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Views in brief

May 11, 2007 | Page 13

Troubled kids thrown to the courts
The stereotyping of hip-hop
Abortion ban an attack on women
300 not a right-wing parable

Troubled kids thrown to the courts

ALLEN LEE, an 18-year-old straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School in Illinois, was arrested recently for writing an essay in his creative writing class.

According to the Chicago Tribune, students were instructed to "write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing." Nonetheless, teachers were understandably disturbed by Lee's piece, in which he talked about "shooting everyone" and having "sex with dead bodies." Another sentence went, "Stab, stab, stab, S...t...a...b...poke."

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, which brought to light Cho Seung-Hui's disturbing writings in class, administrators claim that they cannot be too careful. Lee was charged with "disorderly conduct," a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

This case represents a completely backward approach to dealing with the causes of school shootings. Lee's paper was clearly a cry for help, and he deserves counseling to help him work out these issues, not jail time--which if anything will alienate him further.

Interestingly, Lee had recently enlisted and been accepted into the Marine Corps. While they have since withdrawn their offer, it's no wonder that the Marines attract and even seek out kids like Lee.

Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell recently released a scathing report on the slaughter of innocent civilians by the Marines in Haditha, Iraq. It documents statements from all levels of command which "suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes."

The truth is our government has a cold and calculated interest in using systematic violence that far surpasses that of any troubled adolescent. If anyone deserves to go to jail for pathological threats, it should be presidential candidate John McCain, who recently sang that the U.S. should "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

Instead, children in need of counseling are imprisoned or become cannon fodder, while the real maniacs in our society are allowed to unleash devastating violence around the globe without batting an eye.
Leela Yellesetty, Seattle

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The stereotyping of hip-hop

WHILE IT'S certainly good to hear someone speak out against the ridiculous chorus of voices scapegoating hip-hop for Don Imus' racist comments, I disagree with a comment from the interview "How hip-hop got blamed for Imus" (April 27).

As an explanation for women frequently being called "bitches" and whores" in hip-hop, Dave Marsh says "hip-hop is made by people who don't have the education in what you don't say. They say it...I don't think I've ever met a hip-hopper who, one, didn't go to church...and two, didn't love their mom...there's this unreality to it."

As the interview later goes on to discuss, the hip-hop community is not a homogenous one. And it is certainly not homogenous in its stance on using lyrics that degrade women. Many formally educated and self-educated hip-hop artists have, in fact, been repulsed by the sexism in hip-hop and made a point in creating songs that take it on. And they are right in doing so.

Not that the problem is hip-hop. At the end of the day, the problem is the sexism that exists in practically every corner of American society, making it perfectly socially acceptable for derogatory lyrics to play across airwaves daily.

But the sexist lyrics and the artists (educated and not) who use them shouldn't get a pass either in my book. "Bitches" and "whores" aren't empty words, and women do not get to make an "unreality" out of sexism--out of less pay, less control of their own bodies, objectification and the brunt of the family burden.

From constant derogatory remarks to anti-abortion laws, sexism is alive and kicking--and harming women. It needs to be called what it is and challenged--in hip-hop, in many other arenas of music and culture, and most importantly, on the ground in American politics.
Sarah Macaraeg, Chicago

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Abortion ban an attack on women

THE RECENT Supreme Court decision to uphold a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortions is disgusting and a major setback for the feminist movement and for women in general. It shifts even more of the burden of reproducing the labor force onto the shoulders of working-class women and families.

Abortion bans disproportionately affect poor and working-class women; the rich will always be able to find doctors willing to provide safe abortions for a premium.

Considering the slashing of the social safety net over the past quarter century, the further erosion of abortion rights (even now, only 13 percent of U.S. counties offer abortion services) will mean more women will have to choose between attempting to raise a child in abject poverty, and risking serious bodily harm (sterility, among other things) and death by seeking a dangerous "back-alley" abortion.

There is an inverse relationship between access to abortion and unnecessary deaths of women: a mass grassroots movement is necessary to prevent a return to the pre-Roe v. Wade days when tens of thousands of women bled to death across the United States.

The successful struggle for a ballot measure that overturned an abortion ban in the 2006 election in South Dakota proves that grassroots organizing, which won abortion rights in the first place, is still effective in securing a woman's right to choose.

In Mexico, in March, 3,000 demonstrators marched in Mexico City, demanding that the Mexican government legalize abortion. Patricia Mercado, a Mexican feminist and former presidential candidate, stated: "There are women who die today...there are four women every day [who die] because of bad abortions, especially poor women, and the state must respond to the problems of justice and public health that are brought on by clandestine abortions."

Unlike leading Democrats--who tail conservatives who portray abortions as immoral, calling for abortions to be "safe and rare"--Mercado took a firm stance: "A woman can decide to have an abortion or not have it, but it's her decision."

The hypocrisy of a government that claims to support "life" while it slaughters hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan and allows 46.6 million people to go without health insurance in the richest country in the world is staggering.

Pro-choice activists in the United States should follow the example set by Mercado, as well as the women and men who won abortion rights in the U.S. in 1973 after years of struggle. We must accept nothing less than free abortion on demand!
Gary Lapon, Northampton, Mass.

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300 not a right-wing parable

WHAT A review of the movie 300 ("Sparta's war on terror," March 30)! As an avid weekly reader of Socialist Worker Online, I have a few problems with what was written.

Where to begin? When Matt Korn states that, "The filmmakers go to great lengths to portray the Persians as evil, decadent, cruel and effeminate, unlike the manly men of Sparta," does he forget that the Persians take in the hunchback, whom the Spartans would have normally killed at birth?

How about the fact that while this movie is about an historical event, it is nevertheless based on a comic book! As Geoff Hoppe writes in his review of this movie on "In all fairness, though, 300 clearly isn't intended to be historical fiction, per se. It's a very loose interpretation by a man successful enough to get away with one."

I am just dumbfounded with the fact that toward the end of his review, Korn claims 300 contains a call for the West to attack Iran. He uses the line from the movie about the "free and rational" West to defend itself from the Persian hordes.

What? I took that line to mean a Spartan society that favors reason over religion and blind faith, just like any socialist would. How many people who saw this movie even know that Iran was once called Persia?

I watched this movie and came away thinking about the brave Spartans who knew that the odds that they would live through this were slim, yet went to meet the Persian army head on to defend their homeland, just like any people should when faced with the challenge of a potential occupying force.

Nearly every week, your publication speaks against empire, and for the brave Palestinians and Iraqis who resist the occupying forces in their homelands. Yet a movie that portrays this very thing is ripped apart in the very same publication. Frankly, watching the Spartans battle made me want to continue to get in better physical shape.

I did check into Korn's claims about the right-wing politics of Frank Miller, and from what I found, he is right on about that, which was enlightening to me. But even with that in mind, I really see little of his politics reflected in this movie.

I think Korn has gone too far with his "critique." See this film, it's a good one--and when you do, remember what those Spartans were fighting for.
Todd Graczykowski, From the Internet

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