copyright Bill Widener 2000


To the Editor:

Because I was unaware that "Off the Air" is a real program on the public access cable channel, I made some critical comments about the show last week [Letters, Oct 4]. I apologize to anyone I may have upset, and hope to see "Off the Air" on the air soon.


Tara Rodriguez

Censorship is un-American

I am writing today to ask for your participation in a campaign to create pressure on .any corporations that attempt to cut off free speech by utilizing the most corrupt form of speech influence in modern media today, advertising dollars. These CEOs have shown their true anti-democratic colors by attempting to shut down Bill Maher and his show, Politically Incorrect.

It is also important that these companies be shown the economic door that they are attempting to show Maher. Maher was merely speaking his mind which every American has an absolute right to wherever the public is invited to participate.

These companies on the other hand have committed the crime of blackmail of which the intended out come is the violation of Maher's and his guests' civil rights. If these companies had their rights to advertise stripped they would become the world's greatest self interested free speech advocates. Therefore it is only just that an international boycott be brought against these criminal companies for attempting to strip Maher of his free speech rights.

I have personally vowed not to purchase a GM product ever again and will never use Fed-Ex as my delivery service ever again, will never buy GEICO insurance products and will never eat at Boston Market ever again.

Our liberties have been under sustained attack for decades by those using the excuse of national security as the means to reach an end to public dissent of unlawful government and corporate behavior.

Let us put it on the line and finally create the America that the constitution envisions. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Lloyd Hart

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Be More Cynical

The day this issue hits stands will mark the one month anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.

My friend Dan emailed me this morning to ask, "have you been watching the war on tv?" followed by, "how crazy is that?"

I told him "yes, I caught a little bit of the war on the morning news, but then I had to leave for work."

Like my students from the past few years, I grew up watching a war on television.

They watched Desert Storm unfold on CNN (which I made them write about), while I remember correspondents in Saigon on the 6 o'clock news.

Of course, Viet Nam wasn't technically a war, it was a conflict, and I was far too unsophisticated to understand the distinction. (In fact, I still might be.)

I remember visiting DC with my parents for a family vacation as we were pulling troops out.

The most vivid memory I have, though, is of Saturday morning cartoons being interrupted for a Cease Fire. I didn't know what a Cease Fire was, but if it impeded my viewing of Bugs Bunny, I wanted no part of it. I thought "the news" was something boring and tiresome that was best left to the grown-ups. It definitely had no place in the sacred Saturday morning lineup.

Later, in college, I double-majored in English and History, with a very specific and intense interest in military history. I studied the Roman Empire; and Bismarck and the German Empire; and Hitler and Nazi Germany (and the subsequent emergence of zionism); I learned all about the Tet Offensive; I also studied the history of world religions (and specifically, holy wars).

In Biblical History and Ideas, I learned more about the two tribes (beginning with Isaac and Ishmael) - not the Sunday School version - and how some of this insanity got started. I also developed a nodding acquaintance with our oil interests in the Middle East.

I have entire shelves (actually boxes) devoted to these topics, and I'm dusting them all off now to try to make some sense of what's going on around me.

I confess I'm not having much luck.

It's so incredibly complicated on so many levels. It goes back thousands upon thousands of years, and encompasses everything from religion to economics to geography to anthropology to political science and capitalism, to name but a few. The issues are so vast that I have not yet figured out a way to get my mind around them.

I'm trying though.

Because it's my job.

Not my job as a working member of the press (though it is), but it's my job as an American. To learn. To question. To challenge. To be a participating member in a democracy. It's hard work, and it's supposed to be. It's the price of admission.

That's why our sudden epidemic of a national commitment to earnestness both disturbs and frightens me.

Yes, there is a time and a place for sobriety, calm and reflection. The last month has required that of all of us.

But there are already signs that genuine expressions of sentiment and emotion and empathy are quickly being replaced by cheap sentimentality and kneejerk jingoism.

This is a dangerous phenomenon in a democracy.

Zeal and passion can be wonderful things, but they can rapidly turn to zealotry.

And, of course, capitalists have rapidly figured out a way to exploit the most significant national tragedy ever experienced on American soil to replenish their coffers (which were already dwindling). It's amazing anyone managed to restrain themselves for more than a week.

I fail to see, for example, how buying an expensive new car will help to "get America rolling." If I needed a car, I'd buy one. But don't try to jerk my heartstrings on this one. Conspicuous consumerism is not my patriotic duty now, any more than it was two months ago.

Racking up credit card debt has already been the American way for quite some time. So is spending beyond our means. Madison Avenue has just figured out a way to hang it all under a giant flag and define it as "patriotism."

One month later, we're shifting from mourning to something else. What will that be?

Yes, maybe it is time for action.

The question is, what kind of action - not as a nation (because we're never going to agree on that), but on the most individual and personal level possible?

At a minimum, this is not the time for blind faith.

It should be a time for questions. It should be a time to seek out knowledge and information, and not propaganda.

Whether you feel it's a time for support or dissent, the expression of either should remain your constitutional right.

"Unity" can, indeed, be an incredible thing. But it's worth remembering that it's also something that served the Third Reich pretty well.

Cynicism isn't something anybody is spending any time venerating right now - but it offers a saving, cleansing, purifying grace all its own.

Maybe we're not quite ready yet, but its time is coming.