Kelly Sans Culotte


current letters | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

The Road To Safety
Our response to Kelly Cogswell's article Opposition Isn't Enough is, "the road to safety begins by ending the aggression."

These words began the recent message attributed to Osama bin Laden. They were rarely quoted by a media intent upon shifting attention from them to bin Laden's apparent animation, his physical condition, and his current location. After all, since bin Laden had already been defined as a "madman," it may be assumed that he had nothing to say to which rational people need listen to or even know about. This is the road to further disaster.

We have nothing but condemnation for bin Laden's terrorist methods and sincere sympathy for those victimized by them.

But alas, there is no fix to the "security problem" as Americans have been urged to define it: to protect our people from the "terror" lurking without and the menacing "sleeper cells" within by all means at the government's disposal, no matter how damaging to our civil liberties. The rights-gutting USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act are examples.

Pursuing the politics of fear and ignorance, the Administration, Congress and a compliant, indeed complicit media, have enjoyed some success in turning attention away from what caused the attacks of September 11, 2001. It remains essential that that we return to that subject if we are to be safe.

While folk are still attracted to the perceived benefits of living in the United States, the foreign policies of the US government are earning the enmity of increasing numbers of people around the world.

The US government builds its missile "defense" system after abrogating the treaty with the Russians that prohibits offensive systems, declines to participate in the UN's criminal court, walks out of the UN human rights meeting, promotes a double standard for Iraq and Israel before the world body. It buys, it bullies, it alienates.

Among Arabs and Muslims, the support of the US government to the Israeli regime is condemned as immoral and demonstrative of the reality of US favoritism, despite its verbiage of being "evenhanded." US backing of repressive Arab regimes such as those in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf sheikdoms including family-ruled Kuwait, has angered the so-called "Arab street" which, like people here [in the United States], favors democracy.

So, "the road to safety begins by ending the aggression." Our road to safety as individual citizens, begins by recognizing that the government that operates in "our" name is indeed out of sync with those citizens who want equality and liberty not just for ourselves, but for peoples around the world.

Bob Schwartz
Coordinating Committee
Chicago Anti-Bashing Network
November 20, 2002

Coming Out Against the Israeli Occupation
Where is the critical analysis of the totalitarian Palestinian regime and dedication to the destruction of Israel that necessitates the occupation?

Also, no doubt the writer was merely protecting herself by not admitting that she is a lesbian as the PA executes those kind of people on sight.

Hopefully, it won't take a total unconventional attack by the beautiful and wonderful Palestinian people to show the author that they want her as well as the rest of us dead. Wake up.

Gary Greenberg
Houston, TX
September 13, 2002

Coming Out Against the Israeli Occupation
Emmaia Gelman is obviously biased in the account of her trip to Israel and the West Bank. It is full of emotional descriptions. She knows little about what she relates, and she lacks the background and depth needed to make an accurate report.

The "occupation" she describes essentially did not exist prior to the current "intifadah" as some 95% of Palestinian Arabs lived under the direct day to day control of the Palestinian Authority. She also ignores the fact that the Palestinian Arabs have been forced to live in their squalid refugee camps by their Arab brethren, who refuse to absorb them into their own societies, even though they have a common language, religion and culture.

The Israelis have stolen no one's land, water or resources. Those are outrageous lies. Too bad they've been repeated so many times by so many reporters, writers, governments, etc.

Joel Keller
North Ridgeville, OH
September 13, 2002

Being American
I couldn't agree with Kelly Cogswell more! The sentiment "I do claim this country, whether it wants me or not," is exactly the feeling that inspired my friends and me to start a petition to change the date for LGBT Pride in San Francisco in the year 2004. In that year, July 4th falls on a Sunday.

It's our hope that a week of festivities, begining on the last Sunday in June, will culminate in a Queer Freedom Day parade on 7/4/04 to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans and highlight the civil rights we're still denied.

James DeVinny
San Francisco, CA
July 19, 2002

The Rulers and the Ruled
Kelly Cogswell's piece "Being American" is pure bullroar. "We" are not one people, we are a nation of the rulers and the ruled.

The ones who decided to invade Vietnam, Cuba, Panama, Iraq, etc., are the rulers. The ones who ignored AIDS until it began to kill and kill and kill are the rulers. The ones who steal from workers and investors, and who are bailed out by the feds are the rulers.

The ones who permit — and encourage — race division and hatred and use it to bust unions, tear communities apart and divide are the rulers. Race and gender hatred are tricks of the trade for them. They steal our wages, and call it profit, steal our money and call it interest, steal our dignity and more than occasionally, our lives, and call it morality and religion.

They rule, govern, decide — and anyone who thinks we have anything in common with them — like all "Being Americans" — is not taking their lithium. You and I do not make those decisions. We have no more in common with them than the average Southerner had with their rulers in the slave owners rebellion. No more that the average German had with Hitler and Krupp. They are not our fellow citizens; they are our rulers, and realizing that is the beginning — and end — of political wisdom.

