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Letters to the editor

October 31, 2003 | Page 4

Lives destroyed by Washington's war
Making a career out of their bigotry
Would the Democrats behave differently?

Good riddance to a racist

Dear Socialist Worker,
Racist Boston politician Louise Day Hicks died October 21 at age 87. It was not a moment too soon. A sickening obituary in the Providence Journal quoted University of Massachusetts president William Bulger praising Hicks's "courage," and stating: "In the face of radical change and racial upheaval, she stood up for white ethnics and the traditional values they professed: home and church, neighborhood and flag." What garbage!

A Democrat and a member at different times of the Boston School Committee and City Council, Hicks ran for mayor in 1967 on an openly racist, pro-segregation platform. She opposed "forced busing" and supported "neighborhood schools"--which in a city as segregated as Boston meant maintaining that segregation.

In 1974, when a federal judge ordered Boston schools to be desegregated through busing, Hicks organized the group Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR), at times holding meetings at City Hall itself. ROAR organized white mobs to ambush and turn back buses carrying Black students to white schools in South Boston. At a football game between two white schools, the halftime show featured the burning of a school bus in effigy--just a symbol away from a Ku Klux Klan rally!

The racism of one of America's most "liberal" cities was heroically fought by activists, Black and white, whose struggle actually expressed the aspirations of most working-class Bostonians. While anti-racists organized pro-busing rallies that drew 10,000 to 15,000, ROAR usually could only muster 2,000 to 3,000.

But the violence that ROAR inflicted on children in integrated schools--and more importantly, the support that it got from numerous establishment figures, from Hicks to then-president Gerald Ford--was an important obstacle to the fight against racism, right at the point when the radicalization of the 1960s and '70s was starting to decline.

To this day, New England schools remain the most racially segregated schools in the United States. Louise Day Hicks was a disgusting bigot whose "courage" lay in her willingness to use her political power to sabotage racial justice. Good riddance to racist rubbish!

Brian Chidester, Providence, R.I.

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Lives destroyed by Washington's war

Dear Socialist Worker,
In this war, many men and women were sent without thinking about it. Everyone's lives have changed--not only for the military comrades, but also their families.

My son was attacked by a suicide bomber in Baghdad on April 10, 2003. Since his accident, he spent just 14 days at Camp Pendleton Hospital. He was severely hurt in his legs, right shoulder and arm, and has no movement in his right hand. His legs still have shrapnel in them.

My son was sent home on convalescence leave without even an escort, right out of the hospital--and was made to travel alone in his condition, having to make connecting flights. Besides wounded soldiers being charged for hospital meals, I was called from the hospital because they were asking for a second medical plan.

I'm looking for help. My son was supposed to be operated on in June, but they keep telling him that he has to wait for his unit to get back from Iraq.

Anonymous, From the Internet

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Making a career out of their bigotry

Dear Socialist Worker,
Just as Rush Limbaugh started to get heat over the racist comments he made about a Black NFL quarterback, right-wing Rochester, N.Y., radio host Bob Lonsberry got fired for putting his foot in his racist mouth.

The Bob Lonsberry Show, produced in Rochester on WHAM radio, has always been a venue for Lonsberry and his listeners to spew conservative garbage about "family values" and "personal responsibility," and to bash welfare recipients, people of color, environmentalists and others, including Rochester's Democratic Mayor Bill Johnson.

Lonsberry recently stepped up his attacks on Johnson, who is running for county executive. On one of his last shows, Lonsberry said in reference to Johnson, who is Black, "an orangutan has escaped [Rochester's] zoo--and he's running for county executive!" Callers chimed in, making monkey noises on the air.

Lonsberry's comments inspired outrage immediately, and WHAM suspended him from his show. WHAM initially considered forcing Lonsberry to undergo diversity training, but as the pressure--which included a protest at WHAM studios--mounted, and Lonsberry refused to apologize, the station was forced to fire the bigot.

The irony in the cases of Lonsberry and Limbaugh is that they caused uproars for making racist comments, when offensive speech has been the main staple of their careers. The incidents that got Bob and Rush in trouble came as no shock to those of us who consider every word that comes out of their mouths to be offensive.

If offending people is the criteria for firing a radio host, what about misogynistic, homophobic Howard Stern, or far-right immigrant basher Michael Savage? We need to expose all of these right-wingers for the bigots that they are.

Khury Petersen-Smith, Rochester, N.Y.

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Would the Democrats behave differently?

Dear Socialist Worker,
Much of the left seems poised to leap into the "anybody but Bush" trap that the Democrats have laid. I find the selective amnesia astonishing. The Democrats are merely the capitalists' "second-string" team, and with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), it seems they are vying to be the starters.

Here in California, former Gov. Gray Davis' solutions to the budget crisis have been massive cuts to social services, although he found over $180 million more for prisons. He decided to triple the already regressive car tax--which hits working-class families hardest--yet refused to tax the rich or their corporations.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton doubled the prison population, threw 2.5 million women and children off welfare, witch-hunted gays in the military, oversaw the slashing of women's access to abortion and used American forces to intervene in other countries more than Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr. combined.

Many who intend to support the Democrats in 2004 express the belief that they would have behaved differently after the September 11 attacks. I think we all would benefit from remembering that we have seen the shades of a "post-9/11" Democratic White House.

During the Second World War, President Roosevelt used the attacks on Pearl Harbor to galvanize racist sentiment in America, justifying a string of atrocities. Roosevelt, the most respected liberal icon of the Democratic Party, incarcerated 110,000 people of Japanese descent, 70 percent of whom were American citizens. The Democratic White House authorized the firebombing of Tokyo that killed 140,000 civilians. Truman ordered the use of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And he did this, not as the last shot in the war against the Japanese, who had in essence already surrendered, but as the first shot in the Cold War. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, including countless children yet to be born, were murdered by a Democratic White House as a message to the USSR. Yes, Bush and his cronies are horrible, but let's not forget who the Democrats really are.

Cesar Montufar, Los Angeles

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