Gandhi Not Old-School
The logic used by proponents of violent protests is the logic used by the Bush administration in its war on Iraq [Violence and Protest, April 9]. Both are justifying violence by saying that, unlike other means, it is effective. Whereas Mr. Bush is too impatient for diplomatic negotiations, Craig Rosebraugh likewise is too impatient for the old-school Gandhian approach.
There is no question that political violence works, but theres a fine line to be drawn between a political protest and what I call household terrorismunlawfully using force to coerce and intimidate society. Just like Mr. Bush, Mr. Rosebraugh is convinced that God is on his side, that his cause merits arson, threatening reporters, and fighting the police. Justifying violence by effectiveness sets thoughtful protesting on a dangerous path of isolated, self- proclaimed martyrdom. The charismaticcall for using force in the name of justice is attractive, but it is deeply flawed, and one can only hope that protesters have enough common sense not to buy into it.
A Portland Trailblazer?
Its interesting to see that Seattle, plagued by violent rioting in recent years, would offer Mr. Rosebraugh such a warm reception [Violence and Protest, April 9]. Even more interesting is the credence he is being granted among serious protesters. Currently teetering on the brink of disparity with the American public, if the anti-war movement adopts Rosebraughs tactics, it will lose all credibility. A significant portion of Americans who are indifferent toward the war will close the book on an organization usinginherently contradictorymethodsto achieve peace. This reaction is human; I observed a similar reaction in my middle-of-the-road friends who expressed their disappointment in protesters vomiting on a San Francisco state building and clogging the citys financial district.
Its not surprising to see old-school Gandhian techniques being swept under the rug. Intelligent dialogue is an archaic invention of a more compassionate generation. In an age of instant gratification, a generation that gets most of its news during MTV station breaks has no time for discussion. I encourage Rosebraugh to pick up his club and start swinging toward the future. Hopefully in doing so, he will become the bad example, not the brave Portland trailblazer.
At a time when much of the media provides our citizenry with a kaleidoscopic and cacophonous array of jingoistic, disingenuous reporting on the Iraq war and its uncertain aftermath, Rick Anderson does a noble deed and reminds us how quickly todays men and women in uniform can become tomorrows pariahs [Crippled Home Front, April 9]. The erosion of services throughout the VA medical system is the clearest example of the real and widespread disregard Bush and company have for the common soldier. In the final analysis, they are as expendable as any other piece of worn-out, used material.
In The New York Times (April 10), columnist Bob Herbert wrote: There arent a lot of rich kids in that desert. The U.S. military is largely working-class. The power brokers homing in on $100 billion worth of postwar reconstruction contracts are not. Indeed, the thought of esurient, swag-bellied corporate vultures further stuffing their own coffers in the wake of the horrors of recent weekswhile money evaporates for veterans hospitals and related programsis enough to make us all sick. Hopefully Anderson, resolute reporter that he is, will stay on the trail of this sordid tale.
Vets Care Best Ever
I think Rick Anderson trivialized a very complex situation [Crippled Home Front, April 9]. The VA medical system was and is a political spoils system. Any discussion that doesnt acknowledge its political character is flawed from the beginning.
Some of the biggest villains are the veterans service organizations (VSOs). Usually theyre portrayed as the heroes. Andersons uncritical use of the Paralyzed Veterans of America presidents testimony is typical. While VSOs can and do provide useful services, they have a vested interest in preserving the status quo. Victims need organizations to represent them against a bureaucracy perceived as uncaring.
You dont try to reform the VA systems if you know whats good for you. The VSOs taught Edward Derwinski that lesson in 1992, and everyone involved learned the lesson. Clintons appointment of a prominent player in the VSOs as a VA secretary was a great symbol, but it reinforced in the minds of the professional staff at the VA who was driving the train.
The use of the number of veterans to examine the problem is ridiculous. Not all veterans are ordinarily served through VA facilities; retired veterans are an example. Veterans without a service-connected disability (that is, most of us) have a low priority at VA facilities, and rightfully so.
Medical care for veterans isnt perfect, but it is the best ever. When you compare it to the broad sweep of American history, this is the best care ever given to American veterans. This is not to minimize the myriad problems in the VA service delivery system, but a superficial, emotional discussion built around the unfortunate case of one veteran does nothing to either enlighten or move the issue forward.
