Readers respond to "Camille Speaks!" by Kerry Lauerman, and "Sealing the Wal-Mart Borders," by Robert Scheer.

Published November 1, 2003 9:04PM (EST)

[Read "Camille Speaks!" by Kerry Lauerman.]

Camille Paglia is a bull in a china shop, an intellectual Evel Knievel; although she sometimes gets in over her head when pontificating about everything under the sun, she is provocative and entertaining, with "a sense of drama and theater." And while I don't always agree with her analysis or opinions (cave-dwelling knuckledragger Rush Limbaugh is a notorious racist and scapegoating hatemonger, with a bad habit of compulsive lying), I like her gusto and her bravado. She's definitely got style.

-- Tom Wright

Who exactly is Camille Paglia speaking to? What audience is she targeting? I'm 24 years old, liberal, and informed -- I took absolutely nothing away from her interview. Other than demonstrating hyper-awareness of mass media, she missed the mark on every point she made. A page and a half on the plight of Rush Limbaugh -- Are you kidding me? Stevie Nicks is a true artist? Give me break! And my personal favorite, Madonna's "Vogue" is the most important piece of fine art of the past 20 years. Wow ...

I respected what she said about Democrats, but personally I see the goal of deposing George Bush and his pals as more important than John Kerry's hair. Also, the Clark-bashing is ridiculous. Are we unaware of exactly who is in the military? Republicans! Of course they want to smear his good name, he saw the light and turned on them. Is some bitter no-name military officer's wink-wink remarks going to change the fact that Clark is a scholar and a war hero? That he's a viable candidate with a good shot at ousting Bush?

Camille Paglia should turn off the AM radio and read an issue of Punk Planet.

-- Alex Hedstrom

Where have you gone, dear Camille? Your silence has been maddening in this mad, mad, mad world. Unlike most commentary in print and broadcast media, your keen insight and crackling intelligence stimulates and educates the readership, opening minds, broadening viewpoints, and challenging narrow assumptions.

Of course, Dubya is woefully in over his head on matters of international engagement. Your hilarious lampoon of the plucky antics of the Bush administration is reminiscent of the old gag reels about the gang that couldn't shoot straight. He empowers hawk Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who lacks any vision and plan for the reconstruction of Iraq, and diminishes dove Secretary of State Powell, who warned him against the long-term human and financial costs of waging war against rogue Arab nations. Dubya's short-term memory problems have erased the fact that he was elected because of his diverse pre-election appointments of certain administration officials with supernova appeal overshadowing his own shortcomings and weaknesses.

Presently, Dubya may be properly credited for expanding the ever-widening credibility gap between the executive branch and the electorate with his unilateralist style of leadership. He goaded the American people into war with ominous, falsified claims of hidden weapons of mass destruction in silos beneath the Iraq desert, while blithely ignoring intelligent debate concerning pressing domestic and economic crises. His pretext for war is captured in his stark, cryptic warnings concerning the specter of Saddam's dirty nukes triggering cataclysm. And the pretext for stifling protest and debate over the war is handily accomplished by offensively brain-numb conservative pundits smearing his critics as Socialistic, anti-American, and treasonous liberals.

Honestly, I have no great joy as America liberates Iraqis -- only heartache that we live in the dangerous world in which we will raise a new generation who must brace themselves for the greater uncertainty, and, sadly, the possible downfall of American prosperity stemming from fear, war and terrorism.

-- James Kelly

Paglia expresses her desire to end the war in Iraq as quickly as possible by getting the U.N. to replace the American troops currently ducking bullets and getting all Americans out now. She supports this view by stating that she doesn't think that the war is worth one more American life.

Pray tell, just whose life is the war worth? U.N. peacekeepers are not machines: They are living, breathing human beings with desires and dreams and families at least as important as those of Americans. If they replace the current occupiers of the Sunni triangle, they will likely die at the same rate (if not higher) than the Americans. Will that be an improvement over the current situation?

Frederic Manning once said that those who call war a crime against humanity are missing at least part of its significance. While war may, indeed, be a crime, it is also humanity's punishment for its crimes. The U.S. supported Saddam from the beginning, and continued to support him while he used poison gas against his enemies. Saddam could never have killed the hundreds of thousands of victims of his regime had not the US been there to provide the support. They helped to create the monster -- If anyone should pay to destroy it, why should it not be the U.S.? While the deaths of American troops is a tragedy, there is at least some sense of cosmic justice in it. The potential deaths of soldiers from Pakistan, Ireland, Korea, Canada, or wherever -- simply because they come from a country that is not the most powerful in the world -- should not be seen as a "solution" to the problem.

