Media's Take on the News: 10-31-03 to 11-26-03Media's Take on the News
Canada Today, as in Slavery Times, Is a Refuge for American Minorities (posted 11-26-03)
Clifford Krauss, writing in the NYT (Nov. 23, 2003):
Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the Underground Railroad would carry him there," the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once noted in describing the codes American slaves used in their spirituals to fool their masters before taking flight.
Canada is heaven again for Lance W. Bateman and William E. Woods, two American men who were married here recently.
The wedding on Aug. 31 looked like a typical Hawaiian wedding, with the grooms wearing tropical ceremonial shirts made of pineapple fiber woven to look like fine silk and every guest wearing at least one orchid lei. Except the affair was in Canada, because the two men could not legally be married in Hawaii, where they live and to which they have returned.
As untraditional as the affair might seem, the men were actually following a long tradition of Americans coming here to break the conventions of the day, do something illegal, or simply live as they wished. The tradition goes back to the American Revolution, when 30,000 Loyalists flooded into Ontario and Nova Scotia to remain in the paternal embrace of King George III.
Mr. Woods, a 54-year-old public health administrator, and other gay-rights advocates are campaigning to encourage American gay couples to marry in Canada and then take their Canadian marriage licenses back home to press for the kind of pension, medical and other benefits that heterosexual married couples have.
"It is clear that when Americans are denied justice we can just cross the border, where the culture and language are relatively equivalent and achieve the sense of freedom we cannot achieve at home," Mr. Woods said. He noted that even now that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage just as Hawaii's Supreme Court did in the early 1990's, before the state's constitution was amended to exclude homosexual marriages the fight in the United States is not over and that those who are not willing to wait to marry will keep coming north.
"There is an escape now, and that escape is Canada," he said. "As in the time of slavery, we can learn from the experience in Canada that the world does not collapse on us when we achieve justice."
How Mohawk Indian Children Celebrate Thanksgiving (posted 11-26-03)
Michael Winerip, writing in the NYT (Nov. 26, 2003):
Thanksgiving is important at St. Regis Mohawk Elementary, a public school close by the Canadian border where all 450 students are Mohawk. But it is not the same Thanksgiving that most of America will celebrate.
There is not a picture of a Pilgrim in the school. Pilgrims? Mrs. King's first graders looked blank when asked by a visitor. Pilgrims? "Never heard of it," said Quentin Thomas.
Pilgrims? "Don't know that story," said Travis Thompson, 12. "Don't know what it is."
Pilgrims? "I learned a little bit about them for the state fifth-grade social studies test," said Krystian Mitchell-Lazore.
Pilgrims? "I heard a little bit," said Gage. "At first when the Europeans came, they stole the corn and squash from the natives' fields."
They were surprised when Barry Montour, their sixth-grade teacher, explained that at many schools, students put on Thanksgiving pageants, dressed as Pilgrims and Indians. "They thought that was strange," Mr. Montour said. "One of my kids said, `Isn't that a little racist, white kids dressing like Indians?' "
Those who had heard the Pilgrim story seemed willing to forgive. "You could say, `The Pilgrims were the beginning of our downfall,' " said Irving Papineau, the principal, who is Mohawk. "And had we known what was coming, it might have been better to let them starve. But I feel the spirit of the Indian people is to see the glass as half full."
Krystian, a sixth grader, agreed. "I do think most natives forgive the Pilgrims," she said. "It's from the past and we can put it behind us."
It is a fine balance, teaching American history at a public school so different from the mainstream, a place where so much American history is taken personally and negatively. These are young children, and while their teachers many themselves Mohawk do not want them to be naïve about history, they do not want them embittered, either.
And so a fair amount of time is spent focusing, not on what the Pilgrims did, but on the richness of the Indians' own culture and history. When Mrs. King and Carole Ross attended this school as children in the 1950's and 1960's, students were barred from speaking Mohawk; today, the two women work full time teaching the Mohawk language to every child.
Students learn that centuries before the Europeans arrived and held the "first Thanksgiving," the Mohawks were celebrating nine Thanksgivings a year, commemorating the first running of the sugar maple sap; the first thunder (and warming) of spring; the first strawberries; and the great harvest the ninth Thanksgiving and the one that coincided with the Europeans' Plymouth celebration.
