Letters to the Editor

From the week of May 5, 2005

Pray As You Go

Blessed are the mock:Kenny Be's "Crusadertainment for Men," the Worst-Case Scenario in the April 28 issue, was his best cartoon yet. Here's what I pray: that Kenny never stops poking fun at those who so richly deserve it, like Fred Phelps and James Dobson.

Rachel Kramer
Denver

Sometimes you feel like a nut:So what really gets to me is that a majority of Americans are free-thinking, freedom-loving individuals, and yet...we have all these religious nutjobs throwing their weight around in Congress. When did it become okay to deliver our country to the religious nutjobs? (Please understand: I don't say religious nutjobs to be offensive, because I know they are sitting at home thinking of new places and ways to proudly wave their religious-nutjobs flags as I write this.) How did this happen?

We waged a war with Afghanistan because the religious nutjobs were allied with the terrorists who attacked us. We are shocked and incensed and moved to help with the conflict in Iraq because all the religious nutjobs are continually killing each other there. One of the reasons this continent was colonized was so that our English ancestors would be free to practice religion without some religious nutjob killing them. And yet we have James Dobson of Focus on the Family acting like he has the right to rewrite our Constitution and congressional processes to better match his religious-nutjob agenda.

Are we sure this isn't just a reality-TV show we're caught inside of?

Dan Brown
Denver


First Things First

Drum and drummer:In her April 28 column, "Beating the Drum," Patricia Calhoun opines, "Free speech doesn't come cheap." Well, if speech is not free, if there is a price, then someone is not in compliance with the First Amendment to the Constitution.

So who pays the price when speech is hateful? Do the haters who celebrate a genocidal monster like Columbus pay that price? No, American Indians pay the price for the celebration of their dispossession. And the police are not there to keep the peace! The dispossessed in Indian Country never know a moment's peace. How peaceful can it be if the average life span on a reservation (concentration camp) is 45 years? Compared to the general population's average of about 74 years, that means one-third of a lifetime is lost due to the poverty and despair imposed on these sovereign nations by a settler regime hell-bent on sucking dry everything in sight, like rabid vampires driven mad by bloodlust and greed! No, it is not just happening in Iraq. It is happening here. There is a word for killing one-third of a population year in and year out, and that word is "genocide."

If American Indians pay for the haters' speech in stolen land, lives and resources, then the Columbus Day landlords' parade is not an act of freedom. It is theft. And theft is against the law. So why are armed eunuchs of the state protecting stolen property? Is it because their paychecks and their shiny new phallic terror toys come from that very theft? In legal terms, I believe that kind of lawbreaking is called armed robbery and extortion. Armed robbery is no more legal under the First Amendment than it is under the Second Amendment.

When anti-Columbus Day protesters attempt to stop these thieves and the goons who protect them every October, that is not an act of repression: It is an act of real law enforcement.

Lauranna Johnson
Denver

Goodbye, Columbus:I agree that Denver badly needs a bill that would make it officially illegal and immediately punishable to physically interfere with any city-sanctioned function, regardless of personal philosophical disagreement. Over the years, Denver's handling of the Columbus parade has been a joke. I, as social-justice representative for the National Italian-American Council out of Chicago, have been working to make people across the country aware that each year, the First Amendment rights of the Italian community in Denver are violated, and not a sound is made by our officials.

How could a jury find the protesters not guilty when they broke through the barricade and stopped our parade for over an hour? We had a permit; they did not. They are defended by an attorney who came up with the ridiculous defense of "ethnic intimidation," and the jury didn't ask who was intimidating whom? We are wondering if this was a setup, as no one from the Italian community was called to testify as a witness during the trial. When did we start having one-sided trials?

So much for equal rights for Italian-Americans in Denver.

Mickie Lava Clayton
Denver

Chicken coup:In 1989, when Colorado AIM (i.e., Ward Churchill and Glenn Morris) and Colorado AIM International spokesman Russell Means announced their four-year plan to end Columbus Day, they were jumping on the international bandwagon of protest over the approaching 1992 Columbus Quincentennial. In Denver, that bandwagon's momentum carried it even further.

The fellas apparently knew a good thing when they saw it, and they've kept the bandwagon rolling, complete with press conferences to announce and denounce things, meetings with city officials, and scripted arrests wherein law enforcement is advised how many folk will submit to scripted arrests. Yawn.

Ward Churchill is the strategist and theoretician for Colorado AIM, but it seems the group has become a one-trick pony. Of 72 accomplishments listed online by Colorado AIM from 1990 to 1994, 26 of 72 listed accomplishments center on Columbus Day protests.

The fellas' routine was neat and predictable, with Russell Means flying into Denver to take his bows and garner the headlines in advance of the event, since Russ looks like a real Indian and has a real history of Indian activism. Although absent from the headlines in 2004, one wonders if Russ will be back this year. One wonders, in fact, if the legions of protesters have yet realized that Russell Means is now an activist within the ranks of the Grand Old Party, and what this says about the politics of local protesters.

George Vendegnia, moreover, may want to ponder other things than the irony of Ward Churchill's First Amendment rights.

Since various tribal officials of the United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians -- and the larger Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma -- have now definitively denounced Churchill's loud, longstanding and extremely dubious assertions that he is a "Cherokee" (or "Creek Cherokee Metis"), maybe what Vendegnia should ponder is whether Ward's Columbus Day bandwagon may be coming to a halt.

After all, it is one thing to protest on behalf of American Indians, and a completely different thing to undergo a scripted arrest for a belligerent white guy from Peoria, Illinois. Maybe the chickens really are coming home to roost. Finally.

