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Surely he doesn't think we're all commies: I have a few questions for Brett Sokol regarding his "Kulchur" column "On the Left, Off the Wall" (December 12). I wonder why his article about the November 19 antiwar gathering at the Coral Gables Congregational Church began with a quote from a "revolutionary socialist" and a reference to Cuban communism. Was he suggesting the speakers at the gathering shared her views or believed in a Castro-style government? Surely he doesn't really think that would be honest or fair. But if that's not what he meant to suggest, it's a little difficult to understand why he would open his story that way.
Also I wonder if he really believes the point of Professor Jennifer Uleman's remarks was, as he suggests (in bold type no less), to equate Bush with Hitler and the Republican Party with the Nazis. I got the impression this is what he wanted her to say so he could indulge in some self-righteous mockery. But there's another way to interpret what she said. She was saying, I think, that she senses a growing climate of intolerance in our country and a fear of expressing criticism toward the increasingly militaristic nationalism of our government. And this reminds her of the gradual intimidation of dissent as she imagined it in Germany in the early Thirties.
One could argue with the sentiment, and the analogy to Germany and the pre-Nazi period is undoubtedly rhetorical overkill, but given the Bush administration's efforts to restrict civil liberties, expand domestic surveillance, and justify all manner of policies in the name of an ill-defined, open-ended "war on terrorism," together with the near absence from the mass media of voices expressing serious doubts and arguments questioning the wisdom of invading Iraq, it seems to me the basic concern she expresses is not exactly insane.
Can Mr. Sokol in good conscience say he made an honest effort to represent the views presented by the speakers? It's difficult to avoid the impression that he was more interested in taking some cheap shots.
One of them is that we're all monsters: Despite the intimations of Brett Sokol's "On the Left, Off the Wall," I doubt many of the 300 people who attended the antiwar teach-in favor Cuban-style totalitarian rule, rock-throwing, suicide-bombing, or Saddam Hussein's brutal treatment of his opponents. Instead I and the many people I know who attended the teach-in simply question the methods the U.S. government is planning to address these problems.
The Bush administration's TIPS program (which encourages mail carriers and delivery people to spy on the homes they service) and its desire to monitor U.S. citizens' library-book checkout and credit card purchases seem to me to bear more resemblance to Castro's Cuba, Saddam's Iraq, and Hitler's Germany than they do to the free society envisioned by the framers of our Constitution. Similarly, unilateral and preemptive U.S. military action against Iraq violates the U.N. charter, goes against the wishes of many of our European democratic allies, and sets a dangerous precedent that others may follow in the future. Why not first work with the U.N. and, as Nasseer Idrisi suggested at the teach-in, lift sanctions against Iraq to strengthen internal opposition and save the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians?
While Kulchur may find these ideas kooky, he himself acknowledges that 300 people in Coral Gables and 100,000 people protesting in Washington, D.C., do not. Furthermore a recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center of 38,000 people in 44 countries finds that increasing numbers of citizens around the world share this criticism of U.S. foreign policy. (See http://people-press.org/ for more.)
Brett Sokol, novelist? Kudos to New Times for covering the rising tide of dissent in South Florida regarding our government's warmongering policies regarding Iraq. Thanks also for assigning Brett Sokol to the story. What he lacked in objective reporting he made up for in imagination. I'm happy to see the timeless art of fiction-writing is not dead. Still I think his readers deserved to learn some facts about the teach-in besides Sokol's Disney World version.
This teach-in was organized to discuss the legal, moral, political, and social issues concerning our nation's impending war with Iraq. The program was designed to be a group discussion to give voice to thousands of people in our area who do not believe that attacking Iraq, with the concomitant death of thousands of Iraqi civilians, will make our world safer, prevent future terrorism, or provide Americans any greater security.
People from different points of view were invited to speak and the audience was encouraged to ask questions and engage the panel of experts. The fact that members of various organizations and individuals from many backgrounds showed up to participate or distribute their own materials was a reflection of our desire to be inclusive, which is to say they were not necessarily representative of the coalition that organized the gathering, Concerned People Opposed to War in Iraq.
Given that our government has equated dissent with giving aid and comfort to our enemies, we were not about to throw out people, even if we might disagree with some of their positions. However, any reasonably minded person (a certain reporter excepted) could have easily distinguished the difference between the coalition's position and that of the few fringe elements present.