September/October 2004

Insecurity Complex

Matthew Brzezinski’s article about the Department of Homeland Security (“Red Alert”) was informative, but recent issues have further shown the administration’s lack of interest in DHS. Most notably, the lack of support for creating permanent House and Senate Homeland Security committees. Although the 9/11 and the Hart-Rudman commissions both called for this step, Republican House committee chairmen have sworn to defeat it. Why? It all comes down to turf war. Powerful House leaders would rather fight to the death over losing control of their jurisdiction than do what is best for the country.

GEOFF S. FEIN
Alexandria, Virginia

No Turning Back

Like the author’s mother in Eleanor Cooney’s article, “The Way It Was,” my parents arranged for what was euphemistically called a “therapeutic” abortion at the local hospital. I was 19 and pregnant in 1968.

Mine is not a coat-hanger story either, but the psychic scar is still there. To be eligible for this procedure, I had to convince two separate psychiatrists that I would kill myself as the alternative. Neither believed a word I said, nor did I, but that was the name of the game in 1968.

A quarter-century later, this April, I marched with my 20-year-old daughter and a million others in Washington, D.C. It was the largest pro-choice march in history; a broad coalition based on the premise that all people deserve choice.

LESLIE KEENE
Burlington, Vermont

I got pregnant in 1985 at the age of 15. I knew I was pregnant when I was just a day late; I could feel it. The choice, to me, was clear: neither I nor my boyfriend were prepared to be parents. He agreed to help me pay for my abortion and then stopped returning my calls. My mother arranged an abortion through a private physician, sparing me the ordeal of dealing with protesters. After the procedure, I wept, and the nurse held my hand, comforting me with her compassion.

RUTH RIVERA
Santa Rosa, California

Cooney’s article is a masterful piece of writing. In 1959, when Cooney was a “smarty-pants” kid, I was an intern at the LA County General Hospital and rotated through an infected obstetrics ward, where the horror stories of botched illegal abortions she told so well were played out. Our fellow citizens haven’t an inkling of the angst they are prepared to let loose again, the result of a campaign engineered by cynics and hypocrites. Maybe the voting public gets what it wants and deserves it, but it hurts to say that.

GERALD EPSTEIN
Gold River, California

Slighting Seeger

David Hajdu’s article,
“Pete Seeger’s Last War,” must have been written for another publication. The identification of this hardworking, brilliant, lifelong progressive as the “Reagan of the left” is past offense. But the line, “A strain of anti-Americanism has always run through Seeger’s work,” shows the author believes that trying to get one’s country to act in a moral and ethical way in relation to the rest of the world is unpatriotic. I’m surprised you printed this article.

LENI V. REEVES
Auberry, California

Was Lincoln anti-American when, as a young congressman, he voted against the Mexican War in 1848? Was Mark Twain anti-American when he spoke out against the Spanish-American War? I have had a strain of anti-imperialism in me ever since reading the words of Marine General Smedley D. Butler, who said the following in 1933: “War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people…. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

PETE SEEGER
Beacon, New York

Thanks for the piece on one of my heroes, Pete Seeger. I just got out of jail after 10 days for blocking the road at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. On the way to jail, my fellow enemies of the state and I sang songs: “Down by the Riverside,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and others. The songs lifted our spirits, held us together. Pete and Harry

Belafonte are right. These songs make a difference. But not so much at open-air concerts. We need to get up off the grass and onto picket lines, into marches, and, maybe, into police vans.

JERRY BONE
Knoxville, Tennessee

Targeting Stereotypes

“For a Week’s Worth of Gas” by Ted Williams tells an important story. But his description of hunters and fishermen as “generally a conservative lot, easily seduced by politicians who dress in camo and flounce around at photo ops with borrowed shotguns and fishing rods” is inappropriate. In our polarized political climate, others could argue that environmentalists are elitists who want to lock up the land for wildlife. Neither stereotype is helpful.

ROGER FUNSTON
Bakersfield, California

The Right to Sue

The administration and corporate cries (and lies) about frivolous malpractice suits, exposed in Stephanie Mencimer’s “Trial and Error,” hide the fact that lawsuit limits restrict the civil rights of Americans and reward doctors who practice bad medicine and insurance companies. All of this administration’s hyped issues increase the power and profits of corporations, while decreasing the power and well-being of the average American.

PATRICIA M. KOSTER
Williston, Florida