I am writing in response to Bill Gallo's August 3 review of Spanking the Monkey. This response is directed not at Gallo's opinion of the film's merits as a story but at his opinions about the film's raison d'etre.
As I watched David O. Russell's story unfold, not once did I sense this as a story about Generation X. The film actually seemed as timeless as the generation struggle mentioned by Gallo before he most unjustly labeled the film "this month's contribution to the Generation X Bitch-a-thon." Russell's film stands out as a testament to the struggles experienced by young men during a transition from adolescence to adulthood. Russell never even mentioned Generation X during the film. My guess is that Gallo spent too much time reading the film's press packet. Of course the distributor would try to profit by labeling the film to fit into summer demographics; too bad Gallo had to fall for it. Do us all a favor--give up on using the media-created term "Generation X." I'm tired of listening to both sides bitch.
Stephen D. Perry
Can this paper write a movie review that does not include the tired old if-I-write-it-they-will-read-it phrase "Generation X"? Must I and everyone else in the same situation be labeled because we are in the magical age bracket that allows us to be beat and lazy, without morals and with no real hope for the future? Must everything these days be labeled? Even Hemingway said, "But the hell with [Gertrude Stein's] lost generation talk and all the dirty easy labels," and since a young writer can say nothing as well as a dead writer, I will leave my complaint at that.
Gimme That Old-Time Religion
Regarding Steve Jackson's "Family Feud," in the August 3 issue:
Missing from your coverage of the debate over the appropriateness of non-Indian instructors of Native American religions was the simple, essential fact that all aspects of any religion are open to examination and analysis by anyone, and from any perspective. Indeed, I insist that it is probable that the most vocal players in this controversy are not religious themselves and, further, that their dedication to their own polarized transient political imperatives far exceeds any genuine respect that they hold for the concept of personal "spirituality"--traditional, new-age or otherwise.
In every culture, religious superstition arose from the need to explain the universe and generally includes as a central tenet the divinely bestowed superiority of its adherents. The advent of the scientific process rendered the need for human reliance on such explanations and prejudices irrelevant and unnecessary, though apparently (for many) no less attractive.
But why, then, are some scientists (in an academic environment supposedly dedicated to learning) so quick to pick up the old familiar club of religion and wield it with the menace of a hundred thousand years' mistrust?
Future Westword explorations may provide illumination; for now the big questions remain unanswered.
As a white man, I have to agree with the Natives concerning white people teaching Native classes. We whites have not proven our ability to give an accurate account of the atrocities committed by our ancestors. We still hide in denial and say it happened a long time ago and that time will heal all wounds. The fact is, we haven't even begun to own up to the past--so how can we even think we are capable to teach other cultures to the masses? We whites are in a sad dilemma; we have no culture. A major part of this country's history was to eradicate Indian cultures, and now, all of a sudden, we want to teach about them. We may not be directly responsible for the genocide of Native Americans, but we still benefit from it. It is time for us to stop feeling guilty for what has happened and start giving up the power.
If only Native Americans can be allowed to teach Native American subjects at CU, then surely it follows that only European-Americans can be allowed to teach European-American subjects--math, chemistry, physics, economics, philosophy, etc.
Well, I think that it is finally time that my race take the ascendance that it so richly deserves. My people had their land stolen from them by the Europeans and their nation cut in half. Our culture was corrupted and our religion subjugated, our holy places destroyed. We could only put on our war paint and destroy as many of these people as possible.
Our best efforts to resist the invaders finally pushed them out of our country, and we had a brief peace. But in a short time they returned, and this time they took all of our lands, suppressed our language and destroyed or subjugated our culture.Now it seems that if I dared to demand that only my race be permitted to teach an idea that originated with my race, I would be called a racist. Perhaps with fairly good reason, since I am in fact English.
Since my race can now join the privileged ranks of the oppressed, I feel free to dispense this advice: It is time for oppressed people to finally seek justice for our oppressed brothers. I speak of a people faced with ever-mounting quantities of forced labor and debt. I am, of course, speaking of the college student.
If you really want to gain respect and assure that your religious views are taught in an appropriate fashion, then I suggest you request that all courses in the study of your culture be removed from the public colleges and be placed in separate schools for Indian studies. With full control of enrollment, content and staffing, you can assure that only the right people are taught the right information by the right professors. The character of all your healers and clerics could be verified, and certification of all this could be made official.
On the other hand, this would make your culture seem like some sort of exclusive religion like Christianity.
Safe at Home
Regarding Andy Van De Voorde's "The $1 Million Man" in the July 27 issue:
If, by the end of July, the city hadn't gotten around to spending the money that was supposed to make Denver "safe," as Van De Voorde reported, why isn't there another "Summer of Violence"? Could it be that we were all dupes--"victims," in sociological terms--of, first, the media, and then a city that saw the opportunity to build another bureaucracy?
I recently read Andy Van De Voorde's article regarding Denver's Safe City Summit grant application process and was disturbed by the insinuations of the article. It suggested that the process was controlled by Mayor Webb to further his political interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me explain the process:
1. Representatives from the Safe City Summit committees and citizens of the allocation panel worked to develop a simple and easy-to-complete application so that the process could be as user-friendly as possible. The application itself was based on one developed by one of the committee chairs.
2. The applications were received in the mayor's office but not reviewed by the mayor nor by anyone from the Safe City office. They were sent to the allocation panel for review.
3. Members of an independent allocation panel made up of Denver citizens reviewed the applications and made recommendations for funding, not me nor my staff. The panel was chaired by Dr. Sheila Kaplan, president of Metropolitan State College and a leader in the community. Six of the members of the committee were chosen by members of each of the six working committees of the Safe City Summit. Thus, citizens who had been actively involved in the process chose members of their own to sit on the committee to ensure that the grants funded were responsive to the community and committee recommendations.
4. Those citizens, through an impartial evaluation process, donated hundreds of hours and made educated and thoughtful decisions about where the $1 million would best benefit the city of Denver. We, as government leaders, need the help and support of our citizens. We went directly to the citizens to hear input and receive their suggestions on how to make this city even more livable. There was no direction from the mayor's office regarding any of the awards, and Mayor Webb accepted and adopted the panel recommendations without changes.
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5. We set aside $50,000 to allow us to obtain the services of experienced evaluators precisely to make sure that the programs funded accomplish what was promised and achieve the goals stated. The city is requiring that contracts be negotiated outlining exactly what the programs plan to achieve and what services they will deliver so that we can hold programs accountable and make sure taxpayer money is spent efficiently. I would expect the taxpayers to demand no less of us.
Finally, this is the first time, to my knowledge, the city has financially supported community and private efforts to assist our young people. It was an exciting process, which involved many interested community volunteers, and we are delighted that the city is able to actually enable the community to address the issue of the safety of our neighborhoods.
Denver Safe City Coordinator