In harm's way
I'm writing this first and foremost as a parent who has recently lost my only son in a rather meaningless way. This made me think of all those other parents who have sons and daughters in harm's way --- and some who are already dead.
I am revolted by these losses and the senselessness of these sacrifices. The extent of the feelings that I can spare from my own loss is quite limited; I'm still rather numb. However, that a cold, indifferent regime can arbitrarily cause this agony is beyond my ken. No one but a parent knows what it means to lose a son or daughter. That these people in the Beltway should have this kind of power is monstrous.
We need to have due process for war. A criminal has that right; why shouldn't our sons? Perhaps we could have a panel of randomly selected parents who could weigh the evidence and make a fitting determination. If that had been done now, I seriously doubt that our children would be in harm's way in southwest Asia.
Robert Benvenuti, Delaware Avenue, Rochester
The Lej and the war
Regarding Jack Spula's April 2 Metro Ink piece, "War of Words": I'd like to clear up an error, and add some further thoughts to the discussion. Mr. Spula wrote about two recent resolutions submitted by members of the Democratic caucus to the president of the County Legislature.
One, put forward in January by Bill Benet, called on President Bush to reject a military attack on Iraq and to focus efforts against al-Qaeda. Our staff mistakenly informed Mr. Spula that I was the only other legislator who had signed the document; in fact, Lynda Garner Goldstein and Calvin Lee also added their signatures.
A second resolution, submitted by Christopher Wilmot, expresses support for American troops in Iraq, now that they are engaged in military action. Ten of 13 caucus members have so far signed the letter.
In both cases, legislators and staff-members struggled hard and argued passionately over the wording and sentiment of the resolutions. The documents were offered to all legislators for signature. While only Democratic members chose to sign Mr. Benet's resolution, legislators have until April 11 to decide whether to sign Mr. Wilmot's letter. That document is still circulating among members of both caucuses.
But the decision to sign either resolution is not an easy one. Among our own caucus, reasons vary: Some members decided that the issues in question were too personal; some serve constituents with family members in the service; some felt the language to be either too pro-war or not pro-war enough. Mr. Spula may see these two resolutions as contradictory, but not all of us do. The documents and their signatures are an expression of the complexities of the issues, as well as the respected differences in our caucus.
Speaking for myself (although three of us signed both resolutions), I chose to sign both for the following reasons: I support our troops, but I do not believe that supporting the troops requires me to support the prosecution of this war. Our loyal troops now serve what, in my judgment, is a misguided policy. I believe that we best support our troops when our foreign policy is wise, patient, and thoughtful. I do not "buy" that to question George W. Bush's foreign policy is disrespectful of our troops.
To form a clear opinion about war, and about this war in particular, is not an easy task for everyone. Yes, there are people on both sides of the issue who are fortunate enough to feel unshakable moral certainty about their opinion. Among them is President Bush, who stated a few days before he declared war, "If anyone can be at peace, I am at peace about this."
But the rest of us aren't so lucky. The resolutions that emerge from the Democratic caucus, and the signatures that are subsequently added or withheld, reflect the complicated spectrum of public and personal opinion that has emerged over the last few months. It is not unusual in our day to oppose the war and support the troops, or to support some aims of the war but oppose US unilateral military action. Dissent and ambiguity will be part of our national dialogue until the war is over and well beyond. These are messy times. Unfortunately, we all must get used to the uncertainty that is modern life, and we must keep grappling with the difficult issues.
Stephanie Polowe-Aldersley, Democratic Leader, Monroe County Legislature
Jack Bradigan Spula responds: If the troops are engaged in an immoral, illegal war, it's flat-out wrong to support them, except by demanding they be demobilized and brought home. Otherwise, you inescapably support the military mission. The hawks understand this and exploit it.
I might react differently if the support were for conscientious objectors or military resisters. Their numbers will grow as this "war on terror" expands, and they'll need all the help we can give.
I feel sorry for youngsters who enlisted without understanding what war means. Likewise for longtime soldiers who wake up to the fact that violence is not the way. But what about the gung-ho crowd? Servicemembers who favor this war and carry out their orders deserve criticism. And if they have a hand in war crimes, they bear responsibility to some degree.
Nobody is above the law. And orders from the White House and Pentagon don't repeal the law. In fact, servicemembers have a duty not to obey a "patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime," says the Uniform Code of Military Justice. "Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment," according to the Nuremberg Principles. The relevant crimes include "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression."
That might implicate a lot of us outside the ranks, too. All the more reason to oppose the war --- consistently and unambiguously --- in the political realm.