Democrats Would Be Foolish to Write Off the South (posted 11-25-03)
Dick Polman, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov. 23, 2003):
Fearing that their next presidential nominee could bomb in Dixie, many Democrats are hinting that it might be smart for the party to virtually write off the Deep South and pursue victory elsewhere....
History shows that Democrats have never won without some Southern success; that Bill Clinton won four Old Confederacy states in 1992 and 1996; that Jimmy Carter virtually swept the region in 1976; that, by contrast, Gore, Michael Dukakis (1988) and Walter Mondale (1984) won nothing; and that a non-Southern Democrat has not won the White House since John F. Kennedy (1960).
Respecting this history, many Democrats remain adamant that the region should not be ceded to the GOP. Dumping Dixie means that their presidential nominee would have to win 70 percent of the electoral votes everywhere else - including all the states that Gore barely won: Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. Moreover, the Old Confederacy in 2004 will have more clout than ever; thanks to population growth, those states will command 153 electoral votes, six more than in 2000.
Mississippi Democratic chairman Rickey Coles said: "Ignoring the South is no way to build a national party. That just allows the party to wither on the vine. All this 'targeting,' all this whimpering and whining about 'limited resources,' obscures the fact that even if the nominee wins the presidency without the South, he wouldn't be a true national leader with a national constituency."
Ruy Teixeira, a liberal Democratic expert on voting trends, understands the temptation to write off Dixie - "It's common sense, you go hunt where the ducks are" - but he said that such a "wholesale abandonment" would send a bad message about the party.
"It would imply that we see all Southerners as a culturally alien mass that we don't know how to talk to," he said. "And that would further skew our image, identifying us even more with upscale social liberalism - which is a tendency that we already have."
A Bipartisan Lie -- Rewriting History (posted 11-25-03)
From the 11-25-03 newsletter published by the Institute for Public Accuracy:
"This nation is very reluctant to use military force.... Military action is the very last resort for us." -- George W. Bush, October 28, 2003
"[Richard] Gephardt approved a Bush-Cheney policy where, for the first time in American history, we commit to war before exhausting our efforts to commit to peace." -- Howard Dean Campaign Statement, November 16, 2003
Here are just a few of the facts about U.S. foreign policy contradicting such claims:
* In 1962, while trying to show that there were precedents for the use of armed force against Cuba, Secretary of State Dean Rusk produced for a Senate committee a list titled "Instances of the Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-1945." It listed 103 interventions between 1798 and 1895 alone.
* The United States invaded Cuba in 1898 -- expelling Spain, installing a U.S. military base and keeping Cuba as an economic "protectorate" until 1933.
* In the Philippines, 1898-1908, the U.S. waged war to suppress the independence movement, killing probably 600,000 Filipinos and establishing the Philippines as a U.S. colony until 1946. [Speaking before the Philippine National Congress, President Bush said on October 18: "America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule."]
* Intervention and occupation: Nicaragua (1912-33); Haiti (1915-34); Dominican Republic (1916-33).
* Vietnam, intervention and bombing from 1960-1975; Laos and Cambodia also massively bombed.
* Lebanon bombed, 1983-84; Grenada invaded, 1983; Libya bombed, 1986; Panama invaded, 1989.
[ Howard Zinn commented:]
"Instances of the U.S. government spurning peace efforts and going to war include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the bombing of Afghanistan.... Colin Powell on November 12, responding to statements of the Mexican ambassador to the UN who had said the U.S.
regards Mexico as a second-class country, remarked: 'We never, ever, in any way would treat Mexico as some backyard or as a second-class nation. We have too much of a history that we have gone through together.' That history includes invading Mexico, 1846-48, and taking half of its territory, bombarding the Mexican coast in 1914, killing several hundred Mexicans, and a long history of subordinating Mexican interests to our own.'"
