Letters to the Editor

Don't Get Me Wrong; I Like Children
Especially when they're properly cooked: Oh, joy! Jen Karetnick is at it again. Not so long ago she was whining about a restaurant at the western end of Lincoln Road that failed to appropriately (i.e., exhaustively) coo and cuddle her toddlers. Now she's complaining because another restaurant, Gatsby's in Davie, denied entrance to her progeny ("Ever Too Young," July 12). Though her she-bear-with-cubs attitude is admirable, it does seem vaguely Dr. Laura-ish. Perhaps these two should have an intimate conference about their roles as self-appointed field marshals of right and wrong.

Jen has once again overreached with her metaphors, failing anew in her attempt to compare a policy of keeping out noisy, undisciplined children to that of racism or anti-Semitism. Does her paranoia know no bounds?

First of all, discrimination in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing (see Webster's: "The act of distinguishing; the act of making or observing a difference"). Among the criteria I use to discriminate between restaurants I patronize and those I do not is the number of screaming children inside.

Second, wanting a quiet, not necessarily Happy Meal-ish dining experience on a surface other than Formica and under lighting other than fluorescent, and preferring that little people (however well trained) not be present to bang their spoons on the table or run around when they (invariably) get bored and their (invariably) desensitized, laissez-faire parents fail to notice that the decibel level has risen past that of a Kiss concert does not make people racists -- or wrong. People have the right to enjoy that experience without Mother Karetnick spewing bile.

Jen, if you are still smarting from your teen experience of being treated as if you were about to "run out on the bill," then see a therapist. Meanwhile give us all a break and find yourself a new cause célèbre. Oh, and while you're at it, grow up a little. Your children will, and they'll be just fine.

D. T. Winfield

In Our Face and Out of Line
Hey, Jen, put a cork in it and stay home: How dare Jen Karetnick criticize the owners of Gatsby's restaurant for their policy of restricting patrons to those over the age of 21. They have a right to determine their market and how to service that market's needs. Ms. Karetnick is totally out of line.

If she were truly a professional restaurant critic, she would be concentrating her attention on the food, not on her sniveling kids. If she were a truly concerned parent, she would be tending to her offspring and providing them adequate nourishment at home, where they and she belong.

Harry E. Gottlieb
Coconut Grove

The Power of Positive PR
How to win friends and topple tyrants in five easy steps: Kirk Nielsen's article about the Cuban-exile community and its position on violence ("Spies in Miami, Commandos in Cuba," July 5) points up what I feel is the biggest problem the exiles currently face: an almost incomprehensible lack of public-relations skills. If the Cuban community had any idea how to use the media and public forums to their advantage, they would have had the rest of Miami -- along with the rest of the nation -- solidly on their side a long time ago.

Before anyone sizes up my car for a bomb, understand one thing: I agree with you! Castro is a horrific dictator whose numerous and unending violations of basic human rights long ago guaranteed him an express reservation in Hell. Though he may not be seated at Satan's own table, what with Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot edging him out, he's exactly the reason I give generously every year to Amnesty International.

I've had numerous discussions with my Cuban friends, and I keep reaching the conclusion that it is the exile community's own fault that Castro isn't as universally reviled as he should be. Conservatives should hate him because he's a communist and presents a security threat just off our shores (not to mention the fact that they can't get any good cigars because of him). Liberals should hate him for his atrocious human-rights record. So what's the problem?

In my opinion with a clearer eye toward public opinion, the exile community could do a much better job of denouncing Castro. The hard-liners seem almost incapable of understanding, or even trying to understand, non-Cuban Americans. The ideals of freedom and justice are very deeply ingrained in our society. (Granted we're not perfect ourselves, but that's a different letter to the editor.) When we see a radio commentator having his legs blown off for expressing his views, or concertgoers being stoned, we react with scorn. The whole point of democracy is free expression and freedom from fear. If your community's leaders refuse to denounce violence, they inescapably become associated with it.

When Elian was here, the average American reaction was that the boy should be with his father. Family is paramount. Rather than trying to understand this and attempting to reach a solution acceptable to everyone, then using the platform in the public eye to educate the rest of us about Cuba, many in the exile community reacted with knee-jerk threats and intransigence. Mayor Alex Penelas himself destroyed a bright political future by throwing a temper tantrum in front of the whole world. While it's doubtful he would have been chosen as a vice-presidential candidate by Al Gore, I think a cabinet position would have been his for the asking. And with his support, Gore could have won Florida, and thus the nation. Ask yourself: Wouldn't you like to have a Cuban American by the president's ear?

It seems as though every time an exile leader emerges who has the promise of leading in a positive and meaningful way, he shoots himself in the foot. Besides Penelas's own self-destruction, the Elian fiasco hurt other leaders as well. I had high hopes for Ramon Saul Sanchez during his hunger strike to get his boat back. What a wonderful example of precisely the right kind of protest and publicity. Here was a man who had been wronged by our government, and rather than react in a violent way, he used a hunger strike to set a moral example and gather publicity. And it worked! He won! Alas, as Kirk Nielsen's story reported, now even Sanchez refuses to denounce the violent extremes of the exile movement.

And that's the true shame of it. The Cuban community is, for the most part, made up of decent, law-abiding, intelligent people. So my challenge to the community is this: We are now at a point where a generation of Cuban Americans has grown up here in Miami, Cubans who are as much children of this country as they are of Cuba. They are immersed in our shared culture, our social and political life, our melting pot. To them I say reach out and grab the reins of leadership! Bring to your elders some of what you have learned here, and lead your community into the 21st Century. Prepare for Castro's inevitable demise so there is hope that Cuba can move to democracy without bloodshed. Always remember that Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi are universally revered because of their never-ending commitment to social change through nonviolence.

Errol Portman
Coral Gables


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