Letters for September 4, 2003
I’m usually not at a loss for words, trust me on this one, but your story about Garth Talbott left me speechless [“Hello from Baghdad,” cover story, Aug. 14]. What an incredibly moving diary of a young man’s innermost feelings during wartime.
I have been living in the United Arab Emirates since early this year and have watched with wide eyes as the threat, promise and advent of war occurred on the other side of the Gulf. Although I have never felt at risk for any type of attack, I did experience open stares of anger and disgust from many. And, although I remained quiet and observant during this time, I did have the opportunity—and I do feel it was an opportunity—to listen and to be on the receiving end of some pretty angry sentiments about the United States.
Anna, thank you so much for sharing Garth’s beautiful and poetic letters. I have a son about his age in Chico, and he is struggling, just as Garth did, to make it in the region. I hope that my son reads Garth’s letters and realizes that he will survive this economic war just as Garth will survive the war he is part of. And, as I do each night for my son, tonight as I drift off to sleep I will send some loving energy Garth’s way, just across the water.
Your cover story of Aug. 14 [“Hello from Baghdad”] reminds one of the observation that because children are almost entirely self-absorbed, they can seldom make accurate social observations. Corporal Talbott is pretty typical of your average soldier of any army anywhere—brainwashed, confused, ignorant of the true nature of the nightmare he is trapped in. He observes that “…we poured so much fire into them I almost felt sorry for the bastards” and follows it up immediately with “….I’m making pretty good money right now,” followed by “…I hope the protestors understand that we have done something honorable.”
He watched some kids beating another kid with a stick and asks “…what the hell is wrong with these people?” when the same thing occurs every day in America, only a thousand times worse. He claims he wants to “…kill the fuckers responsible for the way the Iraqis behave—culture be damned.”
He was right about one thing—a soldier is just a machine, a mindless tool used by those in power to justify their insane visions. A criminal and disastrous foreign policy from Washington for the past hundred years never crosses his radar screen. And if he really wants to “kill the fuckers” responsible for the terror, grief and genocide in Iraq and several dozen other helpless Third World countries under the fascist, imperialist American boot, he is in the wrong place.
C. Owsley Rain put a positive spin on the public art most wrongly call “graffiti” [Culture vulture, Aug. 21]. That column is most-hip. Really! Yeah, cops in this town are way too tough on these innocent kids. You know, I don’t think there’s one hip business owner here either. Am I in Wyoming or something? Somebody please send us some tolerance training. While you’re at it, how ’bout we all go to “culture school” and learn a thing or two. Things have got to change. Really!
C. Owsley Rain, lemme guess: You’re in your 40s. You hang out at punk shows downtown with teenagers. You’re a loser. Right? I had to have hit one or two. Was your column a joke? Somehow I think not. Never thought I’d miss Bitter Betty.
Give ’em room
Trust me, I know a lot about graffiti. C. Owsley Rain, you are correct—most graffiti writers just want to personalize an impersonal environment. Face it, with the way this city is growing, graffiti is inevitable. The amount of development that is going on in Chico puts this city in a dangerous place, and graffiti, as well as the police and public reaction to it, will play a big part in what kind of city Chico becomes.
A simple crime like graffiti can authorize giant funding for surveillance cameras and gang task forces. While that might make some feel safer, these things seem a little oppressive to me. That is where the separation starts in a city, deciding who can feel safe and who can’t. A message to the public: Don’t be scared of graffiti. Most of the stuff you see here is not gang related. It’s just kids, like yours and mine, trying to find credit for being an individual.
Let the kids in Chico breathe. Give them the space to be creative. Try to remember what it was like to be young, and things in this city will be fine.
received via e-mail
I along with several other members of this office read your paper regularly and generally find it to be fair, sensitive and balanced in its reporting. Being the prosecutor in the case of Reigh Ellis, I found your cavalier and erroneous reporting [Downstroke, Aug. 21] to be disturbing.
First, I find the title of the article, “Clubbin',” most disconcerting. It brings to mind an evening of bar hopping, rather than the aftermath of the tragic death of a young college student whose skull was crushed by a bat-wielding defendant.
Second, even the most perfunctory overview of the facts shows the defendant, along with a few of his friends, attacked without provocation three intoxicated young men earlier in the evening, breaking the jaw of one of them. That person was hospitalized. That vicious assault precipitated the confrontation at the apartment where Ellis retreated with friends. Mr. Ellis was never struck by anyone.
There exists erroneous implication that Mr. Ellis merely made a mistake and did not know that the victim, Randy Clark, was not involved in the confrontation mentioned above.
To the contrary, Mr. Ellis knew Mr. Clark was not involved. A witness heard Mr. Clark tell Mr. Ellis he was not involved. Mr. Ellis insisted Randy tell him where ‘they” went. When he did not, Randy was killed. Randy Clark was murdered because he did not provide enough information as to the whereabouts of those persons to satisfy Mr. Ellis’ anger at being confronted with the violence he had wrought that evening.
Treating murder in such an offhanded manner, particularly one as tragic as this, is well beneath the standards normally seen in your paper. There is a story here, a story of inexplicable rage and violence and death. The story of every parent’s worst nightmare. The story of the loss of a son, a brother, and a valued member of his community.
Randy Clark, his family and friends deserved better from you.
Leonard D. Goldkind
Deputy District Attorney