Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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I’ve been a Greg Palast fan for some time and have been gratified by his exposure of election fraud and the sham of peak oil, but I am dismayed by his response to Arnie Cooper’s question concerning 9/11 [“Forget What They Told You,” May 2007]. Palast says that Bush didn’t know about the attack in advance and that 9/11 was not an inside job. I know he knows better because I heard him say otherwise on Alex Jones’s radio show. Jones has done extensive research and made several films testifying to the fact that 9/11 was indeed an inside job. I can’t believe Palast, an investigative reporter, doesn’t know the truth. I can only conclude that he is part of the coverup. What I want to know is: why?
Although Greg Palast sounds a little rehearsed (but still funny) when he says, “We’re not running out of crude, dude,” we desperately need more reporters like him. There’s still time for smart leaders to define our goals and set our course, but even a good leader needs someone nipping at his or her heels.
I don’t quite understand, however, what Palast means when he calls National Public Radio “National Petroleum Radio.” It obviously isn’t a compliment. When I worked for Columbia-HCA, the once-giant, for-profit hospital company that was ravaged for nearly a year by the national media, NPR was the only news outlet whose reporting was fair and balanced. NPR did its own investigation rather than repeating and spinning what the New York Times had to say. I admire NPR and support it with a monthly donation.
The interview with Greg Palast gave me new insight into an incident that has perplexed me for more than twenty years now: Back in the mid-1980s I was living in Santa Clara County, California. One year I did not get my voter’s packet prior to the election. [In California the state government issues a nonpartisan summary of candidates and issues on the ballot to each voter.] It was a small election, and I was busy, so I didn’t even notice until after election day that my packet never arrived. Odd. Surely it had just gotten lost somewhere. But the next election day it was the same thing: no voter’s packet. So I called the Santa Clara County Registrar to find out why. I was told by the person answering the phone — and this is a direct quote — “You have to reregister after every election.” Now, I knew that wasn’t true. You have to reregister only if you move, change your name, or change your party affiliation. I was very indignant and told her just how wrong she was. My name was restored to the voting rolls, and I didn’t have another problem.
It never occurred to me that this incident was anything other than an example of bureaucratic incompetence — until now. Reading about Palast’s investigations of how black voters have sometimes been removed from voting rolls, I realized that although I am white, I’ve been told that my name sounds like it belongs to a black person.
Now I wonder how many other people were removed from the voting rolls in Santa Clara County because they were perceived to be black — or Asian, or Hispanic. How many people were intimidated into believing it was their own fault? How many voters got disenfranchised?
To Pam Hanna: Why don’t I believe 9/11 was an inside job? Because I’m an investigative reporter, and this investigation is far from complete. Yes, on Alex Jones’s excellent program — and in my book Armed Madhouse — I’ve discussed the secret, classified FBI document that, together with intelligence sources in Washington, reveals how the Bush administration spiked the investigation of the bin Laden family before the September 11 attack. But what does that mean? That the Bushes knew of the attack? More likely it indicates something else quite damning: that intelligence agents were not permitted to investigate Saudis who were too close, politically and financially, to the Bushes.
To John W. Mitchell: I spoke just this week with another NPR producer who was afraid to have me on the air. As far as they’re concerned, if it’s not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, it isn’t news. I work for the BBC, which is not government funded (we have subscribers), nor does it take a dime from Archer Daniels Midland or British Petroleum (big NPR airlords). America doesn’t need another oil-industry-government news network. NPR is FOX News with a Connecticut accent.
To Regina Johnson: We have an apartheid voting system in the U.S. Three million provisional ballots were handed out in 2004. If you’re white, you’ve probably never seen one of these. If you’re black or Hispanic, it’s likely what you voted on: a ballot they can toss out after you leave the polling station. In 2004 more than 1 million provisional ballots were thrown out, the overwhelming majority of them cast by voters of color. Karl Rove has stopped more blacks from voting than anyone who ever wore a white sheet.
I read Heather King’s essay “The Trial” [May 2007] in complete disbelief. Why would anyone who has been treated as badly as she has attempt to forgive the person who mistreated her? Her boss used her in a shameful manner, insulting her dignity, and all she can think about is how to forgive him. To my mind this attitude represents a serious flaw in Christian philosophy. Her boss is clearly someone with no respect for other human beings, and therefore deserves no respect or consideration from anyone else. I fail to understand what Christians are trying to accomplish with such feeble thinking.
How sad it is to witness the decline of Marjorie Clarke, as photographed by her grandson Marshall Clarke. But when did she cease to be a person and become an object? I feel that her privacy has been invaded. Nobody should have to end his or her life unknowingly on display.
The issue of objectifying people is something I struggle with every day as a photographer. There’s a fine line between being a witness and being an intruder. How close is too close? Privacy should not be treated lightly, and there are many photos I choose not to take, out of respect.
During my visits with my grandmother, I often asked if I could take her photo, but eventually the question had no meaning for her. For years after her death the photographs sat as I debated the importance of privacy versus the need to communicate. Finally I discussed the images with my family, and they gave me their blessing to make them public.
My grandmother’s decline is sad, but it was also a part of her life. When we are invited to be a witness to someone else’s life, our fragile connections can be reinforced. For me the images do not diminish my grandmother’s humanity but acknowledge both her struggle and my relationship with her. To communicate honestly is sometimes to communicate the uncomfortable truth. My intent, as witness and grandson, was to reveal what we all share, rather than what separates us.
I like Readers Write because it is so genuine. The section seems to be a microcosm of the magazine itself: unafraid of any idea, so long as it is responsibly and cogently expressed.
So I was surprised to find that out of the twenty-nine writers who contributed to “Praying” [April 2007], only two reject prayer as valid or effective. Around two-thirds of the authors believe that prayer actually works. I’m well aware that the vast majority of Americans believe in God and the power of prayer, but given the track record of The Sun, I expected that the personal experiences of the respondents would be more evenly distributed across the spectrum between belief and nonbelief.
I am disappointed that a magazine that is otherwise so open-minded, honest, and thought-provoking would publish such a one-sided selection. Did two-thirds of the total submissions express the belief that prayer works? Or does the proportion published represent the editors’ bias in favor of prayer?
Sometimes I need a bit of inspiration to get me through the day. Today, for instance, I should be cleaning my messy house, but I want to read, to learn new things, to encounter new thoughts. I find a Time magazine and read an article by Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. She has cancer and writes about how she just doesn’t want to clean the bathroom anymore; time is too precious to her. She’s right, I think. Time’s too precious to spend it cleaning bathrooms.
Then I read my April issue of The Sun, with the Readers Write about “Praying.” When I finish Donna Kennedy’s story about losing her daughter to cancer, I find myself crying, moved by Kennedy’s prayer of thanks for the twenty-eight years her daughter was on this earth. Overwhelmed by gratitude, I begin to clean my messy house.
Brent Winter is a freelance proofreader for The Sun.
In the April 2007 Correspondence, Marc Polonsky says that it hurt to read Athena Stevens’s short story about the loss of a child [“What Are You Waiting For?” January 2007]. “Why is it important to be reminded of such things?” he writes.
I don’t take Polonsky’s pain lightly, but I disagree with the assumption that seems to underlie his question: that Stevens wrote her story to remind us that there is suffering in the world. Literature’s primary purpose is not to remind us of anything or to be therapeutic. Rather, I think the purpose of literature is to evoke and participate in the human experience — all of it. If we decided that painful aspects of human experience should be excluded, what would we have left?
A literature without pain would be impoverished to the point of destitution. I am glad that writers like Stevens and magazines like The Sun are willing to give us writing that partakes of the full spectrum of what it means to be human.