Views in brief

Who provided real relief?

IN RESPONSE to "Disabled and left to fend for themselves": Thank you for covering this important issue and also for covering my friends' important story of how, as a community, we all fought to keep them safe.

I just wanted to clarify a couple of points. Nick's vent was powered by a backup battery that was charged every THREE hours at the firehouse across the street, not every 12. The car batteries that took 12 hours to charge were used to power Alejandra's electric wheelchair and other necessities they had--such as charging cell phones.

I wanted to clarify this because it meant volunteers, walking up and down 12 flights of stairs in a dark stairwell, every three hours of every single day they were without power (which went out a day before Lower Manhattan lost power because their building voluntarily shut off the power to prevent a dangerous situation were there to be flooding in the building).

Supplies and volunteer nurses' aids and other folks came and went throughout this time. There were also folks giving rides to Nick's nurses, who could not otherwise get to them, since public transit was shut down entirely and then partially for days.

This experience meant a lot to all of us and brought us closer as a community, and as intersecting communities. The city did not and has not looked out for people with disabilities in general and then in specific to disaster circumstances. That is deplorable.

This experience did give me faith in humanity--in being neighborly, in doing whatever you can to help when help is needed. The world is a better place with Nick and Alejandra in it and I'm so grateful that so many people, many of them strangers, came through for them.

And I'm grateful to Occupy Sandy Relief for putting the concerns of people with disabilities without power in Coney Island and the Rockaways high on their priority list and for CAAAV for doing the same in Manhattan's Chinatown. I believe in people and community more than ever before.
Liberte, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Those with disabilities still struggling

IN RESPONSE to "Disabled and left to fend for themselves": I have a disabled 17-year-old son who is confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. His bedroom and living was all down on the bottom floor of our two-family home.

After Hurricane Sandy, we had to move him to the upper level. In order for him to get to school, we have to carry him down the stairs to put him in his chair so he can go to school. Then we have to carry him back up the stairs after school. FEMA came out, but didn't seem to concerned that he had no way out of his home to keep life moving forward. Right now, he is only able to go to and from school due to the stress of carrying him in and out of the house.

I am not sure where to turn next. I am sure there is a lot of angels forgotten during this and many other tragic events.
Corina McCallum, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A nuanced understanding of Lincoln

IN RESPONSE to "The great uncompromiser": I have not seen the movie yet, but have followed the reviews, and must express my appreciation of yours by Alan Maass.

Despite the preoccupation of most reviewers with abstractions about compromise and pragmatism, history is all about context and processes of change. Unfortunately, what we read by radicals on the subject of Lincoln, the early Republicans and the Civil War too often winds up being no less ahistorical...and, therefore, not really materialist.

When people artificially counterpose the impact of the abolitionist movement to the federal war effort, one can't help but wonder where they think that movement was by 1865. None of these things were static, and wartime Unionism and Republicanism subsumed the abolitionists--and radicals of all sorts. Very rightly so.

Frederick Douglass certainly understood this, as did Karl Marx and the First International. One of the great architects of the 13th Amendment was Robert Dale Owen, the son of the great British utopian socialist. Radicals of all sorts were among the movers and shakers of the Lincoln administration.

For all their fumblings and failings, the early Republicans proved honest, serious and flexible enough to respond to radical leadership as it seemed to serve the purposes of the war. My own work has demonstrated the role of private business and contractors ignored, thwarted or redefined the promise of the war on the Western border with regard to Indian policy as well as emancipation. It also demonstrated how quickly these unraveled without the need to meet wartime exigencies and with Andrew Johnson's elevation to the presidency.

What's most discouraging about the general treatment of these subjects is the willingness to see the past in terms of un-evolving individuals, unchanging institutions, and--worst of all--overarching moral concepts. History is about the process of change...and to the extent that it isn't, it fails as materialism, too.
Mark Lause, Cincinnati

What Lincoln got wrong

IN RESPONSE to "The great uncompromiser": You say "The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, period." This is, alas, quite false.

The 13th Amendment quite explicitly provides for the restoration of slavery with the words "except as punishment for crime." This was license for "Black codes," "vagrancy laws" and anything else that the racists who were restored to power in the South after the Civil War could invent as "crimes."

The result was outright slavery on chain gangs and in mines, railroads and factories--a pattern of racist criminalization that has spread over the whole country and endured to this day in the "prison-industrial complex." Just look at the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, the heartland of "liberalism!"
Shane Mage, New York City