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Letters

The View Looking Back Joe R. Hicks gives an account of his encounter with a young Caucasian National Guardsman who threatens him at the point of a rifle and calls him the N word, in his article “Lessons From the Ruins” [August 12–18]. He was incensed by how he was treated, and he had a right to be. As I read this article, I thought of my uncle’s account of his experience during the Watts riots and of how harrowing it was for him and his family as he had his wife and young children huddled together on the floor of their home while stray bullets flew in every direction. My uncle was a young preacher who had come to L.A. in 1960 from a small town just outside of Atlanta. Atlanta, like many cities at that time, was segregated, and Los Angeles held great promise for black Americans who came here from the South and Midwest. The image of Los Angeles at that time was of a progressive metropolitan city that was free from the constraints of race that plagued every other part of America. Initially, my uncle seemed to have found a place where he was free to express himself openly and be judged by his merits and not by his ethnicity. Imagine his shock at finding himself in the midst of an explosion of frustration and anger that threatened the lives of his family. Imagine his pride when he hears that Atlanta’s greatest native son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is coming to town to help. Imagine his utter dismay when he hears that black Angelenos have told Dr. King to go home, that they “booed” this great man and told him that they didn’t need him here. Imagine his puzzlement at discovering for the first time that there were black Americans who didn’t think like black people in Atlanta. Imagine his chagrin at discovering that L.A. was no different in its attitude toward black Americans than Georgia or any other part of the segregated South. How much better off is South Los Angeles today than it was 40 years ago, even though the people within the community, such as Tim Watkins and the Watts Renaissance Committee, are working diligently every day to make it so? What has changed between black American citizens in Los Angeles and the police and judiciary? Until August 1965, Los Angeles was seen as a cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse city that afforded great opportunity to black Americans. Until just after 1965, Atlanta was a traditionally segregated Southern city. In 2005, Atlanta is an international city, which affords great opportunity to all and is seen as a mecca of opportunity for black Americans. In 2005, Los Angeles has passed its racial problems on to another generation.

—Micah Penn Los Angeles

Camp Cindy Marc Cooper’s ahistorical assumptions about Iraq and troop withdrawal are becoming the best comedy spot on the Web [“Camp Cindy,” August 19–25]. Now we have an almost compulsive apology happening for occupation. “We” can’t leave . . . we need a “viable” strategy. One would suggest to Cooper that he read Stan Goff on this issue . . . to understand how Central Command could take troops home in 60 days. So it’s viable. Perhaps, though, he fears civil war, like his pal, former war supporter Juan Cole. Well, perhaps, Marc, but Rahul Majadan thinks otherwise. He posits that troop withdrawal would lead to more cooperation among the factions now fighting. It’s hard to know . . . but what we do know, for certain, is that as long as troops and bases are in Iraq, violence will continue. The occupation is the engine for this violence far more than sectarian infighting. There may be no perfect solution to the crimes of this invasion and occupation, but Cooper’s endlessly snide and myopic embrace of Western paternalism is getting pretty stale. Should the French have stayed the course in Algeria? I mean, the U.S. prolonged the debacle of Vietnam because “we” feared civil war. Cooper needs to study his history a bit more. He also needs to quit his desperate desire to be seen as the “reasonable” one on the left. He needs to do this for two reasons: It won’t happen (he’s not reasonable), and it makes his already very soft politics into a pathetic latte-liberal soufflé. The Iraqi resistance has a right to resist. It’s their country, not yours, Marc. Over 90 percent want the U.S. gone now. Listen to them!

—John Steppling Krakow, Poland

Border Patroller Your story about me [“The American Character,” September 2–8] is so full of errors and distortions I couldn’t even finish reading it. Your comment about my moving my wife out is untrue and personally offensive. Your side is losing this battle, and you are sinking to personal attacks to try to stem the tide. It will not work.

—Glenn Spencer Palominas

Correction In the article “The American Character” [September 2–8], we incorrectly stated that Glenn Spencer’s wife accompanied him to Arizona; she did not, and still lives in Los Angeles.

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