Out with the old?
According to the news, some of our wounded soldiers have been transported to a US military hospital in Germany. It seems, then, that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not move our military's medical facilities to "New" Europe after dismissing Germany as part of "Old" Europe. This may have been because there wasn't enough time (due to our rush to war), or because Old Europe remains a suitable place for our facilities.
The secretary may see this as a minimal contribution on Germany's part, and so he may choose to miss the irony of it. If he does, let him also ignore those of us who offer Old Europe a discreet danke schoen.
Basil Marasco Jr., Wills Road, Chili
Some esteemed members of our current administration say that protesting the war on Iraq is unpatriotic and harms our men and women serving over there. This should come as no surprise from a far-right leadership whose idea of policy is to invent witty catch phrases ("Operation Iraqi Freedom" is my favorite) and issue false rhetoric to a sleeping American public.
America is a democracy; that means debate and discourse are not merely to be encouraged, but are fundamental to its survival. We who protest act not against those in the field, but for them. Anger and resentment is thrust not at the soldier, but at those people who zealously put them in harm's way.
A great man once stated that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Cloaking oneself in the flag does not automatically put a person on the side of justice. I am insulted when my patriotism is questioned for stating my disagreement with the direction this nation is headed in. It is because I love this country that I do so.
Richard Kusminsky, Beverly Street, Rochester
"Tightening the noose" as it relates to Saddam, Iraq, and the war: This expression is offensive, racist, irresponsible, and insensitive. This racist statement was echoed throughout the black community in the Deep South when white people searched for innocent blacks and hung them.
I do believe that the war and the president both are racist, and neither one deserves respect.
The Rev. Raymond L. Graves, Horseshoe Lane North, Henrietta
The war isn't moral
There isn't a shred of evidence that anyone of Iraqi descent committed crimes against US citizens. On the other hand, the US has killed as many as 100,000 Iraqi troops, and there are reports that well over 50,000 civilians, mostly children, have died because of US-enforced sanctions.
The UN inspectors did not uncover any evidence that warrants the massive US killing force.
There is no moral ground for this war. Moral ground involves concern for human life and alleviation of human suffering. People in Middle Eastern, African, and Latin and Central American countries know that the US cares only about valuable resources.
The US action in view of UN Resolution 1441 destroys any moral grounds for military action. I charge the Bush Administration with crimes against humanity and with violating my moral beliefs.
I am a disabled Korean War veteran who majored in history and has studied history for 50 years. I have lived through three major, brutal military conflicts. The military response in World War II and Korea was justified. Vietnam was also a misguided, tragic, futile effort. But the Bush Administration's policy has the potential to cause continuous guerilla warfare. It has done severe damage to the US image everywhere and is destroying the US and world economies.
Ray Bliss, West Henrietta Road, West Henrietta
Having ridden on RTS and Greyhound/Trailways buses as well as Amtrak trains since the mid 1970s, I'd like to think my first-hand experience trumps that of people who've only been in cars during that period.
As such, I found the cover story about the proposed downtown transit center ("Street Fight," March 26) quite interesting. While RGRTA's "Temple of Transit" proposal is flawed for a wide variety of reasons, the so-called "Sibley Station," while better, is also flawed because:
• It can't accommodate east and southbound RTS buses.
• It doesn't address the RTS buses that line up at the rear of Midtown.
• It's based on an outmoded "hub and spoke" route system, which hasn't kept up with changes in work and shopping patterns.
• It doesn't address relocating the Greyhound/Trailways station from a place where it never belonged. (The Andrews Street building is still available, though waiting for "redevelopment" 18 years after it closed.)
• Unlike the plans in cities who've dealt with this successfully, trains aren't part of the mix.
Given the economic malaise we're in, it's hard to justify spending scarce money on separate bus and train projects. Instead, these can be combined on Central Avenue, recreating Claude Bragdon's building with modern-day features. Besides returning to an above-ground format, the project would breathe new life into this portion of the city; it would provide ample room for buses to maneuver, and it can be configured to handle long-overdue high-speed passenger trains.
If postal officials are finally serious about cutting costs, the north side of Main and Clinton can be turned into a central "Downtown Station" combining State Street, Cumberland Street, and Midtown. Or, when the marketplace can support it, a developer can be brought in to do a Rochester version of Park Centre in Cleveland.
Just as with Frontier Field, this community can reach consensus on this, if there's an open and honest dialogue.
Jeff Goldblatt, Parkside Crescent, Irondequoit
In his allegedly favorable review of the film Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times (March 19), Jon Popick describes the film as "incredibly one-sided ass-kissing." While this remark displays all the wit and charm for which Mr. Popick is well known, I must protest the political naiveté underlying it.