Ernesto B. Vigil
Denver

March of progress:Thank you for pointing out the city's cooperation with the anti-Columbus Day Parade protesters. The Denver police were ordered to take down the barricades as part of a deal between the City of Denver and the protesters; this was done without the permission of the Sons of Italy or the parade organizers. How can the city negotiate the First Amendment rights of the parade organizers by assisting the protesters in violating our First Amendment rights? So many constitutional laws are being violated in this case that I believe it is time for the federal government to step in and enforce the federal laws. If the City of Denver continues to ignore the U.S. Constitution and negotiate our rights away, it is going to be facing both criminal and civil lawsuits in this matter.

I've marched in all four parades since 2000. Three of them have been illegally stopped by the protesters. They have never been punished for their actions. If there are no consequences to violating the law, what's to keep them from doing it again in 2005? I think what we have learned about the protesters in the past few months is that it is more than the symbol of Columbus. The radical element of the American Indian Movement hates the United States of America and anything that represents European influence. They support the enemies of the U.S. and believe in violence and breaking the law as a legitimate option for protest. They certainly don't respect the Constitution or the First Amendment rights of the Italian-Americans in the Columbus Day Parade. Unfortunately, the City of Denver continues to be a partner in this flagrant violation of the Constitution.

I am hoping 2005 will be different. I know the people who hate what Ward Churchill and his thugs represent will be out in force celebrating the First Amendment side by side with the Italian-Americans this Columbus Day. In fact, let me extend an invitation to anyone who loves this country and believes in the Constitution to join us in October -- and that includes Patricia Calhoun and any other journalist who understands and respects the value of the First Amendment.

Steve Antonuccio
Colorado Springs


Getting Hammered

For kidults only:Jared Jacang Maher nearly hit the nail on its head with "Betwixt," in the April 28 issue. It was an insightful effort, and for this I hope his thumb and index finger weren't smashed in the process. I am a 28-year-old going through what he described as a "quarter-life crisis." For the most part, my experiences were illustrated nicely in his piece: chronic resumé fatigue, underemployment, reoccurring delusions of graduate school, the service-industry blues, student-loan remorse, and the urge to stuff a backpack with T-shirts and socks and hop on a jet back to Asia.

But what about those of us who aren't having trouble deciding what to do? What words of wisdom and condolence can Maher provide to someone who graduated top of class from a leading university, has an extensive clipping portfolio, practiced journalism in three countries from the age of seventeen -- and still can't find a bloody job?

While I empathize with the indecisive twenty-somethings out there, I feel us underemployed quarter-lifers with focus and solid goals were either ignored or lumped into the same category as "kidults." Either way, I feel like Maher could have really banged that nail home if he'd just aimed a little higher.

Everett Sizemore
Denver


Scrip Doctor

Where there's a pill, there's a way:Regarding Luke Turf's "Breast Friend," in the April 21 issue:

It is astounding that the good doctor is being charged with eight felony counts. Had he been getting other "services," and not sex, this would not be an issue. When you boil it down, there is no real difference between him asking for sex in exchange for a scrip and other doctors charging money (usually excessive amounts) for their services.

I remember going to a doctor who would write me a prescription but also give me samples of the same drug that was given to him by drug-company reps. He had a large closet full of different drugs. The same doctor tried to get me on a weight-loss program and wanted $120 a month for it. He claimed it was covered by the HMO. In short, he was pocketing the money. I called the state board to report this and was told that it was not a crime, only unethical, and they could not do anything about it. My point is that Dr. Mallory was only doing good, old-fashioned bartering. Maybe it was unethical -- but hardly a crime.

Yaakov Ben Avraham
Israel


Shedding light:I just wanted to thank you for "A House Divided," in the April 14 issue. Reverend Benjamin Reynolds's story is incredible, and Laura Bond covered it so well. I think she's done a service to the people here in Colorado by bringing light to his efforts.

James Greengrass
Denver

Take heart:Great article on Reverend Reynolds. Finally, someone in the news with a reasoned voice and an enlightened heart.

Don Whitfield
West Hollywood, California

Amen: Thanks to Westword and especially to writer Laura Bond for "A House Divided." The story about the significant and courageous ministry of Reverend Benjamin Reynolds, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, is important to both persons within the Christian church and those who are not.

It seems that prejudice against same-gender-loving persons is viewed as normal and acceptable. One writer has called this the "last acceptable prejudice." As an African-American clergyman, I have been astounded that so many within my community who know prejudice firsthand because of race seem to have no qualms about their bigotry expressed toward homosexual persons. I am more than pleased that Benjamin Reynolds has been Spirit-led to challenge homophobia. Certainly, there are differences between anti-black racism and heterosexism/homophobia, but in both instances, they are "birthed" by ignorance, absence of contact, history, prejudice and bigotry.

I was one of the organizers of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church in 2000. We felt that persons of color within our denomination should challenge the negative and punitive legislation of our church directed toward clergy who are open and honest about their same-gender relationships. We as African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans have been hurt by the "sound of silence" of white persons who would not speak out in support of our rights. Some of us felt we could not be silent as our gay sisters and brothers of every race were victimized by prejudice and limitations on their civil rights, and sometimes brutalized by physical violence. In May 2000, at our United Methodist General Conference meeting in Cleveland, I and others were arrested twice protesting the negative legislation toward gay persons contained within our Church Book of Discipline.

The religious right sought to co-opt African-American clergy and their churches during the last election by urging them to vote against persons thought to be supporters of abortion and same-sex marriage. This was done without any serious effort by the religious or political right to address the major issues of education, jobs, health care and equal access that still are paramount in the African-American community. At some time in the future, the right will have to explain why issues crucial to survival in the black community are seen as not important. Hopefully, those of us in the black community will not allow them to avoid providing answers.

With "A House Divided," Westwordonce again broke new ground. Thank you!

Reverend Gil Caldwell
Denver

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