great job of not only getting inside the story but also deftly avoiding all the typical military-men-as-the-villain pitfalls that these stories usually fall into.

-- David J. Morris

Salon Staff

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