Jimmy's First Novel (posted 11-25-03)
Max Byrd, reviewing Jimmy Carter's novel, The Hornet's Nest, in the NYT Book Review (Nov. 23, 2003):
As a young man Abraham Lincoln wrote poetry. John Quincy Adams, to console himself after losing an election, translated some odes of Horace. But leaving aside campaign speeches, legal depositions and recent addresses to Congress, up until now no American president has ever published fiction.
Write, the beginning novelist is always told, what you know. Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, is 79 years old, probably not the oldest first novelist in literature, but certainly crowding the record. What he knows is politics, carpentry and, as it turns out, an enormous amount of American history....
[T]he most unconsciously self-revealing moment comes when Carter ushers onto the stage an ambitious politician named Button Gwinnett, briefly governor of Georgia, remembered chiefly now as one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: ''He was a solemn person, and although his receding chin and slightly pouting mouth gave a first impression of weakness, his brilliant mind, intimate knowledge of the political currents in Savannah and his accurate assessments of his peers made him a formidable politician. He never forgot a slight or a favor and was able to accumulate an intimate cadre of supporters who were almost fanatic in their loyalty to him. He was somewhat reclusive in his personal habits. . . . The intensity of his commitments was the basis of his political influence.''
In another era he might have written a novel.
My How the US Has Changed: Sin Is In (posted 11-21-03)
Steve Chapman, writing in the Baltimore Sun (Nov. 21, 2003):
California inaugurated a governor who once appeared in a documentary film smoking marijuana - and he's a Republican. A ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, a state founded by Puritans. And the Victoria's Secret models exhibited skimpy lingerie and much more on prime-time broadcast TV, in front of God and everybody.
America is one of the most religious countries in the industrialized world. But in recent years, we've established that faith and sin can coexist quite comfortably. It used to be said that Oklahomans would vote against alcohol as long as they could stagger to the polls. Today, in most places, it's just the reverse: Even the sober and straitlaced generally prefer to live and let live.
In almost every sphere, Americans have decided that vice is nice, or at least a long way from evil. In the 1960s, nearly every state treated possession of marijuana as a felony. Today, none does, and a dozen states have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis, punishing users roughly the way they punish traffic violators. No fewer than 36 have passed measures endorsing its use for medical purposes.
Californians apparently don't care that Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked pot in his younger days, even after they got to see clips of him puffing away. The indifference extends to higher offices. Recently, during a Democratic presidential debate, three of the candidates admitted having smoked the stuff, and no one even noticed.
Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, however, made a newsworthy confession. "I have a reputation for giving unpopular answers at Democratic debates," he said. "I never used marijuana. Sorry." But why should Democrats mind a little pot when Republicans have a president who refused to deny that he ever used cocaine?
When John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, which historian David McCullough says is "the oldest functioning written constitution in the world," he couldn't have dreamed it would someday be interpreted to sanction homosexual partnerships. At the time, Massachusetts made sodomy punishable by death. These days, however, not much is banned in Boston, or most other venues.
As of 1960, all 50 states prohibited sodomy. Illinois was the first to repeal its ban, and by 1986, only 24 states still had such laws. By this past summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional, the number was down to 13.
When the court announced its verdict, Justice Antonin Scalia issued a blistering dissent, predicting that it would bring on "a massive disruption of the social order." In fact, it reflected the massive changes that have already taken place.
Justice Scalia feared the decision would lead to gay marriage, but the Massachusetts decision was in the works even before, and it was based on the state constitution, not any federal guarantees. The idea of gay marriage has gained a measure of popular acceptance because gays have gained so much popular acceptance.
Something has changed when every Democrat running for president endorses legal recognition for same-sex couples - an idea that would have been seen as insanely radical a decade ago.
Iraq Is Sounding a Lot Like The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (posted 11-21-03)
Scott Peterson, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 20, 2003):
The young Soviet soldier was bewildered, and in the hands of Afghan guerrillas, when he spoke a few years after Moscow's Christmas Day 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
"Everybody [in Afghanistan] used to say to me, 'Friend, friend,' " the POW told Anthony Davis, a military analyst with Jane's Intelligence Review. "Then they turned around and stabbed us in the back."
As America's ambitious nation- building campaign in Iraq comes under more frequent attack from increasingly sophisticated forces, analysts are drawing some lessons fr