-- Glenn Ward

Wow! I just read the entire interview with Dr. Paglia and am impressed with her tremendous intellectual energy. While I do not agree with all of her ideas (especially her too uncritical take on religion and spiritual matters), few American thinkers today seem willing to share original and thoughtful insights about the world. It is ironic that she can verbalize her thoughts so well, but yet dislikes blogs. In fact, she should begin her own blog and continue her exposition online.

-- N.A. Mathew

I want to offer my thanks to Camille Paglia for clearly recognizing the genius of Rush Limbaugh, calling Al Franken a cry-baby and Wes Clark a phony, and making a case for Irish-American right-wing gab as a modern art form. Perhaps next she could discuss her favorite hip-hop performers and NBA picks.

-- Robert Eason

Paglia says Bush is "well-meaning and sincere," but she should be required to do a bit of research into Bush's very shady history before making such statements. At the very least she ought to read "Bushwhacked" by Molly Ivins -- a well-documented horror story about the self-serving, dishonest president. I fear that Paglia's opinions are formed based on whether or not she likes the personality of her subject, and we all know that Bush excels at back-slapping. She has failed to notice that while he's slapping the back he plunges a knife into the gut.

-- Sally Raynes

In the Salon interview, Paglia starts out by railing against the New York Times for its lack of coverage about Iraq. In fact, a few weeks before the war, when it was clear the invasion was imminent, the Times did a big spread on Iraq's cultural and architectural treasures -- and the potential blow to civilization if they were destroyed. The mainstream media has been craven in the coverage of this war, but I thought that one piece was a great, if quixotic effort.

But much of the rest of Paglia's scorching criticism is right on the mark.

-- Scott Kuhlman

[Read "Sealing the Wal-Mart Borders," by Robert Scheer.]

Kudos to Robert Scheer for illustrating the essential hypocrisy of the American political preoccupation with illegal immigrants, as expressed in the half-hearted roundup of guys who sweep the floors at Wal-Mart. But if exposing hypocrisy was Scheer's goal, I think he missed the opportunity to highlight the even greater irony inherent in the nativist push to save American jobs for "American workers" -- that the vast proportion of largely Hispanic illegal immigrants are often far more "American" than those born in the U.S.

I've worked in and around the restaurant industry for a good portion of my young life, and thus have more than a passing familiarity with young Hispanic men and women of indeterminate immigration status. In virtually every restaurant kitchen I have ever known, the predominant language is Spanish, because everyone wearing a toque is Hispanic. This comes as no surprise to those who recognize that restaurant kitchen work, like the agricultural and garment industry work Scheer cites, is among the worst work imaginable. It's hot, smoky, physically demanding work for long hours at only moderate hourly pay.

But Hispanics, many of them likely illegal, seem to be the only workers who want to do it. Several years ago, I worked as a bartender at an upscale, high-volume steakhouse, from its grand opening through its first year of operation. Before we were open to the public, the kitchen staff was made up of young white men with names like Joe and Adam. But within three weeks of being open to the public, with the attendant frenzy of having to cook for actual patrons who actually demand properly cooked food in a timely manner, the kitchen staff was full of Pedros and Miguels. All the Joes and Adams decided rather quickly that the gig simply wasn't "fulfilling" for them, and didn't give them much of a life outside the restaurant.

Pedro and Miguel didn't care about having a life outside the restaurant. They showed up on time -- early, even -- and stayed late, because having any job, let alone one where you could eat for free, was the most important thing in the world to them. When they did go home, it was to a ramshackle house or apartment where they lived with six of their cousins so they could save nearly every penny they earned to send back to their mothers in Mexico, or to one bringing their wives and children here from the squalor of their village in Honduras.

I hate giving in to the cliché that is "the American Dream," but if ever a group of people embodied this nebulous ideal, it was exactly Pedro and Miguel -- and the millions more like them across the United States and Canada. They work hard at jobs that they are grateful to have, save their money through zealous frugality, go to church regularly, provide for their often-extended families, build strong communities of neighbors, and generally engage in the kind of Emersonian self-reliance that is allegedly the hallmark of "real Americans." No complaining about how the system socks it to them, no constant sniffing around for a government handout, no carping of any kind -- just plenty of the quintessentially American pulling of themselves up by their bootstraps.

-- Charles Hafner

By Salon Staff

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