Letters for October 18, 2001

Dig deeper
One of the problems in writing about rice is that everyone participating in the program has a personal perspective on its value to their own farming business [ “Rice checks,” Oct. 11]. One of the issues that I think you ignored has to do with the nature of farming anything in California.

Out here, land prices are higher, labor costs are higher, water and energy costs are higher. Unless we grow products that have higher value in the marketplace, it is difficult for California farmers to compete with other states, much less other countries. Our state’s wine grape growers certainly understand this. The Lundbergs’ exemplary operation is atypical among California rice growers precisely because they successfully produce rice for a highly specialized market.

You should know that there are many good, progressive rice growers in Butte County who have to live with the federal program at the same time they are pursuing market-driven production and marketing opportunities that are unique to California. The federal subsidy program, like agricultural subsidy programs worldwide, is nothing short of an impediment for many of these growers.

Simply put, the Gorrill Ranch and other major Butte County recipients of subsidy money may look like big winners at the federal trough, but the reality is far different. As the former head of the USDA, Clayton Yeutter, said, the program actually discriminates against the very growers who seem to be the biggest beneficiaries. Your analysis has to go much deeper to comprehend the truth of that assertion. One of these years the CN&R might even inquire about subsidies dollars collected per acre of rice production. That would shed a different light on your annual story.

Joe Hogan

Can we talk?
The tragedy of Sept. 11 will live forever in the hearts and minds of Americans. But more important than the horrible event will be our response to the “terrorists,” a response we will all have to live with, if we survive it. I wonder what President John F. Kennedy would do if he were alive? His enlightened response to the Cuban missile crisis insured the whole world would survive and not have to perish in a nuclear holocaust.

Once again the country and the rest of the world stand at a precarious and scary moment in history, and I fear for loved ones and all of us. At the helm, we have a far-from-enlightened president who communicates like a World Wrestling Federation participant surrounded by military hawks who seem bent on beating the terrorists into submission, which historically never has worked. It didn’t work with the PLO or the IRA, and it won’t work with bin Laden and those who share his views.

My solution is dialogue, communication with the “terrorists,” asking what they want, why they want to destroy us, how can we reconcile their pain and grievances and work together so that our worst nightmares won’t be realized. Traditional wisdom has it that you don’t negotiate with terrorists, but if we are to learn anything from history, then, negotiate we must. If we fail to learn this lesson, Sept. 11 and the loss of 6,000 people will be nothing in comparison to what will come out of the shadows of our future.

John-Michael Sun

Fear of thought
I read George Wright [ “Going down the wrong path,” Essay, Sept. 20] several weeks ago and found it thought provoking. I also read the responses to that article in the Oct. 4 issue and found the majority of them frightening. It seems that some people are more afraid of critical thinking and a different perspective than they are of going to war.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were horrific and terrifying and shook us all to the core and made us question our safety and security. We are scared and for good reason. We want our government to protect us, and it should. The only thing that stands between us and another attack is our government; therefore most of us feel we must not question the government or our leaders.

One of the beautiful strengths of the United States of America is that we are a nation “for the people,” including people who question it. True patriots can love and be critical of their country at the same time. Indeed, in a democracy is it not our duty to participate in our own governance and sometimes question our government’s actions?

We need to stand united right now. That means keeping an open mind, obtaining accurate information (including different ideas), listening to all Americans and working together toward an intelligent resolution. We must do all we can to prevent more death and destruction, including keeping our young Americans from dying on foreign ground. I believe this is patriotism.

Tanya J. Meyer

Suggested reading
Hey Allie Carey, loved your letter [ “Welcome to Chico,” Letters, Oct. 11]. Rants are fun. Still, if you are going to allow yourself to have opinions, you really need to base them on something. Allow me to suggest some sources. You probably won’t like them, but I’ll tell you what: Read mine, and I’ll pursue information that you suggest. As citizens, we are obligated to know what we are talking about, and more sources are better than fewer. Check these out:

Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, 1992); Lawrence, T.E., Seven Pillars of Wisdom (my copy is falling apart, no title page); Schumacher, E.F., Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Harper & Row: New York, 1973); Webster, Donovan, Aftermath: The Remnants of War (Random House, New York: 1998).

Clark is a former U.S. attorney general who has been involved in such matters since the Nuremberg trials. Lawrence is the original of Lawrence of Arabia; this is a great first-person history and a good introduction to that part of the world.

Concerning the “love it or leave it” bit: You don’t get it—this is America; we are obligated to speak out, especially if we know something about the subject. Speaking of which, I was a mechanic for 20 years, I have studied the situation at length, and my conclusions have led me to refuse to own cars. It has been three years, and I hope never to drive again. Morally responsible people don’t.

Nelson Kaiser

Nourishing democracy
George Wright’s essay has stimulated the type of heated debate a democracy requires. Letter writers opposed or supportive of Wright’s viewpoints were challenged to state their own ideas clearly and to submit them for examination by CN&R readers. A democracy thrives upon this type of open debate.

Dolores Mitchell