Dont Undercut Kucinich
Im writing in response to Geov Parrishs column, The Next President [April 9]. In it, he states that Dennis Kucinich is one of the most ethical and courageous individuals in American politics today. Hes also completely unelectable as president.
Shame on Parrish. He should be using his voice and influence to urge readers to work for a change in our government. He should be urging readers to demand that the Democratic Party become an opposition party, not a party that does not differ from the Republicans in any tangible way.
The strategy of putting our energy behind the Democratic candidate who is most likely to win got us Al Gore, and that got us Bush and the lunatics surrounding him that we now have. Democrats cannot be fractured like in 2000. We must unite behind what we believe in. And if you believe in Dennis Kucinich, for Gods sake, stand up and say so.
Savage is No Moore
Tim Appelos unsatisfactory article lacked common sense [Cartoon Nation, April 9]. Michael Savage and Michael Moore are not comparable in the simplistic way he describes. The polarization he suggests is one of the most destructive legacies of the Bush administration.
To hold up Michael Savage as a spokesman for anything but his own bile and delusions is ridiculous. He is a hate crime waitingto happen. Hes displacement therapy for the twisted and entertainment for the disenfranchised. I beg to differ with Appelo that most of America thinks like him. Some of whats left of the television news audience is watching, and we dont know why. MSNBC wants to take market share from Fox, so they pawed through the garbage, foundMr. Savage,and gave Donahue the push.
Michael Moore, on the other hand, has an agenda that is admirable. He wants us to look at ourselves and help make this a better country and world. Hell make you laugh while he points out our absurdities and vulnerabilities and those who prey on those vulnerabilities. His success is a grassroots phenomenon. For instance, his book Stupid White Men was not promoted by the publishers. They tried to make him change it, and he refused. He received zero interviews on television for months. On its merits, it rose to the top and stayed there. He isnt successful because hes hyped by MSNBC or Clear Channel but because he is speaking to the people of this nationand judging by his success at Cannes, he speaks to the world.
As creator of the piece reviewed by Sandra Kurtz in the March 26 issue under the headline Fits and Pieces, I would like to set the record straight on a few points.
Kurtz fails to mention in her review that prior to the show she interviewed me about what prompted me to make this work and about my personal connection to epilepsy. In fact, most of the review is about the interview, not about the show. She completely omits comments on the set, the music, the cast, or the performances, giving only the shortest shrift to the visual art and the choreography. Yet nowhere in the actual piece is it mentioned that I have epilepsy or that I could have a seizure on stage. Kurtzs cutesy Clairol comment about is she or isnt she having a seizure during the performance only shows the level of her discomfort and ignorance about epilepsy. She seems to have been waiting for a seizure, hoping to witness a freak show.
Not all seizures knock people down, causing them to foam at the mouth and thrash about. I wanted to make a piece that gives those who do not suffer seizures some insights into what life is like for those who do. About 2.8 million Americans have seizures. I thought other people might be curious. It is particularly insensitive to characterize an epileptics disorder as a fitas though it were an emotional problem that a little more self-awareness could control. This is a term that passed out of vogue in the 19th century, and most of us had hoped that that mind-set went with it.
It would be easy to forgive a reader of this review for thinking that Ms. Kurtz is intimately familiar with my work. She states that the movement in Coming Unglued is mostly like other pieces Eckert has made: long abstract phrases performed with moderate energy. Unfortunately, she is not. She has never reviewed, or even seen, as far as I know, any of the four other full-length works I have created. In the last 10 years, she has seen one short piece of mine, which I created as part of a performance shared with two other artists. She did not review it.
Finally, I hate to be the one to break the news to Ms. Kurtz, but all of modern dance is long abstract phrases. It is this abstraction that allows modern dance to be interpreted and keeps it from devolving into the trite, literal gyrations that characterizes MTV dance. Has she never seen a Merce Cunningham piece? That she seems to have been unable to grasp and critique the motifs and patterning in my choreography that other viewers commented to me on makes me wonder what she thinks modern dance is all about.
Holly A. Eckert
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