Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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I woke up this morning and saw a picture on the Internet of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony engaged in a “romantic kiss.” Once upon a time, young love was fascinating to me, full of life and free of regrets. I couldn’t help thinking, as I contemplated these two “lovebirds” on the screen, How long will this last?
Then I opened your October issue and was struck by Karen Morgan’s photograph of the elderly couple lying in bed wrapped in each other’s arms. It’s the most beautiful picture I’ve seen in years. As I stared at their obvious intimacy and delight in each other’s company, salty tears ran down my cheeks. Maybe someday my husband and I will lie in bed that way. That would make my life complete.
Whether or not we agree with the laws the police enforce or the way they enforce them, we should remember that most cops are good, working-class people stuck in an impossible situation. Leaf Cervelli’s photograph on page seven of your October issue is one of several pictures printed by The Sun over the past few years that portray the police as soulless brutes, existing only to squash freedom.
I am not suggesting that all police officers are good, nor that there are not serious problems with our law-enforcement system. Some cops are assholes. But some activists are assholes, too. And many cops also suffer due to the inequities of our system. Blaming the officers on the street for institutionalized corruption — which inevitably expresses itself in police brutality and other abuses of power — is like holding a gas-station attendant responsible for an oil spill.
I read Claude Anshin Thomas’s “At Hell’s Gate” [October 2004] between presidential debates. I immediately thought of the difference between the Vietnam-service records of the two candidates. One has to wonder what cruel karma is at work when the man with terrible, first-hand knowledge of war is derisively labeled “liberal,” and the man without such experience runs the most powerful military-industrial complex in history.
I accept that we would not be around if our ancestors did not fight and win their respective Darwinian struggles. But where do conflicts between species end, and battles between Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, and Americans begin? The violence that once aided our survival now threatens it. Thomas says that “escape from the deadly and ever-tightening spiral is possible.” Let us find hope in his words.
Claude Anshin Thomas helped me confront something about myself. Like him, I hail from upstate New York, and I am probably only two years younger than he. My draft-lottery number saved me from service in Vietnam, whereas some of my older friends were not so lucky.
If I had been drafted, I might have been turned into a mass-murdering machine, as Thomas was. He has atoned for his past and is more noble than I imagine I would have been in his shoes. Still, there is a most worthy atonement available to me, or anyone else: to get busy building a political party that is capable of sweeping away the basis of war, which is economic competition.
I was both inspired and enlightened by Arnie Cooper’s interview with Robert Hinkley [“Twenty-Eight Words That Could Change the World,” September 2004]. Hinkley has devised a solution to corporate pathology that is simple, elegant, and profoundly logical. It’s encouraging to find a social activist (or “citizen,” as he prefers) whose vision is as pragmatic as it is idealistic. I suspect that the heads of many large corporations are going to be watching Hinkley’s movements very closely, if they aren’t already.
Should Hinkley’s vision come to pass, and our corporate citizens be bound by the same obligations as the rest of us, the next logical step would be to establish a global charter, so that a brutish, greedy, and paranoid nation could be held accountable for its misdeeds as well.
Robert Hinkley’s solution to the issue of corporate citizenship reminded me of W.S. Gilbert’s resolution to the plot complications in his operetta Iolanthe. Under Fairy law in the musical, the penalty for marrying a mortal is death. To rectify this, the word not is inserted into the Fairy law before death, the Fairy queen marries a mortal, and they live happily ever after.
This works well for Gilbert and Sullivan, but I am less sanguine about applying the strategy to the real world. Many vested interests would oppose Hinkley’s changes to the corporate code. Corporate executives, whose pay is linked to profits, would certainly resist. Hinkley’s idea — that corporate citizenship should take into account the finite nature of the planet — is lovely, but clearly utopian. A more worthwhile interview might have acknowledged the inevitable opposition to the Code for Corporate Citizenship and addressed in concrete detail how the code would be enforced. Meanwhile, I wish Hinkley all the luck in the world. He’ll need it.
Robert Hinkley’s Code for Corporate Citizenship immediately appealed to me. I was disappointed, however, that the interview ended without any mention of a practical strategy for making the code a reality.
I agree with Hinkley that “people already know in their hearts that polluting, violating human rights, making people sick, treating people like machines, and bullying your neighbors are wrong.” But his notion that he doesn’t have to win anybody over seems unrealistic. As a consultant, I teach progressive nonprofit groups how to use the Internet to build movements. I’ve worked on a range of issues, including the environment, breast-cancer research, and women’s rights. Despite the fact that most people support these causes, it is a hell of a lot of work convincing them to care enough to actually do something about them.
There are a great many causes competing for the attention of civic-minded Americans these days, and most people simply don’t have the time or energy to get involved. Getting millions of Americans to successfully petition their state representatives on behalf of the Code for Corporate Citizenship will take years of work, a staff of dedicated people, and a large budget. To expect it to happen spontaneously is just silly.
I was disappointed with Sy Safransky’s September Notebook. I am a public-school teacher and a conservative Republican. Though Safransky is an intelligent man, his entire page was based on ignorance — and I say that with kindness.
President Bush didn’t ram anything through Congress. Our elected officials overwhelmingly voted to support the war. If you truly believe that your senators and representatives are so weak-minded that they can’t vote against something they oppose, I would suggest campaigning for new ones.
Our country has fought many wars, some on our own land. I don’t know anyone who would deny that the Civil War was crucial to the abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln was able to see that although death is a high price to pay for freedom, war was necessary to protect our nation.
The United Nations was developed for the sole purpose of protecting countries against another dictator like Hitler. Saddam Hussein, who killed millions of his people, was such a dictator.
I don’t believe that Bush is feasting on the remains of our national tragedy. I believe we have a president who can make a decision; who listens to all sides and presents his agenda with confidence; who is protecting the people of this country.
September 11 had a lasting effect on me. I looked around me and saw things that I might have overlooked. I changed. I went from thinking the same thoughts Safransky did to taking the time to understand the history of our nation. And this is where I ended up.
While I appreciate reading authors’ replies to letters, Jeffrey Sawyer’s responses [Correspondence, September 2004] are appalling to me as a white male. They reveal the dangerous mind-set of the purportedly “enlightened.” Despite his claims of seeing “society ever newly” and living with “perfect clarity,” his long history of abusing his privilege comes through in his everything-is-fine approach.
Of his four replies, the only one that shows any respect is in response to a man. With his three other responses, Sawyer makes it clear that he does not take women seriously. Most telling is his final reply, in which he manages to marginalize the writer with his single flippant sentence “Are you single?” His unwillingness to address the content of the letter and the way he turns the letter-writer into a sex object speak volumes about his lack of clarity and newness.
Replying to D. Johnson in the September 2004 Correspondence, Jeffrey Sawyer says: “Not giving in at all to fears that direct my life away from perfect clarity and inner contentment assures me of health at all levels.”
I work as a visiting nurse in my community. Every day I see people who are afflicted with problems that have nothing to do with their mind-set: diabetes, cancer, spina bifida, paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, and so on. Sawyer should at least give credit to his gene pool and good luck, as well as his positive attitude.
Sometimes illnesses descend on people out of the blue, no matter their lifestyle or outlook. It’s how they cope with those illnesses that is the true test of a positive mental attitude.