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Letters to the editor

February 20, 2004 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
No room for slaves in Cold Mountain?
Don't ignore the environment
Super Bowl reaches new low

Georgia bigots take aim at gay rights

Dear Socialist Worker,
Right-wing bigots in Georgia's legislature have taken a cue from George W. Bush's attack on gay rights, filing a proposal in the state senate on January 26 to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The amendment, which was introduced by state Sen. Bill Stephens, will prohibit marriages and civil unions between people of the same sex and will not recognize these unions even when performed in other states.

Georgia gay rights groups have vowed to fight back against the measures, and view them as part of a much broader, national attack on gays and lesbians. Stephens' own statements have pointed directly to the attacks made by Bush in the State of the Union address.

Along with recent budget-cutting measures like tuition hikes, reductions in public transit service and the dismantling of the HOPE scholarship program, this attack is only the most recent in Georgia lawmakers' aping of Washington's war on workers. But Bush's visit to Martin Luther King's tomb in Atlanta in January drew huge protests that showed people's rage against the priorities of this government and our willingness to fight back.
Craig Johnson, Atlanta

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No room for slaves in Cold Mountain?

Dear Socialist Worker,
If Cold Mountain writer-director Anthony Minghella wanted to make an insipid epic romance, he could have set it anywhere, at any time. Unfortunately, he chose the American Civil War--and he should be held accountable.

A January 23 letter to SW defends the movie because it shows "how poor Southern whites were used to fight a rich man's war." But why is this point so prominent at the expense of Blacks, who are almost completely absent from the movie?

Defenders of the movie argue that you can't expect this to be an issue when the film is about North Carolina backcountry people who didn't own slaves. Let's set aside the fact that the movie's hero, Inman, manages to walk all the way from Petersburg, Va., to North Carolina and only see a handful of Blacks.

More importantly, the director's choice of a slave-free backdrop is a political choice. Either he's too lazy to take up this question--or it gets in the way of the point he wants to make, that "war is hell." As far as moviegoers can tell, Inman quits the war for no other reason than the impact it's having on him personally (that, and Nicole's Kidman's annoying voiceover reminder to "come home to me.")

The audience concludes that ordinary people suffer during war. And in Cold Mountain, only Southern people suffer, like the Southern woman victimized by Union troops in the film. This conclusion is hardly groundbreaking. The racist film Birth of a Nation bemoaned the war that pitted "brother against brother."

In an interview on PBS's Tavis Smiley Show, Minghella concluded: "The movie starts on a battlefield and ends at a table...It may not be an antiwar film, but it's certainly a film for peace and a kind of plea for...the sort of fuzzy solutions of listening to each other." He forgot to invite someone to the table--the slaves.

When you leave out the issue that made the Civil War worth fighting, and not compromising over--the destruction of the slave system--all you're left with is murky pacifism. If Minghella doesn't understand this, he shouldn't have made a film about the Civil War in the first place.
Elizabeth Schulte, Chicago

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Don't ignore the environment

Dear Socialist Worker,
Eric Ruder's article "Will the Democrats save the environment?" (SW, January 30) rightly calls for building a movement that brings together workers and environmentalists. But so far, I have not seen the International Socialist Organization (ISO) do anything to accomplish this.

The environment is far too important an issue to be deferred until "after the revolution." It must be made an essential part of revolutionary struggle. There are many important environmental struggles going on around the country in which we ISO members could make a positive impact.

Due to the legacy of postmodernism--which claims that science is merely an irrelevant "discourse" or some kind of white male power play--"left" culture teaches us to ignore scientific issues. Many on the left, including inside the ISO, are not only ignorant of the sciences, but antagonistic towards them.

This includes comrades who consider themselves "materialists" and "scientific socialists," but who know nothing about the physical and biological sciences upon which these theories are based. As John Bellamy Foster writes in the preface to his great book Marx's Ecology: "like most Marxists (outside of the biological sciences, where some of this history was retained), I had no knowledge of the real history of materialism. My materialism was entirely of the practical, political-economic kind, but ignorant of the larger history of materialism within philosophy and science."

Great revolutionaries like Marx and Lenin always stressed the importance of popular science education. Despite what today's middle-class "radical environmentalists" and anarcho-primitivists claim, the environment is fundamentally a scientific issue, and the environmental movement started as a movement of scientists.

Workers and socialists can use scientific knowledge, such as that of the environment, as a weapon against capitalism. The ISO has much to gain by becoming involved with environmental struggles, as the facts are on our side.
Brian Yanity, New York City

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Super Bowl reaches new low

Dear Socialist Worker,
This year's Super Bowl halftime show was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen during a sports broadcast, and that's saying something. Socialist sports fans such as myself realize that the underlying themes of nationalism and sexism (not to mention racism and homophobia) are prevalent, if not dominant, in mainstream sports culture. Despite this, we see something redeeming in the games themselves.

But the Super Bowl halftime show went beyond even what's acceptable to many mainstream sports fans. Dancers taking off their clothes to Nelly's "It's Getting Hot in Here," Kid Rock's sexist and nationalist lyrics (not to mention the U.S. flag he cut into a shirt), and the finale--where Justin Timberlake, after groping Janet Jackson from one side of the stage to the other, ripped off her top to reveal her breast--show just how sexist and nationalist mainstream sports culture is.

The NFL, CBS and MTV have all been forced to issue public apologies. In the contemporary context of the sports industry, it will take a movement that takes on the issues of sexism, nationalism, racism and homophobia to refocus sports back on the games themselves. Until then, I'm putting the TV on mute, changing the channel during halftime--and arguing for the importance of standing up against the backwards politics of mainstream sports culture.
Brad Ward, Greensboro, N.C.

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