Views in brief

March 28, 2008

Candidates discover workers

REGARDING THE editorial "Class war converts?" (February 22): Yes, wasn't it wonderful to see--Obama travels to Janesville, Wis., and discovers...workers!

There are two parts of this magic transformation. Clinton and Obama denounce the role of corporations--and they address the working class, for a minute. America is portrayed as a great classless marketplace, I mean democracy, where any cook could be president.

For three years and 50 weeks, workers are enjoined to identify with the billionaires and the corporations who dictate our lives. "We" can all be Oprah. "We" are all middle class. Then, for a few weeks in an electoral cycle, the Democrats use class language to appeal to workers as workers and union members.

I was amused when Edwards, too, called things by their right names in the debates for a minute and talked about corporate greed. He was roundly denounced by every other candidate for being divisive.

Clinton, incidentally, also helped privatize the welfare structure, "ending welfare as we know it." This reduced the number of people on welfare, but didn't end poverty, as millions lost health services and couldn't find child care while they worked their new minimum-wage jobs.
Tina Beacock, Chicago

Socialists should vote Obama

ALTHOUGH I'M not too crazy about the remaining viable candidates for president, I am relieved that you are not backing Ralph Nader this time around--or any other idiot who will lead to some right-winger grabbing the White House. Congratulations for 2000.

I could be wrong, but in all likelihood, McCain is not going to be elected president. I think too many people are tired of Republican bullshit for that.

At the same time, the Democratic ticket is split between Obama and Clinton. I must say that I am not fond of Clinton. We've been there and done that, as a country. We did the Clintons during the 1990s, and they brought us NAFTA, a policy that has proven to be an absolute failure for working people here and abroad.

That leaves Obama. He's not perfect. He certainly doesn't meet all the criteria for left-wingers to support him. But let's face it, folks, he's going to be a hell of a lot better than the imbecile that has illegally inhabited the White House for seven years. Let's look at him with an open mind.

Yeah folks, I'm still a socialist, and I'm going to support Obama.
Bruce Burleson, Brockton, Mass.

Exploiting King for business

IT IS outrageous, though not surprising, that the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, a Gannett newspaper, would recently run a full-page advertisement for Bassett Furniture with the heading "Martin Luther King Day Sale." Gannett demonstrated poor judgment by running this advertisement because the ad itself is contrary to Dr. King's values and exploits his memory.

As a champion for the rights of those marginalized by their race, religion and socio-economic status, Dr. King would not have lent his name to something so blatantly oblivious to the true economic status of the majority of society. Did either Bassett or Gannett consider that purchasing this furniture even at a sale price would be impossible for at least 25 percent of the African American population?

With a total of more than 17 percent of all Americans maintaining income at less than 125 percent of poverty level, more than 38 million Americans would be excluded from participating in the savings offered at this sale. Undoubtedly, this sale would have excluded many of Bassett's own employees if purchasing furniture from Bassett were determined by discretionary income alone.

While it may be argued that these companies were making an attempt at inclusion by recognizing Dr. King's birthday in this way, the sad commentary is that the sale and the ad are symptomatic of the global problem that unfettered capitalism presents. While still oppressing millions domestically, globalization has allowed capitalism to reach new levels of oppression by paying laborers sub-standard wages in underdeveloped countries, effectively exploiting workers both here and abroad.

If Dr. King could still be here, he would find himself faced with the ongoing challenge of attempting to maintain civil rights while living in a society that still allows violations of human rights. A society that exploits peace in the name of profit is not worthy of a glance from Dr. King, let alone the privilege of associating itself with his name.
Lynnette Ladiges, Rochester, N.Y.

Sexism isn't "yesterday's news"

ON THE eve of International Women's Day, I read an editorial titled "Hillary's politics are 'yesterday's news.'" The editorial implies that the reason many young women are turning to the Obama campaign instead of the Clinton campaign is because they can't relate to what older feminists are feeling because, after all, sexism is "yesterday's news."

As one of those older feminists, I would like to address this claim that sexism exists only in the past. For the record, I am not supporting any of the Democratic or Republican candidates; and gender or race has nothing to do with my decision. I don't feel any of the mainstream candidates represent my class interests or concerns.

Women still make less money than their male counterparts more than three decades after that practice was outlawed. Women are still waiting for free day care and universal health care for themselves and their children (by the way, jobs that are traditionally filled by women are more likely not to include benefits such as health insurance).

Roe v. Wade is about to be overturned, leaving women without the right to make decisions about their own bodies (shouldn't it bother young women just a little bit that a fertilized egg's rights will trump your own?).

Women are still primarily responsible for child-rearing and maintaining the household, even though most of us work full time and are often the only or main breadwinner. One in four women will be sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetime, and domestic violence still is not treated with the same urgency as other violent crimes. Hundreds of female soldiers, female contractors and Iraqi women have reported being raped in Iraq yet there has been no formal investigation into these egregious acts.

I have never heard a male basketball player referred to as a "nappy-headed ho", but Don Imus thought it was perfectly all right to say that about female athletes and their coach. Nor have any of the male candidates been accused of being weak for sending their spouses out "to fight their battles" for them, or accused of "pimping out" their children in their campaigns.

The media seems perfectly confident to show its own sexist attitudes here also. Hillary Clinton has many reasons to be criticized, but her resumé can stand next to any of the male candidates', and she should be treated with the same level of respect. Criticize her voting record where there is plenty of room for criticism, not the fact that she is a woman.

Many of these young women referred to in the editorial have yet to get out into the real world and find out how far, and yet how little, we have come. They will soon understand that while many doors have opened, many more are still closed.

For the rest of us, the ones who have bruises from banging against glass ceilings, who have heard every sexist lame excuse for why we shouldn't have the same opportunities (i.e., "you are just going to quit one day to have children") and experienced sexual assault or violence, it is hardly "yesterday's news."

Nor is it for young women today. One of my 14-year-old son's friend's sisters was beaten and gang-raped on her way home one night and left on the street for dead.

Women who enter the workforce can expect to earn thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts, the higher the level of education, the greater the earning gap. There also seems to be no move toward socializing child care, health care or domestic work--things that would make life better for working women and expand our opportunities.

Women made great strides in the 1960s and early 1970s, but ever since the right wing has been slowly but surely turning back the clock, with little resistance from the left. We need a new feminist movement in this country; one where women, young and old, stand together to demand full equality in the education, the workplace and society.

I wish for the sake of all of our daughters and granddaughters that sexism was "yesterday's news" but it unfortunately it is not.
Cindy Klumb, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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