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Letters to the editor

December 6, 2002 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW
Build the fight to defend civil rights
For-profit health care crisis
A dockworker of philosophy?

Taking up the flag weakens our movement

Dear Socialist Worker,

Joe Grossman recently argued in a letter that "as long as Americans view their flag positively we should embrace it. Antiwar demonstrations in the U.S. have a primarily U.S. audience. They should be designed to attract U.S. support" (SW, November 22).

But last year, most Americans "embraced" the war on Afghanistan and "viewed it positively." Should we have embraced it as well? The issue of SW after the horrible events of September 11 had in bold print the words: "Don't turn tragedy into war!"

Today, I think SW is right in arguing against the antiwar movement wrapping itself in the flag, for several reasons. One is that "patriotism" is a one-way street. While tens of thousands of working-class Americans were drafted and sent to Vietnam, Bush, Cheney and most of the current administration evaded the draft and their "patriotic duty." Second is that the flag isn't ours. It was the flag of slaveholders and wealthy merchants from the beginning. As socialists, we think that "the real enemy is at home." So why wrap ourselves in the flag of our enemy?

Lastly, and most importantly, people around the world--in Italy, Britain, South Korea, the Philippines, Palestine and Iraq--are looking for opposition to Bush's insane war drive here, in the "belly of the beast." The international antiwar movement can only stand to benefit if we in the U.S. refuse to carry the beast's flag.

We shouldn't forget that standing up against the war means we stand in solidarity with people in Iraq--and with working people everywhere.

Pham Binh, New York City

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Build the fight to defend civil rights

Dear Socialist Worker,

On November 9 in Boston, Amer Jubran, a Jordanian citizen, led a lawful, nonviolent protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Two days later, the FBI, in conjunction with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), invaded his home and demanded that he answer their questions under the threat of indefinite detention.

When he refused to answer their questions without a lawyer, he was detained and held without charges. As a show of solidarity, about 50 people marched to demand his release. He was finally released on bail on November 21, but his case is far from over. His next immigration hearing is February 2003.

Amer is only one of hundreds of people of Arab decent who have been detained in the wake of the USA PATRIOT Act. This case isn't really about immigration law. It's about the right of people to voice a dissenting opinion in the United States. As Boston city counselor Chuck Turner said: "We aren't just talking about immigrants. The danger is they will use this to start a campaign against anyone who speaks out."

If we are to retain our civil rights, it is imperative that we not allow the government to quietly detain anyone. It is only through vocal demonstrations that the INS will be held accountable.

Michael Titcomb, Boston

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For-profit health care crisis

Dear Socialist Worker,

I had surgery recently, and my stay at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco has brought very much to my attention the declining state of U.S. health care.

My past experiences with care at San Francisco's St. Francis hospital are fondly remembered compared to my stay at CPMC. St. Francis is run by the non-profit Catholic Healthcare West, whereas CPMC is run by the for-profit Sutter. The differences in staffing levels, equipment maintenance, facility cleanliness and patient care were startling.

I won't go into all the sticky details except to say that, for all the testing and monitoring they did, they still didn't notice that I was retaining water so badly that my weight went up 12 pounds in three days and that my left arm and hand were noticeably swollen. I spoke with my regular doctor about this, and he said, "Well of course, Sutter is the leader in corporate health care."

And I'm lucky--this was in the "successful" private health system with good insurance. It's not hard to extrapolate what's happening in the public health system. For example, Los Angeles County recently announced plans to close 11 of its 18 community health centers in order to "cut costs."

Will Beatty, San Francisco

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A dockworker of philosophy?

Dear Socialist Worker,

The headline on your recent article on the history of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ("The ILWU from Bridges to Spinoza," November 22) confuses current President James Spinosa (with an "s") with the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher Spinoza (with a "z"). Perhaps the confusion is not so surprising.

Spinoza--the philosopher, that is--believed that everything in the universe is determined, that struggle is therefore pointless and that human beings should accept the inevitable with passive resignation. Sadly with respect to the ports, Spinosa--the union leader--seems to believe the same.

Phil Gasper, Berkeley, Calif.

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