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LETTERS to the Editor.

Letting Galeano Off Easy

David Barsamian's interview with Eduardo Galeano (July issue) was interesting, and I found myself only mildly critical of his comments and perspectives.

But then this comment brought me up short: "The present situation--from the point of view of the poor countries, the outskirts of the world--is much worse than before because with the Soviet Union you had at least a certain balance of power. Now this balance of power has disappeared, and so we have no choices. The possibilities of acting with a sense of independence have narrowed."

This is an extraordinary statement, especially if coupled with the remarks Galeano himself made previously, in which he described the Soviet Union as "an exercise in bureaucratic power with no connection to people. They were acting in the name of people, but they despised them."

How, I wonder, can it be "much worse" for the poor of the world that a regime that despised them is now gone? Galeano mentioned the 100 million killed in the wars from this century. Does he not realize that at least that many deaths can be attributed to the internal brutalities of the communist nations? Does he honestly believe the disappearance of the leading communist regime could be bad for anyone?

I'm assuming Galeano's point is that as bad as the Soviet Union was, an unchecked United States is worse. Why did your interviewer not press him on this?

Galeano complains about North American misperceptions of Latin America as a land either of pristine beaches or of social violence and misery. I would suggest that the left itself is in part responsible for this misperception.

Galeano's failure to credit the limited yet real gains in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union contributes to such stereotypes. During the Cold War, the U.S. was accused of using anti-communism as a cloak for a policy opposed to any and all democracy and development in Latin America. I would have thought that the recent process of democratization there (which the U.S. has not only opposed but, in fact, supported) would have thrown at least a bit of doubt on that view. Apparently, it has not.

Jonathan Burack Stoughton, Wisconsin

Woo! That last paragraph of the Galeano interview got to me. It boggles my mind that he doesn't understand those who are without belief and are not deluded by hope. And he goes further when he says that he never wants to lose hope, never wants to live a life without expectation and belief. He even declares he'd prefer suicide to accepting the fact that stupidity and crime will always be a part of the human condition.

Well, why does he insist on hope? Why does resistance have to be gilded? Why does it have to be made mythic and heroic? Why does it have to be hailed as a movement to some ideal world?

Is it possible to love life in the midst of the struggle, here and now? Is it possible to see life as it is, to accept, affirm, and love it unconditionally as something grand and wonderful, as he says, "at once horrible and marvelous"? Is it possible to accept life in the broadest possible scope--not capitulation, not conformity, not submission--but acceptance that comes from seeing the truth?

In all of the strikes and protests and struggles for freedom, for better wages or working conditions, for voting rights, how many people involved were engaged not because of hope or belief but because they were simply fed up? They resisted because their backs were to the wall, they were sick and tired of being treated like shit, of being looked down upon, of being exploited or malnourished or undereducated or unemployed.

Hopes and beliefs exist to soften the truth. They are Centuries-old devices used by those in power to keep us in tow. These propagandists want us to revere and make nice-nice. They want us to have heroes and role models and devote ourselves to ideas larger than our own individuality, our own liberty.

So I'm wondering, can a man like Galeano, can the rest of us, continue the struggle without hoping, without believing, without the nice-nice, without the fellow-feeling and martyrdom that make past uglinesses, cruelties, and sufferings palatable? If people rubbed up against the truth enough, if they understood and felt deeply about what progressive writers and journalists regularly report, if they got a dose of it without God and prayer and the hope of some future "heaven on Earth," would they, as Galeano says he would, just kill themselves, or would they find something unique that urges them on?

Would they, out of an unconditional love of life, create a world we've never known?

Mark K. Bennett Davis, California

America's Longest War

The Progressive has always been proud of its consistent anti-war stance, which caused me to wonder why, as I read the August issue, you neglected to include any articles that address America's longest war: the ninety-year-old "war on drugs."

Particularly during the past fifteen years, those conducting this war--waged only against certain kinds of drugs--have violated just about every principle for which progressives stand. Government officials routinely lie about alternatives, our civil liberties have been trampled on, and many outcomes of this war are the most racist since slavery. At the present time in this country, it's political suicide to even suggest a change.

