Re: Alan Rich’s “A
Sad Symphony With a Happy Ending” [cover story, October 5–11]. Fabulous.
Should be printed on fliers and dropped from airplanes. I discovered (classical)
music when I was 15 or 16 years old. I’ll be 75 in November. I have followed
it, chased it, loved it, drowned myself in it all these years. Like they say
about La Bohème, “Not one note too many, not one note too short.” Rich’s
article is, word for word, perfect. Thanks a million.
Enjoyed the Alan Rich article — an in-depth, caring piece. Thanks for clearing
the space for this type of comment.
Mr. Rich has done the performing arts quite a disservice by saying, apropos
of Andrea Bocelli and others, that “Some thing in the panorama of performance-arts
audience passions is drawn to the physical or psychological anomaly that these
misguided practitioners embody, and so tickets get sold.” I don’t have a problem
with a critic not liking Andrea Bocelli from an artistic/ technical standpoint,
but I do have a problem with Rich’s implication that the only reason he is allowed
on the stage is because he is blind. I have seen Bocelli in concert many times
and have heard him sing unamplified at the Kennedy Center, and in Detroit in
Werther, on two occasions. Contrary to opera-house gossip, I have found him
to be a breath of fresh air in a stale, boring, same-sounding genre.
DISUNITED, AS EVER
We Stand” [October 5–11]. Thank you so much, Ella Taylor, for introducing
the concept of nuanced critical thinking to our putative allies on the left,
who have, with respect to
the Middle East, lost the ability to distinguish attack dogs from underdogs.
As the events of September 11 reinforce damage to an already struggling economy;
as the airlines and other corporate entities position themselves to take advantage
of America’s anguish at the expense of their employees and other average citizens;
and as support for Israel, in its attempt to survive while surrounded by a sea
of sworn enemies, is designated, with pernicious self-righteousness by some,
as support for “racism” and as an explanation (if not an excuse) for terrorism,
I fear that, once again, perhaps unconsciously and probably slowly, Jewish scapegoating
will become defined not as an act of historic bigotry, but as a reasonable posture
in the national interest.
Should the time, so often repeated, arrive when Jews are deemed problematic,
and when an abandoned Israel has been “driven into the sea,” I have no doubt
that the voices of my friends on the left will be raised on behalf of the Jewish
oppressed. Perhaps they will even support the creation of a Jewish state.
Ella Taylor qualifies for the title “Last Person With a Brain on the Left.”
It’s also becoming very obvious that the left represented by the L.A. Weekly
has nothing at all to do with mainstream liberalism, the left wing of the
Democratic Party or much of anyone or anything else for that matter. If that
left could come up with one sound and persuasive argument on how to eliminate
terrorism without military action, someone might even listen.
Ella Taylor makes the all-too-
familiar assertion that Israel is the “lone practitioner” of democracy and freedom
in the Middle East.
Yet she fails to acknowledge the fact that those governments in the region “dominated
by theocrats and feudal monarchs” have been insidiously propped up and nurtured
.by the U.S. — the very practitioner of democracy and freedom — throughout decades.
Like the hawks in the Israeli government, Ms. Taylor manages to reveal her disdain
for the left, and for the indignant Islamists (of course, in a more elusive
and artful fashion).
“This is no time for unity on the left,” says Ella Taylor. I shall never understand the moral hypocrisy of left Zionists. I won’t engage any of Ms. Taylor’s arguments except one. She argues that the left’s backlash against Israel when it stole even more Palestinian land in 1967 ignored the fact that Israel was fighting for its life — an argument fraught with much oversimplification and myth. The only Zionists with any claim to moral integrity were the bi-nationalists, who had their Arab counterparts. Unfortunately, they did not win the argument. And so the racist dream of an exclusively Jewish state (a state that Zionists actually claim is democratic) was allowed to go forward, the results of which Palestinians, Israelis and the world in general have suffered so deeply.
It is Israel’s total inability to generate good will among its neighbors, its racist condescension toward the people whose land and culture it brutally stole, that is at the root of so much of the pain in the Middle East. Now more than ever, we need to rid ourselves of the moral hypocrisy inherent in liberal Zionism. I agree with those Palestinians who prefer the honesty of right-wing Zionists. The region has enough hypocrites as it is.
