Letters for January 22, 2009

Letter of the week
A pox on both positions

Re “Can we talk?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, January 8):

If R.V. Scheide’s goal in his [column] was to perpetuate stereotypes about American Jewry, he did a fine job. It is simply not true that “by and large” we refuse to criticize the Israeli government.

Not once does he mention the many vocal, active Jewish organizations that have long spoken out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians (and Palestinian violence towards Israelis). Organizations such as Tikkun, Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and others, while not as moneyed as [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], are equally as representative of U.S Jews (if not more so, given that they are grassroots organizations).

It is true that the mainstream U.S. media appears less critical of Israeli policy than does media in Israel. It is also true that AIPAC has influence on politicians, as do many other powerful lobbying groups. However, a thoughtful person (and a good journalist) would recognize that these facts do not support a generalization about the entirety of American Jewry.

Between Scheide’s highly selective portrait of U.S. Jews and dispatches from Gaza that fail to provide any meaningful perspective on the centuries of ethnic, religious and political animosity that have led to suffering for countless people on all sides, I have to say that I am just as disgusted by SN&R’s approach towards this issue as I am by AIPAC’s.

Karen Hirsch
via e-mail

Equality, not tone

Re “Letters to Obama” (SN&R Feature, January 15):

This is in response to Kel Munger’s letter to Obama, “You set the tone.” She suggests that the way that gay people can be treated like full citizens is to acknowledge that Rick Warren sets the wrong tone.

We disagree. While the choice of Rick Warren was ill-advised and abominable, saying he sets the wrong tone is not going to give us full equality. The only way that gay people can be treated like full citizens is with marriage on the federal level. Period.

Barb De Bonte and Barb Sage

End three strikes

Re “Prison break” by Janelle Weiner (SN&R Frontlines, January 15):

The only real answer is sentencing reform, parole reform and an end to the [Board of Parole Hearings].

Today, one-quarter of the prison population are second and third strikers, serving double time or life, the majority for petty crimes such as drug possession or shoplifting. “Three strikes” needs to be amended. Resentence nonviolent offenders to a time that fits the crime.

Not only will the medical costs drop, so will the prison budget that today eats away 10 percent of the state’s general fund! That is dollars that used to go to education and health care, but are stolen under the guise of public safety to build and expand a prison system so broken, we can’t even care for the inmates we have, never mind all those we will have in the future.

Frank Courser

Sue the state!

Re “Prison break” by Janelle Weiner (SN&R Frontlines, January 15):

This is so sad, that the state of California would let this many people die in prison and not care at all. I think all the families of dying inmates should sue the state. Bring on the lawsuits, because the state of California doesn’t care who dies in there!

Denise Langley

Josh is better than music

Re “Beans & rice, but with guts” by Josh Fernandez (SN&R Music, January 15):

I’m not into the local music scene, but, when I pick up SN&R, I turn first to Music, happily anticipating an article by Josh Fernandez. Why? Look to Fernandez’s latest article, “Beans and rice, but with guts” for the answer. Like the hip-hop artists he celebrates, Fernandez displays, once again, his intelligent and masterful use of language, allowing the reader to experience words as the site of power and pleasure. That’s why.

Eileen Cotter

Shared fatigue

Re “Defiance” by Jonathan Kiefer (SN&R Clips, January 15):

At last! Somebody else who has Holocaust-movie fatigue. I thought it was just me.

Astor Gravelle
Hamilton, Ontario

No dialogue, just opinions

Re “Can we talk?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, January 8):

While I agree with your opinion that American Jews, who may feel the same as you, should speak up about this conflict, my overwhelming question is why?

I find it difficult to understand your point. American Jews played a hand in American politics. American Jews voiced their disagreement with the Iraq war. American Jews were part of civil-rights movements. I would venture to say that every single ethnic/religious group in this nation could claim those points.

Now here is my point. Everyone in America has the right to an opinion. By stating an opinion, you also have to be open to the opinion of others. The fundamental problem with this is that everyone does have an opinion, and that is mostly where it stops.

Your headline reads, “Can we talk? American Jews are the key to peace in the Middle East, if only they’d speak up.” Yet I see no talking points in your article that could help create this dialogue. I only see five paragraphs of text of background, ending in a short, self-defeating couple of sentences.

What should the American Jewish community open their dialogue about? If by showing that they disagree with and apologize for Israel at this pivotal moment, the Arab world might collectively say, “Hey, those guys aren’t that bad, let’s sit down and talk.”

