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Letters to the editor

October 24, 2003 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Kucinich deserves progressives' support
We aren't laughing at this racist game
SW's tribute to Said fell short
The Democrats are better on gay rights

Their wealth comes from us

Dear Socialist Worker,
Forbes magazine recently put out its annual list of the 400 wealthiest individuals in America as further evidence of a fledgling economic recovery. After two years of declines, the total net worth of America's richest people rose 10 percent to $955 billion this year, the magazine boasted.

If that isn't enough of a slap in the face to the 3 million who have lost their jobs since 2001, a simple breakdown of the figures is even more galling. The average wealth of the bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population is about $1,100 per person, or a combined $130 billion.

So the combined wealth of the top 400 Americans is 7.4 times that of the bottom 117 million. Moreover, five members of the top 10 list are the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. The five Waltons have a combined wealth of $102.5 billion. And that's no accident.

Wal-Mart is now the largest employer in the U.S., with more than 1 million workers. It has 3,200 stores in the country with sales revenue of $245 billion. Yet Wal-Mart employees earn an average hourly wage of $7.50, for an annual salary of $18,000. And 70 percent of its employees don't have health coverage.

Abroad, Wal-Mart merchandise is assembled in sweatshops around the world. That's the key to Wal-Mart's success.

The Waltons today are only as filthy rich as they are because the company has been ruthless for so long in creating terrible worker conditions and keeping wages down. The wealth in those five people's hands was stolen from the blood, sweat and toil of millions in the U.S. and internationally.

The Forbes list serves as an annual reminder that the rich are only rich because of the work we do. Organizing on that basis is our key to stopping a system that puts the wealth of individuals above the welfare of millions.

Petrino DiLeo, New York City

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Kucinich deserves progressives' support

Dear Socialist Worker,
As a supporter of Dennis Kucinich's bid for the Democratic nomination, I read with great interest your recent appraisal of the inconsistencies in Kucinich's public words and actions (SW, October 10). While I don't disagree with any of the information in the article, I find the conclusion that Kucinich's candidacy is not worth supporting to be faulty.

Yes, Dennis' voting record and public pronouncements have not always been in line with progressive ideals. However, it is indisputable that his platform is far more progressive than that of any of the other candidates. A Kucinich administration would not solve all of the problems of capitalism, but it would be a great improvement over the Bush administration or the administration of any other Democrat.

I've always been baffled by Socialist Worker's animosity toward incremental change. It is unrealistic to expect a socialist revolution to clear away the injustices of capitalism. At this stage in American history, the best we can hope for is evolution, not revolution.

In lieu of a socialist candidacy with a legitimate chance to garner support, the Kucinich campaign deserves the support of progressives. No, he will not get the Democratic nomination, but a strong showing by Kucinich would be a good first step in the revival of progressive politics in America.

Chuck Augello, Hillsborough, N.J.

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We aren't laughing at this racist game

Dear Socialist Worker,
"You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50." This is what one of the cards reads in the game called "Ghettopoly" that was released this month. But not many people are laughing.

In Philadelphia, when the game was released, protesters camped out in front of Urban Outfitters' headquarters. The retailer was selling the offensive game at its stores nationwide. Apparently the activists have won the first round. A recent statement from Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne says, "Due to customer concerns, Urban Outfitters no longer sells the board game 'Ghettopoly.'" A couple of years ago, the same retailer pulled a T-shirt after an outcry. The T-shirt had a picture of a kneeling nude cowgirl, with her body labeled as beef parts.

"Ghettopoly" stirred protest in Seattle, when local NAACP President Carl Mack and member Eric Dawson heard news about the game and showed up at a downtown retailer of Urban Outfitters to protest. The game enable "playas" to buy chicken and ribs establishments while the goal of the game is to build "crack houses" and projects.

"Playas" must avoid being shot or drug addicted while traveling throughout the neighborhood. The properties in the game are no longer St. James Place, Boardwalk, and Park Place, but Westside Liquor, Harlem, The Bronx and Long Beach City. Instead of regular game pieces like a hat, a shoe, a thimble and a race car, "Ghettooply" gives you the stereotypes of a prostitute, pimp, hustlers, a gun, crack cocaine, machine gun, drugs and a bottle of malt liquor as game pieces.

On his Web site, the game's inventor is unapologetic, and promises that more games--Hoodopoly, Hiphopopoly, Thugopoly and Redneckopoly--are coming soon. But Chang is facing lots of feedback from Hasbro, the original creator of "Monopoly"--which is threatening to sue him.

Sheri Pegram, From the Internet

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SW's tribute to Said fell short

Dear Socialist Worker,
September 25 was a sad day for all of us who had been informed and inspired by Edward Said's words. His articulate message of Palestinian nationalism and anti-Zionism was a model for all of us who fight for the liberation of Palestine.

What made Said so important was the way in which he clearly articulated an argument against Zionism, a political ideology at the service of imperialism, while at the same time opposing all forms of anti-Semitism. That is why I was incredibly disappointed in Phil Gasper's otherwise moving obituary (SW, October 3).

In describing Said's role as spokesman for Palestinian liberation, he says: "It was this latter role that earned him, according to the Al-Jazeera news service, 'public enemy number one status among America's Jewish establishment.'" By using this quote, Gasper fails to make the distinction between Zionist politicians, who may be Jewish or not, and the Jewish community as a whole.

As socialists, we know that the question of Palestine is not one of Jews versus Arabs, but rather one of colonialism and imperialism. I am disappointed that in our tribute to a fellow liberation fighter, we failed to clearly articulate our message of anti-imperialism and opposition to all forms of oppression.

Shane Dillingham, College Park, Md.

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The Democrats are better on gay rights

Dear Socialist Worker,
Regarding your article on gays and lesbians and politics (SW, October 3), the author's treatment of the issues that we non-heterosexual people face was on target, but not complete. While attention is paid to equal civil marriage for gays, people ignore the fact that we are the last U.S. citizens who suffer legal discrimination in most of this country, just because we're gay.

Employers, lenders, landlords and any service providers can (and do) deny us access to opportunities and services just because we're gay. This is legal in most states and the federal government, and is banned by fewer than 200 municipalities and counties around the country.

So even if I can marry my male partner, I may be fired without recourse by my employer who doesn't want to provide partner benefits. The Democrats may not be perfect on our causes, but they're better than the Republicans--many of whom would rather see us dead, than voting for their candidates.

But part of the problem is our own failure to engage in grassroots party politics. If we don't take our place in the rank and file, make our issues known and help elect supportive candidates, no one is going to do it for us. That, of course, means we must take the brave step of being ourselves in hostile environments--not an easy task when an unknown number of us are beaten and killed just for being who we are.

Donald Cavanaugh, South Palm Beach, Fla.

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