Salon readers weigh in on new torture allegations in Iraq, and the future of the DNC. Plus: When will America be ready for real gay characters on TV?

Published December 11, 2004 7:57PM (EST)

[Read "Whitewashing Torture," by David DeBatto.]

Thank you, David DeBatto, for your story on Sgt. Ford.

When I think that a majority of Americans voted in favor of more abuse like this, out of homophobia and "religious" bigotry and "patriotism," I feel like I am living in Orwell's "1984." How can so many of us be so heartless, so unthinking? Is it just the fear? But think of the fear of Iraqis today compared with our generalized paranoia post-9/11: We still drive our cars, watch football games, go to movies, eat out. Think of the children who have died because they had no water, no medicine. As Ford's story affirms, this war is also a racist action against "hajis" and "sand niggers." We should never forget the racism that helps to animate our violence.

It is this level of dehumanization that is the most distressing aspect of our current national consciousness. President Bush models it wonderfully for all to follow -- callous, arrogant disregard for others and brazen triumphalism, the hard-ass macho strut, the look of the unflinching abuser and sadist, ever ready to resort to violence.

As a university professor this fall semester, I tried to share this anguish and sense of responsibility with my students -- a few seemed receptive, many were silent, and one went to my department chairperson to complain that I was "Bush-bashing" instead of teaching the course (a course on critical thinking, by the way).

Why doesn't some wealthy Hollywood type who claims to be "liberal" (Oliver Stone comes to mind, but there are many of them) make a movie out of Ford's story to educate Americans about this war? Ford's story is powerful and dramatic. I only wish it were fiction.

-- Louis Simon

In the 1970s, the Knapp Commission held a series of hearings that established the fact that corruption and abuse by NYPD officers were not simply occurring as isolated incidents but, rather, were essential components of the culture of that department. Sgt. Ford's case should be the straw that breaks the camel's back: The military cannot simply pretend that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo are isolated falls from grace (as if that weren't already clear); they represent the way our military police and intelligence conduct business in wartime. It's time for a national Knapp Commission to uncover the full extent of this culture of torture and deceit that shames us as a nation.

-- Jeff Perry

[Read this week's edition of "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.]

Does it really surprise anyone that "Will & Grace" is a popular show among conservatives? The sitcom, while often hilarious, is a perfect example of how Americans would like to view gay people: cute, quirky, flamboyant and neutered. Mainstream Americans (and that includes Republicans) are perfectly comfortable with homosexuality -- so long as no one has a boyfriend, a girlfriend or a sex life or dares expect their relationships to be treated equally. That the gay community once hailed "Will & Grace" as some grand victory still amazes me. All the show really does is reinforce stereotypes, particularly because it's set in New York. (It's great to laugh at those crazy homosexuals in the big city -- thank God there aren't any in my town.)

When the country embraces a television show about a masculine, Midwestern gay plumber in love with (and in bed with) a dentist, I'll feel a sense of victory. And I doubt that show would have a large Republican following.

-- James Dissett

I'd call it the height of irony that the Free Republic poster quoted in the Dec. 8 Right Hook column referred to the practice of "un-doing" homosexuals, then to "left-wing lunacy."

Witness the disconnect here: Conservative Christians crowing about Bush's reelection are too self-absorbed to realize how much their belief in way-beyond-debunked practices like "curing" gays makes them seem like, well, lunatics.

-- Jason Moss

[Read "Media Goes Weak-Kneed for Tough Guy Keril," by Eric Boehlert and "The "Terminator" of Baghdad," by Sidney Blumenthal.]

Is it possible that Eric Boehlert is overstating his case in his article on Bernard Kerik's press coverage? For the record, I have not read the New York Daily News piece. But while the quote "If you put Sen. Kerry in the White House, I think you are going to see that happen," may be wrongheaded, it does not meet the standard of "head-swiveling," "vicious" or "ugly" -- at least not on its face.

It's one thing when said by Dick Cheney, a proven manipulative liar. But Bernard Kerik? I honestly don't know one way or the other yet. What I believe is that it is possible to disagree with me, and with Salon, and genuinely feel that even despite Sen. Kerry's record (war and otherwise), he would have made us more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. It is an opinion. We should be slower to vilify, I think.

-- Eric Lichtenfield

Stating that Bernard Kerik's mother was a prostitute, even if true, is abusive and disrespectful. Blumenthal can criticize Kerik's career and character as much as he pleases, but to use his mother's supposed and supposedly unworthy profession as further sign of his apparent lack of qualifications for his new job is despicable. Blumenthal should know better and so should Salon.

-- Paul Estrada

[Read "Why Moving to the Right Is Wrong," by Arianna Huffington.]

I agree with Arianna Huffington that Democrats need to stop tripping over one another in a mad scramble for the middle. However, her reasons why are all wrong.

Democratic positions on almost every issue are in the middle. Most of us favor nongovernment over government solutions, except where the nongovernment solutions can't do what is necessary and the need is too urgent to wait.

Most of us are committed fiscal conservatives, even deficit hawks. Most of us believe that people must take personal responsibility for their life situations, while also being committed to clearing away the real social inequities for which individuals cannot be legitimately held responsible.

Most of us believe that America must lead the struggle against the medieval totalitarianism called Islamism, but also know that that requires America to be worthy of that leadership in the eyes of our erstwhile friends and allies.

Most of us are in favor of tax cuts, but we want them to be fair. Most of us want private health insurance instead of public funding, but we want it to benefit patients before it benefits health insurance executives.

Most of us believe that abortion is usually a bad idea, but that making it unnecessary is a lot smarter than outlawing it or putting it out of reach for those who might need it.

Most of us believe that religion has a legitimate role in public life, but that no politically powerful sect has a right to stick its beliefs down anyone else's throat (or in our children's textbooks), or demand taxpayer dollars to help fund its proselytizing campaigns.

If Huffington and others sneer at these beliefs as copying the Republicans, they need to think again.

-- Robert Benjamin

Huffington is correct. As someone who campaigned for a Democrat who pandered to the right in an attempt to win over a red state, I can tell you it leaves a filthy taste in one's mouth.

The Oklahoma Senate race was a close one, but close doesn't count in politics. Ultimately, Brad Carson seems to have lost more liberal Democrats than he won conservative Republican voters.

Oklahoma conservatives are having a fine laugh at the expensive of the Democrats because in our Senate campaign we stood for absolutely nothing. We sort of supported gay rights, but not enough; we sort of supported pro-choice, but not really; and we're not antiwar because we love our soldiers. God forbid if our Senate candidate had insulted Bush.

Yet as Democrats, we worked our butts off to get this guy elected. In the Republicans' eyes, we are just a spineless version who hands out welfare checks and sometimes supports the ACLU. We are their confused cousins who don't know what we stand for on a given day, and may change the next.

The Democratic Party needs to move to the left in the coming years because if there is no distinguishing ourselves from the Republicans, then why vote for a Democrat at all? Why do we prostitute ourselves to Republicans by becoming them?

The Democratic Party needs to return to its roots, or eventually a new party will rise that does. We aren't vanilla anymore, and Howard Dean's scream will eventually prove to be a rallying call. Hell yes we are mad. We want to be heard, and we aren't conservative. We are liberals and we are damn proud of it.

-- Carol Ruth

By Salon Staff

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