Bill Perdue
Omaha, Nebraska
July 17, 2002

Useful Embarrassment
My hope is that one day when I turn the television to a Spanish-speaking station, instead of seeing a telenovela, or a talk show on perverted neighbors, or a news report that seems like it was translated from the English news, I'll actually see people discussing (in Spanish) homophobia, racism, and all sorts of important issues that impact the Latino community.

Until then, I will continue to appreciate embarrassing articles such as The Ebony Englishman and the Colored Gaul that seriously question the integrity of the existing Latino media, as well as the constructive commentary they engender.

Thank you.

Gabriel Soto
Brooklyn, New York
July 8, 2002

Lost in Translation?
After watching almost every World Cup match, I did notice that the Univisión team sometimes used questionable language. [Univisión is the largest Spanish-language TV network in the U.S.].

However, as a native speaker of Spanish, I disagree with your translation of "moreno" as "colored" [in The Ebony Englishman and the Colored Gaul]. Whereas "colored" has often had a pejorative meaning, "moreno/a" does not have the same baggage.

Note also that "moreno" is not about being African and doesn't really mean Black. That would be "negro," which actually means "black" as opposed to the "N" word in the USA. I'm sure you could come up with quite a few really offensive translations of that "N" word — I just wouldn't include "moreno" among them.

"Moreno" just as well applies to anyone who is not fair, including a lot of Native Americans. Furthermore, in most places, using "moreno" is as neutral as saying blond or brunette. A white guy, for example, might come back from the beach "moreno". I often refer to cute white guys as just that. And the "morenito"/"morenita" which you hear a lot in vocal music are usually terms of endearment.

A better translation of "moreno" might be "dark-complected" (vs. fair-skinned?).

I think that the constant reference to "orientales" (Orientals) by Spanish-language TV sportscasters covering the World Cup and the repeating of stereotypical generalizations about those "orientales" was much more disturbing. Not to mention their use of "chinito" (Chinese) as a universal category.

The announcer in the July 2 sports segment of "En Rojo Vivo" on Telemundo [the NBC-owned, second largest Spanish-language U.S. network], referred to the Korean World Cup hosts as the "chinos" (Chinese) and then added, in Spanish: "Well, they're all 'chinitos' anyway, aren't they?" It just keeps going.

Edward Logreco
Los Angeles
July 1, 2002

Mourning Pim Fortuyn
It does not surprise me that Kelly Cogswell is more tolerant of racism and cultural chauvinism when it is directed against Arabs and Muslims while praising Pim Fortuyn for being "pro-Israel" as "proof" of his progressive politics. Openly gay and "pro-Israel" — well, of course, he's a Good Guy! I seriously doubt Cogswell would give Fortuyn a pass if his views on Jews were just as virulent.

This typically western liberal hypocrisy is also demonstrated in your site's consistent praise of Israel and your obvious contempt for its neighbors [The Gully's Middle East coverage]. It has always been perfectly correct in the West to place Arabs and Muslims on a level much lower than the rest of humanity — while Israel is always reflexively referred to as a "beacon" of light in a sea of barbarism.

For years I studied and traveled throughout West Asia. In no society in that part of the world did I witness so much blatant, casual, arrogant racism and chauvinism than I did in Israel. Upon visiting any one of Israel's neighbors, I was relieved to be amongst people who were not so culturally insular, so obsessed with their superiority and particularity, and so eager to express their disgust toward (and ignorance of) the lively, rich cultures all around them.

I still cannot believe some of the sights that I saw in Israel: Arabs openly kicked out of restaurants, cursed and spat on; refused entrance to stores; an elderly Arab man shoved into the street by two Jewish teenagers shouting anti-Arab obscenities. In all the years I spent living among Arabs (Christians and Muslims, and the few Jews in those countries), not once did I ever see such conduct.

I do not believe for one moment that Fortuyn would have "evolved" as Cogswell claims — at least not in his hatred of Muslims. Hatred of Arabs and Muslims is lazy and reflexive in the west, endemic of our thoroughly backward understanding of our own deeply interconnected history with the Muslim world. Such evolution would require something that most in the west are incapable of with reference to the Arab world: moral and political integrity.

Sandra Necchi
Brooklyn, NY
June 24, 2002

Mourning Pim Fortuyn
Cogswell's article on the death of Pim Fortuyn is one of the best I've seen since his assassination. One of the great failures of the Left both here and abroad has been their reluctance to hold Third World peoples, and minorities in general, to the same standards it holds America and Europe.

Having recently attended college, I can only begin to tell you how prevalent this attitude is at the university level. I am both a minority and an immigrant from a Third World nation, and would find myself arguing with my classmates regarding their two-faced and hypocritical approach to human rights, and what I saw as their racism towards the people they professed to defend. After all, a person who would not hold you to the same high standards as they hold themselves and their peers, can hardly be thought of as respecting you. It is a patronizing and paternalistic attitude. They may like you as they might a small child, but they don't respect you.

As Cogswell pointed out, people who have no problem criticizing the Catholic Church or Southern Baptists take a morally relativistic approach to Islamic Fundamentalists. All of a sudden you become a bigot for pointing out the hate and injustice being promoted by many Muslims. Intolerance, oppression, and in many cases, outright murder, have to be tolerated in the name of the all important God, "multiculturalism." Until, the Left wakes up and starts holding the Third World to the same standard of human rights that it holds the United States and Western Europe, none of its hopes for worldwide justice and equality will ever be realized.