The public must be alerted so that it will mobilize support to approach drug abuse as a medical, rather than criminal, problem.

Frances Burford Houston, Texas

Fighting on the Outside

Ruth Conniff's interview with Patricia Ireland (August issue) reveals the tragically sad state of the fight for women's rights in this country. For typical women in this society, equality with men has been anything but achieved. For starters, we still don't have equal pay for equal work.

And the ideas expressed by Ireland are partly to blame. Ireland says that we can't "make change only from the outside ... we have to get some people inside." What world is Ireland living in? Despite continued attacks on women's rights, such as welfare cuts and abortion restrictions, there is virtually no fight going on "outside." And this is despite Ireland's claims of being arrested in front of the White House for supposedly protesting the welfare cuts. If Ireland really wanted to fight the welfare cuts, then she could have mobilized the hundreds of thousands of NOW members to take a stand against attacks on poor women.

If Reagan or Bush had cut welfare, I bet NOW would have organized like crazy. But since Clinton is a Democrat, many feminists kept their mouths shut. So what if Ireland whispered, "Don't cut welfare"? Given that the lives of millions of women, men, and children are being devastated by the cuts, we need to shout it from the rooftops!

And about having "people on the inside," I support affirmative action 100 percent. But, despite the fact that we may have more women in positions of power than ever before, most women's lives are still not much improved.

I vehemently deny having anything in common with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, as she has bombed and killed innocent women, men, and children in Iraq and Serbia, and coldly admitted on national TV that the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who have died from the sanctions on Iraq are "worth it."

Or, what about Donna Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has presided as millions more Americans have lost their health care?

These are examples of women on the "inside." We need to fight from the outside with ordinary women and men, black and white, gay and straight, to challenge the devastating attacks coming down on us by politicians of both genders.

Michele Bollinger Washington, D. C.

I attended the same twenty-four-hour demonstration at the Republican National Convention in San Diego that Patricia Ireland did in 1992. Homeless women and men picketed side by side with NOW. But NOW has failed to use its political muscle to aid homeless women not just in San Diego, but all across America.

Art Salzberg San Diego, California

Bradley Will Do

In "Courting the Gay Vote" (September issue), John Nichols writes: "When asked during their June tours of California about an upcoming state vote on an anti-gay marriage ballot proposal, both candidates [Al Gore and Bill Bradley] shied away from the issue."

An August 29 Reuters wire story entitled "Bill Bradley Campaigns in Vermont" quotes Bradley as saying, "I don't support gay marriage. But I do support legal and spousal benefits."

I personally don't care what you call it as long as I can have spousal and legal benefits with my lover. And does The Progressive really think that the institution of marriage is worth emulating? We can do better than imitating a broken heterosexual institution.

Bradley will give me all the support I need. I don't care what it is called.

William C. Siroty Amherst, New Hampshire

Your recent cover story on the gay vote was interesting, yet incomplete. You accurately noted many gays are turning away from politics because of disenchantment with the Democrats and Republicans. But you failed to report that quite a few are turning to alternative parties, such as the Libertarian Party.

Imagine: a party that supports both same-gender marriage and limited government! Can you blame us for feeling we have finally arrived (at least in terms of finding a political home) over the rainbow?

Pat Bontempo Asbury Park, New Jersey

Kate Clinton Is No Carl Sagan

My son-in-law and I are still puzzled by the astronomical references in paragraph three of Kate Clinton's "Galacto-Intolerance" (Unplugged, September issue).

A newly discovered galaxy is said to be "sun-centric"--meaning that the sun is at its center? The paragraph continues, "At first, they thought it was just a star." Does this refer to the galaxy or the newly found sun (which is, after all, just a star)?

Then Clinton states that the "star" turned out to be "a full-blown, self-contained cosmos"! That would be one gigantic star, since, generally, "cosmos" refers to the entire universe. Hmmmm....

Marianne Jackson DeForest, Wisconsin

The editors welcome correspondence from readers on all topics, but prefer to publish letters that comment directly on material previously published in The Progressive. All letters may be edited for clarity and conciseness. Letters may also be e-mailed to: Please include your city and state.
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Publication:The Progressive
Date:Oct 1, 1999
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