THE SYMBOLISM OF ABU GHRAIB
President Bush is responsible for bombing countries and for "bombing" in his speeches. In his May 24 speech, he added little to what he had said previously, except the promise to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison and build a new one in Baghdad, if Iraqis agree.
Does he think tearing it down would abolish Iraqis' memory of the torture that occurred there? Or perhaps Americans would forget that their own military and civilians had inflicted the torture.
It seems unlikely that Iraqis will agree to any suggestions coming from Mr. Bush. NPR's Peter Kenyon interviewed the Iraqi who ordered the construction of Abu Ghraib, Abdel-Karim Hani. Some 40 years ago, he was minister of labor and, at one point, the acting minister of construction.
Even though Dr. Hani ended up a prisoner there in 1992, one of 850 in a section designed for 250, he thinks that demolishing it would be silly. "There's an Arabic saying, 'It's not the place that matters, but who occupies it,'" he said. "The worst place, Abu Ghraib, could be a recreation center where everybody would enjoy going. It's not the building, it's the philosophy of the people working in it."
The most notorious of the Khmer Rouge's many prisons in Cambodia is now the TuolSlengGenocideMuseum in Phnom Penh, and it was once a school building. Whatever practical use Iraqis find for their own notorious prison, its memories will serve as a reminder to the people --- Kurds, Sunni, and Shia --- and their new government: Unify and coexist peacefully with your neighbors to keep control of your resources and to keep out would-be Western conquerors.
Byrna Weir, Brighton
LOCATING CENTRAL STATION
So MonroeCounty brought various officials to Rochester recently to discuss their various performing arts centers. And they informed the audience that these facilities "bring people downtown." Were these visiting officials aware that Rochester already has the Eastman Theater, the Auditorium Theater, and Geva, and that these facilities do indeed bring people to downtown Rochester today?
Were they informed that the Rochester has burgeoning residential development downtown? And were they aware that several decades ago, so-called Rochester leaders let the magnificent Rochester Palace Theater be demolished for a parking lot that is still there today --- only a block north of the proposed Renaissance Square site?
And were they made aware that the May department stores, the parent company of Kaufmann's, closed Sibley's in favor of suburban stores?
Finally and perhaps most important, were they made aware that the Central Station bus-terminal plan was developed without considering that an inter-modal rail-bus transportation facility, as exists in Seattle, might be a better use of public dollars for revitalization and economic development?
There is considerable logic that the bus terminal be constructed at another location, and that the best use for the Main Street-Clinton Avenue intersection is retail.
Why not study the feasibility of using the historic but dilapidated former B & O railroad station on West Main Street for a new bus-rail facility? This would strengthen the nearby Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, restore Rochester's only remaining railroad terminal, provide easy access to I-490, and connect easily to the nearby Amtrak rail line.
Scarce public dollars should be used where they can have the biggest public benefit. West Main Street would seem to be a better alternative than the Renaissance Square location.
Bill Ladd, DeMeter Drive, Greece
A recent letter complained about critics of Rochester's new "aggressive panhandling" law ("Bleeding Hearts," The Mail, June 9; "Will Work to Pay Fine," May 26). Critics of the legislation say that we already have laws that deal with intimidating, pushing,
The letter writer also complained because the critics want more of our tax money spent to help panhandlers. But by arresting panhandlers, we still spend tax dollars on them. The justice system costs at least as much as rehabilitation, training, and yes, welfare.
One way or another, we're going to spend our tax dollars on these people. Do we want to do it in a punitive way for short-term comfort or in a humane way that focuses on long-term effects?
If we do the former, these people will be back and we will spend more tax dollars on them. What kind of a tax-and-spend policy is that?
As for the writer's charge that the law's critics were blaming Bush. That's not exactly the meaning of what was said. But I agree that it's not just Bush's attitude. It also has been --- and is still --- the attitude of George Pataki, Bill Clinton, and a host of other people who represent only those who have, as opposed to those who have not.
And look: I made my points without using stereotypical labels like "liberal" and "conservative."
Stewart Bedasso, Monroe Avenue, Brighton
BAN THE OLYMPICS?
I always enjoy the points of view, intelligent articles, and exposure to new information in City. However, I want to respond to Mike Doser's article, "Olympics Don't Belong In Universe" (May 19).
I agree with his point about the Olympics being taken over by corporate sponsorship and TV broadcasting rights. What public event or competition has not been taken over by these encompassing evils? But it sounds like Doser is celebrating homogeneity. Should we trade history, tradition, and the idea of athletic competition for boring complacency, and sequester ourselves in our own nation even more than we already do?
Americans have a bad reputation for only thinking of ourselves. We can only learn from traveling, being exposed to people with heritage, traditions, food, politics, and interests that are different from ours. We shouldn't get rid of the few opportunities we have to merge with other cultures and countries in something we all have in common: athletics.
Sure, the Olympics are "archaic," just like the Parthenon, Ionic columns, and the ideas of Hippocrates, Sophocles, and Plato. I don't think we should move on to bigger and better things like strip malls, hot dogs, and reality TV because these Greek influences are "old."
As for Hitler promoting the Aryan race, he did just fine without the Olympics as propaganda for his insane beliefs. He would have made his point known regardless of the Berlin summer games. With the exception of Hitler, I doubt the masses regard the Olympics as a celebration of superior race. No one seems to think that the winner of the World Cup represents a superior nation.
The idea behind the Olympics is the same as the idea behind any other sport: a goal for those talented and dedicated enough to become part of this international celebration of achievement --- and for the rest of us, fun and entertainment. And it pays attention to the sports that get shoved into the corner: diving, track, swimming, etc.
Maybe we should just ban everything: the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series, the Tour de France. The only difference I see is that most of the competitions we Americans enjoy are centered around teams from our own country competing with each other.
I suppose if we're all going to be Universian, we should not be competing at all. What if Joe from Texas takes it personally that Mike from Massachusetts is a better football player than he is? I guess being Universian just means that we will all have to sit around watching more TV so that we don't offend anyone. In fact, why should we bother trying to educate ourselves? That might offend a fellow Universian, too.
Michele Lombardo, Probert Street, Rochester
Mike Doser responds: The Olympics perpetuate the myth of nations and races, even though we're all part of the human species. They do little for global relations. It's not bad to celebrate diversity, but at some point accepting diversity will be as commonplace as a woman working, and we'll move on.
I'm not suggesting, however, that "we just ban everything." I propose creating international Olympic teams. How about having international businesses actually sponsor the teams? It would be their responsibility to assemble the best teams they can, regardless of country.
That's not different than having Dominik Hasek represent Detroit in the NHL. Hasek certainly is not from Detroit; his association is business only. In my model, he would represent a corporate entity. Either way, he'd be working for a corporation. And because the team would be international in makeup, that would promote the Olympic ideals of peace and friendship.
WRITING TO CITY
We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.
Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than once every three months.