It is true that Power and Terror does not give people who disagree with Chomsky much of a hearing, and that the film is rather flattering to Chomsky. However, the mainstream perspective Chomsky critiques is heard constantly in the media --- it's impossible to avoid, in fact --- and critics like Chomsky are almost never given a chance to respond. And virtually every piece of coverage given to George W. Bush on TV these days qualifies as "ass-kissing."
People who talk about the "one-sidedness" of the Left media never seem to talk about the even worse one-sidedness of the mainstream media. The Right does this as part of a calculated strategy to suppress dissident voices; after all, the Left can't say very much at all if the mainstream press ignores them and if the Left press has to waste its scarce media resources giving views they dislike yet more chances to be heard.
But when people at City repeat this criticism of the Left media, I can only attribute it to sheer cluelessness.
There's no reason for the Left to feel it has to give the other side a chance to speak, as long as the dominant position it criticizes is as prevalent as oxygen. And I'll be happy to criticize the Left for not giving the mainstream opportunities to be heard --- as soon as the mainstream starts giving the Left the same opportunities.
Dr. Peter C. Stone, Political Science Department, University of Rochester Rochester
Jon Popick responds: The City's Choice I wrote for Power and Terror was, in fact, an analysis of the documentary --- not an essay about American politics and how it affects the modern media structure. And I'd make the same "one-sided ass-kissing" comment about any other documentary that focused on any other person and came across like one big fluff piece.
For the record, my review was neither positive nor "allegedly positive." It did not side with or against Chomsky's political beliefs. It did not criticize Chomsky (other than his boring delivery) or any of his followers. It was simply a non-biased, fact-driven review of an 84-minute film that I believe could have been better had it not been quite so eager to glorify its subject.
Incidentally, the professor's letter would probably have given Chomsky himself a good chuckle, especially since he believes both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of manipulating the media. Chomsky would also agree that even lowly members of the "bewildered herd" would be entitled to an opinion of their own without being marginalized by the intellectual elite.
My four children attend School 23 in the city. I recently received a letter from Superintendent of Schools Manuel Rivera on the subject of "providing a safe school environment." I read it with a mixture of amusement and incredulity.
At my children's school, a nurse is on duty only two hours per week. I would like to know how the district proposes to take necessary measures in the event of an emergency when even basic needs have not been met. As an example, when one of my children recently became ill at school, he had no place to rest while waiting to be picked up. Yet the letter speaks of "medical preparedness."
With no medically trained personnel in our schools, who will be the first responders in the event of a crisis? Today our schools are incapable of properly treating a hangnail, much less an emergency situation. If, as Dr. Rivera states in his letter, the Rochester School District is truly "committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of our children," it will immediately place a fulltime nurse in every school building.
Eileen Scardino, Berkeley Street, Rochester (Scardino is treasurer of the School 23 PTA)
Once again the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra cries "poor mouth." Current headlines tell us that this crisis could threaten the orchestra's existence. Pardon me while I yawn, but I've been hearing this --- almost every year --- since the RPO was managed by the Civic Music Association 40 years ago.
The sad truth is: Rochester does not need a philharmonic orchestra. Aside from being a rather tired ensemble, the RPO is redundant. On any given day of the week, Rochesterians can see variety of performances throughout our community. The venue might be the Eastman Theatre, Kilbourn Hall, Downtown Presbyterian, the Hochstein Performance Hall, Christ Church, or Temple B'rith Kodesh. Not only are these usually free concerts, but the performers are world-class talents; neither can be said frequently by the RPO.
Our small town is saturated in exceptional music and performers. We already boast having one of the finest orchestras in the world: the Eastman School's Philharmonia. Under the baton of Neil Varon, the Philharmonia is mesmerizing, and it's light-years beyond any ensemble in New York State. (Don't believe me? Go and hear 'em yourself. It's free!)
Frankly, it's impossible for the RPO to compete with the free musical offerings available in Rochester. Every town, village, and college has an orchestra; another such ensemble is unnecessary and redundant. It would be wiser to encourage and support the Rochester Chamber Orchestra --- a truly world-class chamber orchestra. Not known nearly well enough, the RCO could easily be in league with the renowned Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, or Moscow Chamber Orchestra, to name but a few. Also, such an ensemble is sustainable.
This is a time of making hard choices. Should we spend money to improve education for our children, or should we piss more money down the drain for the RPO? This is not a test question.
Louis Richards, Rising Place, Rochester
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