Why does Ella Taylor think, as do so many others, that the true target of the terrorists was “democracy itself, as expressed in freedom of speech; the separation . . . of church and state; the guarantee of civil rights; the emancipation of women”? Where is the evidence for this? No one has yet spoken to the perpetrators — some of whom are dead — so we can only make assumptions.
Isn’t it more logical to assume that America’s concrete actions and policies in the Muslim world — our 10 years of economic sanctions that have destroyed the Iraqi middle class, our bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan, our reflexive support of Israel — are the real grievances of the terrorists? Taylor condemns this kind of thinking as “a crude sense of causality,” but it is precisely in the area of causality that we need to favor facts over abstractions.
And while we’re making assumptions, let’s assume the terrorists are as logical as we are. (Unless, of course, we want to persist in thinking of them as senseless madmen — a very dangerous error indeed.) I can more readily understand perpetrating violence against the illegal occupiers of my land and their supporters than I can understand doing the same in response to their exercise of free speech.
LESSER EVILS, GREATER GOODS
In his Dissonance column [“High
on Infinity,” September 28–October 4], Marc Cooper starts out by claiming
that Ariel Sharon has “17,000 Arab scalps” from the Lebanon war. This ignores
the fact that the “scalps” he refers to were mostly Lebanese killed by other
Lebanese factions. He ignores that Palestinian terrorists had been constantly
launching attacks on Israelis from Lebanon, including one episode where two
dozen high school kids were killed.
Even worse, on the opposite page, in “An Afghanistan Picture Show,” William
T. Vollmann praises the Afghanis for their atrocities against Soviets in retaliation.
The Afghanis — a non-Jewish, better yet Muslim people — are praised for a bloodthirsty
spirit of revenge that included maimings, slow deaths following disembowelings
and other medieval tortures. Meanwhile, Cooper attacks Israel for taking out
the terrorists’ leaders — who have committed and were planning mass murder of
Israelis — with tactics and munitions designed to expose bystanders to as little
harm as possible.
No sane government would tolerate what Israel has been subjected to without
response. I myself would refuse to sacrifice the lives of my friends and family
on the altar of Cooper’s bigotry.
Marc Cooper rails against American foreign policy, including our support of
Israel and its policy of “state-sponsored assassination.” Is he referring to
Israel’s policy of killing the leaders of terrorist groups who openly claim
credit for terrorist acts committed against Israeli civilians? Would he be happier
if they launched another full-scale invasion of Lebanon?
I hate to break the news to Cooper, but “state-sponsored assassination,” as
he amorphously defines it, is exactly the business we should be in. What’s the
difference between killing Osama bin Laden with a high-powered sniper’s rifle
and killing Osama bin Laden by launching missiles from the deck of a Navy battleship?
Civilian casualties. And limiting civilian casualties isn’t simply good policy
. . . it’s just plain good.
IT’S HIS BAT
Re: Howard Blume’s “War
and Power” [October 5–11]. After Mr. Blume expends several paragraphs unsuccessfully
trying to make the case that Osama bin Laden should be compared to a) the American
Indian (the Indians will be thrilled to hear) and b) soldiers of the American
Revolution, he further insults the reader’s intelligence by complaining that
bin Laden has not played according to the “operational handbook of the U.S.
Army.” One was left wondering what Blume’s point really was — that bin Laden
should play by our rules, or that Bush should let the United Nations lead us
into disaster, as Clinton did.
Battle Creek, Michigan
Nothing” [October 5–11]. So Steven Leigh Morris can’t seem to find a unifying
theme to Mamet’s work, beyond his mastery of language. I would suggest the same
about Morris’ article, which seems to follow in the well-trodden footsteps of
so many critics before him. Morris suggests that Mamet’s history of writing
from opposing philosophies is a weakness, that his demand for timing is a cheap
gimmick, that he essentially has nothing to say. The preposterous proposal that
Mamet’s ability to argue from all sides diminishes his body of work
is laughable. On close examination of what Morris is really “saying,” one recognizes
that the Critic is the one who “stands naked before us,” and, unlike the author,
the Critic’s only legacy is that of either praising or rebuking another’s work.
It’s Morris’ words, not Mamet’s, which truly signify nothing.