Letters for July 26, 2007

Poor choice of words
Re: “Masochists” (From The Edge, by Anthony Peyton Porter, CN&R, July 19):

I usually do not respond to the inflammatory, poorly thought out or just plain ignorant things that I read. I have made an exception in this case, because as one whose first job out of college was as a special-education teacher, who volunteers on the board of a local organization that serves the developmentally disabled, and because someone has to stand up to small-minded drivel, I must object to Anthony Porter’s July 19 column, which was not From The Edge, but Over The Edge.

The time has long past when the disabled who live and work among us can be referred to as “tardos” and “cripples” in a misguided attempt to make up for the writer’s lack of creativity or to stir controversy or sales. Mr. Porter has his right to say whatever he wishes, but by the same token the News & Review has no obligation to publish it.

I doubt that the News & Review would publish an article that used equally derogatory language to describe an ethnic or religious minority, but it appears that the disabled are the last target for open discrimination. Language of this sort works to dehumanize the victim of discrimination, and local history shows where that will lead.

Shame on Mr. Porter and the News & Review, which has squandered any good work done by the recent article on athletics for the disabled. If someone used similar language to describe Mr. Porter, they would justifiably be denounced as bigoted. He and the News & Review should be judged by the same standard.

Stephan R. Wattenberg

I am writing this letter to take issue with the editorial policy of the CN&R with regard to the use of coarse, impolite, and insulting words in pieces submitted by your guest columnists. I had gotten somewhat used to the frequent written use of street terms for body and sexual functions, and had developed some appreciation for the CN&R having carved out its niche as the local publication that “tells it like it is,” allowing earthy language to be used where needed and appropriate.

However, even I was surprised and puzzled by your willingness to allow a schoolyard slur to be used by columnist Anthony Peyton Porter while referring to persons with developmental disabilities. For some reason, I had assumed that, despite your cavalier attitude toward uncivilized language, you still drew some sort of line at the use of degrading slang terms for groups of human beings based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. Obviously, I was mistaken.

I suppose that now, in order to be fair, we can expect all sorts of colorful and earthy terms to appear in your publication, including words once commonly used by ignorant white folks to refer to those of Mr. Porter’s ancestry.

All kidding aside, I suggest that your weekly magazine review its entire posture toward acceptable usage, with an eye toward helping to lift this community’s level of civic dialogue rather than contributing to its degradation.

Carl Ochsner
Work Training Center

Anthony Peyton Porter replies: Is “small-minded drivel” better that “tardos” and “cripples"? In some contexts, “blonde” is a slur. “Black” used to be. For some, “nigger” still is. Taking offense is a choice for all of us, from “nappy-headed hos” at Rutgers to Messrs. Wattenberg and Ochsner. If they don’t like the terms I use, I respectfully suggest they choose to use different ones.

Shield, not a sword
Re: “Killer comments” (Letters, by Paul Nokomis, CN&R, July 19):

I am writing in response to Paul Nokomis’ bilious and irrational letter regarding the article on convicted rapist and murderer James Karis Jr. Mr. Nokomis seethes with barely sublimated rage and pines for the “violent death” of Mr. Karis. He even claims that, if given the opportunity, he would murder Mr. Karis with his own hand in any of a variety of gruesome methods and preemptively ridicules anyone who might disagree with him as “morons” and “idiots.”

Though no one would deny that Mr. Karis is a threat to society, Mr. Nokomis, with his hateful and distorted reasoning, is not so far behind.

At issue here is the question of what purpose a system of justice ought to serve. It is this reader’s belief that a system of justice, if it is to be truly “just,” should protect the innocent—or, to be more precise, a system of justice ought to protect the rights of the innocent, as opposed to punishing the guilty. Our system of justice should be a shield, not a sword.

This purpose had been served when Mr. Karis was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Never again would he harm another person. Arguments in favor of capital punishment based on appeals to “the worst in human nature,” as Mr. Nokomis argues, have no place in a rational system of justice based on cautious, deliberate reasoning.

Patrick O’Connor

Re: “Think you’re saving the world?” (Letters, by Kathryn Marshall, CN&R, July 19):

In response to Kathryn Marshall’s letter about obesity [responding to the July 5 letter “Craving knowledge"], I should point out that the hypothalamus in the brain tells us what to eat, when to start eating and when to stop eating. Various chemicals (hormones) affect the hypothalamus, telling us to eat or not to eat. The brain has all kinds of neurobiological feedback systems that can be thrown out of equilibrium; anorexia and obesity can be the result.

As for “sensitivity training,” I should point out that “political correctness” was invented by the Communists in 1923 at the Frankfurt School in Germany and is a form of brainwashing. Anyone who advocates political correctness is advocating Communist dogma.

Michael M. Peters

Kinder, gentler justice
Re: “Sloan out on technicality” (Downstroke, CN&R, July 19):

How about using restorative justice to address the issues between [former principal Jeff] Sloan and the [Chico] school district? His suit for compensation of legal fees is minor compared to what he could seek for the treatment he endured. However, oppositional legal battles often ratchet up tension on both sides as they entrench themselves, exacerbating conflicts that rattle people in lasting ways.

Instead, how about sitting down together and acknowledging that what happened would be very difficult to endure after being honored as an outstanding educator? How about brainstorming creative ways to compensate Sloan for his loss, at least to respect that we are still humans who care about each other?

Irene Cardenas

Unique resource
Re: “Last big northeast project OK’d” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, CN&R, July 19):

Bob Speer wrote, “Councilmembers Mary Flynn and Tom Nickell both said their hearts were telling them to save all the wetlands, but their heads were telling them that the Epick project was better for Chico.” I wish all the councilmembers could connect their hearts and heads to see the unique beauty and complexity of this ecological system.

The land contains vernal pools, three types of fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp, the oldest still-existing species ever identified. Fossils date back 40 million years to the Triassic Era that show the species is virtually unchanged.

Tadpole shrimp are commonly referred to as “living fossils.” They are wonderful to watch. They fit in the palm of your hand and own 36 pairs of legs and a little trough that runs the length of their underside. They push their food up the trough to their mouths with legs in a gigging motion of unity and energy. They have been on earth since before the evolution of fish and never developed any defensive capabilities to protect them from fish. Consequently, they live where fish don’t live; mostly in small seasonal pools in our area!

We are profoundly blessed, and ought to feel proud, to have such vernal pools and the life they contain around us. It isn’t a matter of “saving” them, as if we’re gods; it is a matter of having enough respect and humility not to destroy something that should fill us with wonder.

That would be better for Chico.

Randy Larsen

Re: “Fellow travelers” (Cover story, by Robert Speer, CN&R, July 19): The reference to Scott Teeple’s latest painting downtown, on the north wall of the Chico Museum, should have said that it was of the old Chico Normal School. This has been corrected online.