American Jews are the last people that Israel’s enemies want to hear from. They have two strikes against them at the door: being American and being Jewish. You can have all the book-club meetings, coffee conversations and town-hall meetings between every single Jewish American. It will not make a difference. American Jews are a hated people in a hated nation.

Look in the current news. Swastikas and Stars of David scrawled on Jewish synagogues and places of business. Protesters goose-stepping and raising their right arms. People screaming for the ovens to be opened.

The point these subhumans make is very clear: The only way for there to be peace in the Middle East is for the total eradication of the Jews.

In 1948, the newly founded Jewish state fought its battle for liberation. In this time, they fought because they feared another Jewish Holocaust would happen in the Middle East. Sixty years later, we find out that that is exactly what the Arab world has wanted all along.

The only action in this matter is simple. Pick your side and stay on it. Israel is not fighting a people; it is fighting a religion and the mental disease that is radical Islam.

Apology as policy will not work. Discussion groups will not work. The beast has reared its terrible head, and we are staring into its hateful eyes.

Jeremy Miller
via e-mail

Discovering a local treasure

Re “Sacred wisdom” by Anna Barela (SN&R Sacreligious! January 8):

The description and the history [Anna] Barela provided [about Westminster Presbyterian] piqued my curiosity. Reading about a free concert at this location, I decided to attend. The featured musician was Eldred Marshall, a pianist who has memorized Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. Marshall played selections from Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and a riveting piece by [Mario] Godoy, titled Nightfall. The mesmerizing music filled what Barela aptly called “the cavernous expanse.” What a delightful way to spend midday in Midtown!

Getting a bite to eat, I met a man who had also read Barela’s article. He said he was amazed to learn the Sacramento church had been an Eastern Orthodox church, then an Islamic mosque and a Roman Catholic cathedral.

Without contradicting him, I pulled out a copy of Barela’s article with the picture of Hagia Sophia. I mentioned it had been a model for the Sacramento church. In a very quiet voice he said, “Oh … maybe the history referred to that church in Istanbul.”

Thanks to Anna Barela, I will be attending more Music@Noon concerts on Wednesdays at Westminster.

Susan M. Osborn
via e-mail

Clueless about history …

Re “Valkyrie” by Daniel Barnes (SN&R Clips, January 8):

SN&R Clips is at the top of my list for movie reviews; however, the writer of the review for Valkyrie, currently showing in local theaters, was absolutely clueless.

The movie does not paint itself into a corner. Anyone who is familiar with the attempts to kill Hitler will know this is not a movie that “tries to get you to root for the Nazis.” On the contrary, it is a true story about one of several failed attempts to kill Hitler and wrest power from the Nazis in order to save what was left of Germany and end the war in Europe.

Most definitely, the movie is not “heavy-handed and slow” if you have the slightest sense about what is occurring. It is not “lifeless and borderline silly,” but captures the moment, is fast-moving and is as historically accurate as a film can be.

Moreover, it does not glorify the Nazis; rather, it depicts what was really the penchant of the National Socialist Party for displaying banners, flags and other regalia any place of significance.

Finally, as a historian and a personal friend of [Maj. Gen.] Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the eldest son of Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg (who, by the way, viewed the movie “positively”), I found the review to be totally misleading and obviously written by someone who is uninformed or simply doesn’t know the difference between a “grind-house” cinema and a great one.

William G. Hamilton

… and learning about history

Re “The trial of General Dang” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, December 4):

My sincere gratitude for a very informative description of my great uncle. I’ve a very limited knowledge of his impressive past; your article definitely fills in all the blanks. I am very happy to see an informative article that exonerated my great uncle.

Even now, many of our large family members who remain in Vietnam still suffer in both financial and social status just because we’re all involved with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Our family has no love for the current Vietnamese regime! Every male member of our family (in my father’s generation) has suffered greatly since 1975. They all went through the famous re-education camp (three years for my dad and as long as 10-plus years for my fifth uncle!). Even my grandfather (great Uncle Dang’s father-in-law), who was in his late 60s, was jailed for more than a year just for being associated with the French and ARVN regime.

I consider myself very fortunate to have such a distinguished and august family member. Although I was born in 1968, I’ve certainly never forgotten my native country’s colorful history. Even now the phrase by President Thieu, “Don’t listen to what the communist said, but observe carefully their actions and behavior” remains truthful after all these years.

Phu Huynh
via e-mail