Views in brief
The roots of Muslim anger
THE BIGGEST thing missing in the mainstream media's portrayal of protests across the Muslim world concerning the film Innocence of Muslims is any sense that their protests might be rational.
At best, the media make calculated statements like, "It was an irresponsible movie to make"--as if living in "Western civilization" means recognizing that large numbers of Muslims are inherently irrational, and that their society should be treated like a strange dog: You have only yourself to blame if you disturb it and get bitten.
No one bothers to contextualize their response. Recall for a moment the furor caused by the film The Last Temptation of Christ among Christian groups around the world, with hundreds of theater protests, including one theater firebombed in France, and dozens of countries around the world banning it. (The film is still banned in some countries more than 20 years later). And all this for a film that treated the figure of Christ with deep respect and merely deviated from some doctrinaire positions.
Now take that miniscule grain of similarity and amplify it. Amplify it with a thousand years of wars by people invading under the banner of Christianity; amplify it by a century of imperialism dealt out by the self-proclaimed enlightened civilization, all for the sake of stealing natural resources; amplify it by intensely disrespectful treatment of local culture at the hands of the invaders and occupiers.
Then pour salt in the wound. Produce a film that intentionally and wantonly insults a key, heroic, religious figure and prime progenitor to their culture.
Imagine a Christian people attacked and undermined by Islamic invaders and occupiers, held down for centuries by an iron fist (only with a crescent moon instead of a cross). And then to those imaginary Christian fundamentalists, chased deeper into the arms of their religion by an inhospitable colonized society, show a film about Jesus as a drug-addicted prostitute whose clients are men.
Only then would you have a comparable context. What would those protests look like? Would they be any less angry?
Cesar Montufar, from the Internet
A bad contract at Verizon
IN RESPONSE to "A step backwards at Verizon": Verizon shows, once again, their arrogance and disrespect for their active employees as well as their retirees.
I totally agree it is a step backward. The two-tier system scares me as a retiree, because new workers won't care about defending the pensions of senior workers when they don't have one. There should be no givebacks when a corporation continues to profit as Verizon does so handsomely.
I know these are tough times for everyone, and no one wants to see a strike. However, little by little, bit by bit, the company is trying to dismantle the contract that was fought so hard for in the past. Don't let them do it.
Margret Western, Amityville, N.Y.
Left out at Verizon
IN RESPONSE to "A step backwards at Verizon": Yes, this contract is indeed a piece of garbage. Consider, for example, the brothers and sisters at Verizon Business (Local 1101).
According to the contract, they are not covered with the job security clause, although they pay the same union dues as everyone else. I think they were sold out and considered as second-class citizens. To me, this is pure discrimination. Don't they have families to support? Don't they need a job like everyone else? Why did they go on strike?
All of them should go and picket the union as a sign of protest, because this is a shame for the leaders of the Communications Workers of America.
R.C., New York City
CTU leaders and the rank and file
IN RESPONSE to "Learning from the Chicago teachers": While I generally agree with your analysis, there is a little more to how the strike went and ended, and a few more lessons for socialists in teacher unions.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) was transformed by a rank-and-file caucus (the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, CORE). That caucus now controls the executive of the CTU and Karen Lewis is a member.
While generally the strike was a significant break from the conciliatory and bureaucratic responses of other teachers' unions in the U.S., there were a few things that suggest that the strike could have gone further.
I understand that the union distributed leaflets over the weekend thanking parents that gave the impression the strike would be over. This was prior to the meeting of the House of Delegates. Also, I gather that the House of Delegates did not have the full text of the agreement when they made their decision. Finally, while teachers in schools were consulted, they did not have a vote themselves on whether to end the strike.
I am also a member of a teachers' union with a left caucus (British Columbia Teachers Federation). It took many years before that caucus took over the leadership of the union (decades), but eventually it did. Not too long after, we had a rather magnificent two-week illegal walkout (2005), which although it ended too early, was significant in that it was the first major and lengthy strike against a government that was persistently using back-to-work legislation.
However, in our most recent round of negotiations, even though the legislation we faced was worse, the leadership did not support an illegal strike. I believe this is because over time, the "left caucus" has conservatized, just as a consequence of being in the leadership.
While we certainly need rank-and-file caucuses within our unions, when they seek to take the leadership, the caucuses themselves change. The primary division will always be the rank and file versus the leadership, not the left versus the right. It is at moments such as the weekend the Chicago strike ended that this will become apparent and matter.
Certainly for the broad trade union movement in the U.S. (and Canada), we can celebrate the Chicago strike and the transformation of the union. But there are some lessons beyond this for those of us actively working to transform our unions into organizations truly accountable to the rank and file.
I would really like to see some interviews and analysis from some of the CORE members who perhaps did not agree with how the strike ended and what could have been done differently.
Tara Ehrcke, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Fighting against lesser evilism
IN RESPONSE to "Image and reality in Election 2012": Yes, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
I give this spiel about once a week: Lesser-evil voting has put our politics where it is today--in a ditch. Each time, the lesser evil is elected, the quality of politics goes down. We will never get anywhere by doing this.
I know that all the "lesser-evilites" will vote for the Democrats and Obama this time, but we need to start pushing up from the ground and fighting all the evils of American politics.
Susen Shapiro, Summerville, S.C.