Letters to the editor
July 11, 2003 | Page 4
An actor and a movie that still inspire us
Dear Socialist Worker,
Actor Gregory Peck died in June at the age of 87. A versatile and talented actor, to say that Peck left a void in the world of film is an understatement.
But it is Atticus Finch in the 1962 classic To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee's novel, that most people associate with Peck. Peck's hero was not a flashy, muscular action star. He was bespectacled attorney hardly fitting the mold of "hero" by today's film standards. Nonetheless, his iron will and social conscience are absolutely inspiring to this day.
In Mockingbird, Finch is a lawyer in the rural town of Maycomb, Ala., during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Jim Crow is in full swing, and poverty is rampant. It is against this backdrop that Finch agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a white woman. The odds are undoubtedly stacked against him.
Finch knows that Tom is innocent, and he knows he is the victim of a racist justice system. More importantly, he also knows that this is all the more reason to stand up for him. As the film progresses, Finch's children are brought into the harsh reality of their surroundings. It is the children, for example, who stop a late-night lynch mob from taking Tom, and possibly Finch, who stands watch outside the jail cell.
Released in 1962, the film stirred up controversy in the midst of the civil rights movement. Peck was an early outspoken supporter of civil rights in Hollywood. It is hard to watch Tom Robinson's trial without being reminded that we still live in a country that puts a bigger proportion of people in jail than any other country--most of them non-whites.
The sheer tenacity and unwillingness to back down is what is so memorable and beautiful about Gregory Peck's portrayal of Finch. Atticus Finch works from a simple, yet rock solid assumption--something that gives him strength in the face of great opposition and that no activist should ever forget: "I am right."
Alex Billet, Washington, D.C.
Dear Socialist Worker,
On June 6, a group of 50 trade unionists and activists gathered in New York City for a forum on labor rights in the U.S., Colombia and Venezuela. The forum was sponsored by the World Organization of People for Health Care and the Venezuela Solidarity Committee in New York, and included labor leaders from all three countries.
On the position of unions today, Raglan George Jr., executive director of AFSCME DC 1707, said, "It seems that the unions have taken a back seat," and added later that "we have got to go to the bargaining table together and present our demands, and make it known that if they are not met, we will shut [the city] down."
This includes the interests of workers in all countries. "Unions have to fight for all working-class people, and only with international solidarity can unions ever move forward," said Fernando Velez of Colombia.
Addressing some of the main problems facing unions and the working class today, George said, "This war on Iraq that we have engaged in is costing tremendous amounts of money, which is being paid for out of the pockets of workers." This forum really showed the possibilities of workers' power--and that it is something that can only be gained through sustained and unified fight among all of the working class.
Paul Grohman and Joe Ibanez, New York City
Dear Socialist Worker,
Recently, there has been a "major crackdown" on corporate criminals in the form of investigating the domestic diva, Martha Stewart, for charges of insider trading. Stewart, everyone's favorite homemaker, was the CEO of the company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., until she was recently forced to step down because of the scandal (even though she still has a place on the board of the company--surprise).
Bush and his buddies want to show just how tough they are on corporate crime. But really, Stewart's crime is small potatoes compared to what ex-Tyco CEO Dennis Koslowski and Enron's Ken Lay are accused of.
Yet Martha has been constantly hassled by the media for months now, and there's not a single word said about the companies that were caught red-handed cooking the books. The reason for all the media hype around Stewart? Because she's supposed to represent all that is good and pure in the world. Well, that and the fact that she doesn't have ties to oil like so many of the other corporate crooks.
On top of all this hype around Stewart, there is not single word mentioned about the real crimes she's committed--using sweatshop labor and other seedy schemes to make as much profit as possible.
Ultimately, going after her in particular is not an attack on corporate crime. It's an attack on her own morality. And it surely is not an attack on the system of capitalism, as we know it. There's more to the Martha Stewart scandal than meets the eye. It's a (seemingly) cunning trick played by the corporate media and the Bush administration to try to make people think they're getting tough on corrupt CEOs.
Julie Southerland, From the Internet