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Letters to the editor

January 10, 2003 | Page 4

Students protest the war recruiters
The U.S.'s lopsided priorities

Why Oregon human rights day is hollow

Dear Socialist Worker,

In December, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber gave an official apology for the state's horrific eugenics law that forcibly sterilized over 2,600 people between 1900 and 1980. Some of these people were mentally challenged. Some were youths put in care by the state. Oregon is only the second state to offer such an apology out of 33 states that used similar eugenic laws to sterilize at least 60,000 people.

Kitzhaber also declared December 10 as human rights day--"a day on which we will affirm our commitment to the value of every human being in Oregon," he said. This comes a couple of weeks after two Portland cops were given an award for the killing of Mexican national, Jose Mejia Poot, one year earlier. His only "crime" was being an epileptic who spoke little English. The cops mistook him for being mentally ill.

Portland police already have a reputation for killing people with mental illness. And now, just days after Kitzhaber's "apology," the state has announced the eviction of 122 people with mental illness from residential care homes, in order to save money. They will likely be put into hotels, where they will not receive the care they need.

The most vulnerable citizens are again under attack. And for one day of the year, we are meant to think of their human rights? These are the symptoms of a sick group running society. Such events show why we desperately need a new kind of society where we take care of the weakest people, not shoot or sterilize them.

Paul Dean, Portland, Ore.

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Students protest the war recruiters

Dear Socialist Worker,

When we got the word that some military recruiters were coming to our school--Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md.--a group of friends got together the night before and made T-shirts and signs and came up with some chants.

On the morning they arrived, we started to chant in front of the school's main building. We were later joined by other students, and even some teachers.

As one teacher at Northwestern High wrote in an e-mail to local activists: "They were loud and boisterous and had very inventive slogans about the war in Iraq and the fact that Bush and his cronies won't be sending their children to die in the Gulf."

We followed our plan to protest in front of the Career Center where the military recruiters were supposed to go to that day. I and some other students formed a human chain in front of the Career Center door. We wouldn't move until the police came to get us.

In the end, they did not suspend us, and we are still allowed to protest. We are proud of this, and I hope to start a club soon.

Sheri Pegram, Hyattsville, Md.

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The U.S.'s lopsided priorities

Dear Socialist Worker,

Now and then, I see bumper stickers that read, "America: Love it or Leave it." More often discontented with my citizenship than not, I must say that I am finding it difficult to find asylum in another country.

Why would I want to leave? America is one of the only first-world countries to have no socialized health care system and no free university system. Practically every aspect of an American's life is sold to them. It is difficult enough to walk through a store the size of a city block and realize that it was created solely to make a few people very rich. It's tragic to walk into a hospital and realize the same thing.

One of Bush's first acts as president was to push through legislation to provide a tax refund. Had I known that, two years later, there would be a huge budget deficit, I would have sent the check back. Now public schools are forced to cut programs, unemployment is no longer receiving funding, state parks are shutting down--the list goes on. Our invasion of Iraq is going to cost an estimated $3 trillion while elementary school teachers need to pay for many of their class supplies themselves.

When I think about this lack of perspective and hopelessly lopsided priorities, I wonder if political persecution can take the form of an assault on common sense. For now, I propose a new bumper sticker, "America: Difficult to Love, Difficult to Leave."

Joel Pedersen, Tucson, Ariz.

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