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Letters to the editor

March 12, 2004 | Page 4

Treating poverty as if it was a crime
Don't be silent when the right attacks

Gaining the confidence to take on bigotry

Dear Socialist Worker,
I am openly gay and work as a tech for the phone company in Queens, New York. I spend a considerable amount of time arguing with people about why antigay jokes and slurs are not funny or harmless.

Just as the gay marriage controversy was really hitting the headlines, I found some graffiti in a break room that read "AM=HOMO" (that would be me). It took me a long time to tell anyone about it, partially because the atmosphere at work is that no one complains about shit like this. But behind that is the feeling that no one would really have my back on it anyway.

But the flip side was that the more gay marriage was news, the more people started saying how much they hate Bush. One morning in a coffee shop, a couple of technicians were looking at the headlines about San Francisco, and even before I could say anything, one guy launched into a tirade about how you can't say there are equal rights for gays when you can't marry, and hasn't Bush heard about separation of church and state?

This was repeated at least three other times in the week that followed, and it was easy to connect this so-called religious issue with the fact that civil unions only offer--at best--a third of the rights that marriage offers. In fact, in our union contract, members with domestic partners can't get the top tier medical, so I got kicked out and put in an HMO because I refused to drop my partner. When people hear that, it's easy to see this is part of how bosses and politicians try to rip all of us off.

This has really boosted my confidence. I went back to the break room, and a coworker happened to be there when I crossed out the graffiti. He was totally shocked someone would go after me like that. We had a great conversation about why gays are targeted.

I think we will win equality for gays by showing that gay oppression is real, and that it lets the people who run our society get away with denying our rights--housing, health care, Social Security, etc.--along with making our lives painful and scary. We have an opportunity to build real solidarity around ending gay oppression. We should use it.
Amy Muldoon, CWA Local 1106, New York City

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Treating poverty as if it was a crime

Dear Socialist Worker,
Madison, Wisconsin's homeless policy treats the poor like criminals. Recently, two homeless men froze to death in sub-zero temperatures because they smelled of alcohol, and thus were denied shelter. They were not disruptive or violent, but were simply seeking refuge from the harsh Wisconsin winter.

Last month, another man died under questionable circumstances, though most shelter residents report that he had made it known to staff that he was diabetic and had requested food, but was denied because "breakfast time" had just ended. He took insulin and died shortly after.

Not much fuss followed these tragedies, as the poor and homeless are swept under the rug. By making the poor seem less than human, the notion that they are to blame for poverty is perpetuated, which steers ideas away from structural implications and solutions. This is convenient for the ruling class, but tragic for the millions who live with the shame and are forced to struggle for basic survival.

In response to this injustice, we have begun the Madison Warming Center Campaign to bring attention to the city's inhumane treatment of the poor. Many of the homeless here have been looking for a way to express their indignation and have been active in the campaign.
Ryan Spangler, Madison, Wis.

To learn more about the campaign, visit

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Don't be silent when the right attacks

Dear Socialist Worker,
Chris Danze wants to take his one-man anti-abortion show on the road after his recent success at stopping the construction of a $6.2 billion Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas. Danze, president of an Austin-based concrete contractor Maldonado and Danze, began his bullying campaign even before the September groundbreaking of the clinic.

He created the bizarre Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association, an informal group of every concrete supplier within a 60-mile radius of the Austin area. In a letter and phone blitz, Danze harassed the contractor and potential subcontractors.

He threatened to document them by video camera and send lists of participants to businesses and churches, which promised to deny them business--and concrete. By November, Browning Construction bailed out of its contract for lack of sub-contractors and suppliers.

At Whole Women's Health Center in Austin, Danze and his followers yell at and harass entering clients every Saturday morning in the hopes of intimidating the owner of the property to break the clinic's lease. A group of Austin activists had planned a recent counter-protest, but the clinic asked that the protest be called off in order not to "disturb the dignity" of their clients.

Construction resumed recently on the Planned Parenthood project, with the group acting as its own general contractor and promising that "the names of individuals and firms working on the project will remain confidential to protect their safety." Such behavior will not secure reproductive services for poor women, who need Planned Parenthood's services.

It's time for people who believe in the rights of all women to reproductive health to organize and fight back. Let's ratchet up the decibels on Chris Danze and his zealots!
Cindy Beringer, Austin, Texas

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