André Foster
Bloomfield, CT
May 3, 2002

Venezuela's Media: Free or Footloose?
You cannot compare U.S. politics with Venezuela's. The U.S. has a strong middle class segment with strong civil rights laws that emerged in the 60's. Despite prejudice, these still prevail in court within the framework of a powerful central federal government. The First Amendment cannot be overruled by tanks, and Americans are both civilized and disciplined people. Venezuela is for Venezuelans. We do not need lessons of democracy.

Cecilio Font
New York, NY
April 27, 2002

Between God and the Devil: The Killing of Daniel Pearl
Maybe the ignoring of the fact that Daniel Pearl was a Jew could somehow be related to the canonization of Todd Beamer and the total lack of recognition for Mark Bingham. Just a thought.

Ben Larson
Hereford, TX
The Last Liberal in the Texas Panhandle
Mar 3, 2002

Tackling Poverty at the WEF
At the World Economic Forum, Secretary of State Colin Powell told international corporate and political leaders that as part of the war on terror, the U.S. and its allies must tackle "poverty, hopelessness and despair."

If he means what he says, he must listen to the poor, and be willing to try new things to undo poverty.

Today in the U.S., federal and state programs assist only an increment of the needy. Many folks are immorally and illegally turned away. Taxpayers are merely financing the illusion of compassion.

This, while America and the world has enough resources to help the 20% of people living without the basics of rent, heat, clothes, food, medication, not to mention the hope of a vacation. Many of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are lgbt's (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender people).

America must eliminate poverty among its own people, before we can morally assist others to do so.

Jan Lightfoot-Lane
Proud Lesbians of Poverty
Hinckley, ME
February 3, 2002

Censorship in Iran
I am an Iranian living in North Dakota. I am just 19 years old and I am in college studying for a medical degree. About Mahin's story, "A Mother Takes on the Ayatollah" — I loved it. I just wanted to ask her why all this stuff happens to our country and we can't say anything about it? Some people who talk about it say, hey, it is just the Muslim way. That is so dumb. I just wanted to say you did a great job leaving the country, honey. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

North Dakota
January 27, 2002

Intolerant West
I would like to respond to Kelly Cogswell's article, "Queering Democracy in Iran" (January 23, 2002).

Democracy — government "for the people, by the people" — is not a foreign concept to Islam. A true Islamic state is divided into three branches: 1) The Majlis al-Shura, or representative branch, which is a body of elected representatives similar to Congress; 2) The Khalifa or Amir al Mu'mineen, the state leader who is elected either by the people or the Majlis al-Shura; and 3) the Qadi system, a judiciary of scholars in religious law who are appointed by the Khalifa in consultation with the Majlis.

Moreover, the Qur'an and Hadith (the Prophet Mohammed's traditions) spell out a body of law that upholds and protects human dignity. Although Western media would have us believe otherwise, it is not the function of an Islamic government to rule by bigotry or tyranny, and those who do oppress in the name of Islam are seriously misguided and misrepresent the religion.

It is true that homophobia pervades the Middle and Near East, not only among Muslims, but Christians and Jews as well. It's also true that in a region emerging from the shadow of European colonialism and still overwhelmed by Western domination, people are keen to identify anything that contradicts tradition as a Western import. Custom is often stronger than religion, and cultural prejudices are often difficult to overcome no matter how enlightened religious philosophy is.

In this country, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from his pulpit for civil rights and an end to all oppression at a time when many observant Christians and Jews saw no contradiction between their faith and racial discrimination. If we are to gain any insight into the human rights abuses that exist in the Middle and Near East, we need to separate our understanding of a peaceful religion from the practice of tyrants. Misunderstanding and intolerance on the part of Western activists does not promote understanding and tolerance anywhere.


Maureen Donahue
New York, NY
January 25, 2002

Vendors Infringing on a Trademarked Disaster
The City can't have it both ways. Giuliani turned the WTC disaster site into a shameless tourist attraction and publicity launch pad for himself within hours of the 9/11 attack. He led countless groups of celebrities, sports figures and elected officials on tours of the site who were looking for a useful photo-op intended to promote their careers. None of these people had any legitimate need or reason to be there.

He wore the NYPD and FDNY logos in hundreds of media appearances so as to falsely identify himself with real heros whose salaries he kept at absurdly low levels and whose health and safety he failed to protect. Right before leaving office he had a giant tourist viewing platform built at the site — after previously restricting it to real New Yorkers and to the media. The City is now distributing tickets to see the ruins from a kiosk at the South Street Seaport — a location where almost everyone is a tourist — as if the WTC disaster was a Broadway show.

The businesses in the area that are part of the Downtown Alliance are advertising tourists discounts and even a happy hour linked to the disaster.

Inevitably in our supposedly free market system, vendors show up to try and make some money. How is what they are doing any more shameful than what Giuliani and the business groups have been doing?

Robert Lederman
President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
(Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics)
Brooklyn, NY
January 10, 2002

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