When Cartoons Are Outlawed ...
Regarding the July 1 Off Limits:
M. Wartella's "Sell Your Soul to Evil" cartoon clearly expresses satire and was not meant to be taken seriously--it was in part to amuse, and also to make us think. The other responses reinforce the age-old observation that people are stupid, and even more so in a support group.
Who do these hysterical, self-serving people think they are? The next thing they would do is ban all references to violence, sex and emotion. Hel-lo: This is not the perfect utopian society that you think it is, unless you are on lithium. People are inherently violent--look at the past century of wars. I will never, ever condone the use of deadly force, but at the same time, some is necessary. (Oh, no! Don't punish little Jimmy. You'll warp his fragile little mind!) What the individuals did at Columbine High School may have shocked and brought a strange new awareness to the general public, but you can't blame reporters for doing their job too well. The kids with shotguns, pipe bombs and lethal intentions may have had some influence from the media, computer games and no real sense of wrong, but that does not mean that the whole educational system is warped beyond repair.
When I was in high school ten years ago, I had the same access to firearms, pipe bombs and computers that these kids did; I had a similar peer group of geeky freakos, social pressures and oppressive peer groups, and we did a lot of dangerous experiments--but we never had any wish or intent to kill other people, and we never did any acts that could be considered harmful to anyone but ourselves. People need to understand that it is our constitutional right to print whatever we think is correct. Nobody has any right to tell me what to do or what I can or cannot do, unless it is harmful or possibly harmful to others.
After all, it's a free country. Try to live that way.
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Instead of requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in every schoolroom, as both Congress and many Colorado lawmakers are proposing, I'd like to suggest that Wartella's cartoon be displayed instead.
How quickly everyone has forgotten that intolerance was one of the primary motivations behind the Columbine shooting, if early accounts are to be believed. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been taunted and harassed, rather than tolerated, by the school's elite of athletes. Although their violent response to this treatment is inexcusable, so is this country's frightening swing to shut off public debate.
We need more talk, not less. We need more understanding, not orders.
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High school killing sprees, gay-bashing skinheads, satanic suburban teenage rituals, etc., etc.--is it an episode of South Park or the front page of the Denver Post? I've been living in Georgia for the past three years, and until recently, I would tell anyone who asked that I was born in St. Anthony's Hospital in Denver and am a sixth-generation Coloradan.
But do you know what I tell them now? I tell them I'm from Alabama. Is anyone there aware of the fact that there are daily metropolitan newspapers in this country running South Park movie previews literally on the same page as interviews with the Klebold/Harris families? Wake the fuck up!
T. Edward Bak
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It's Not Just Black and White
Thank you for the marvelous July 1 article by Julie Jargon titled "The Black Sheep," about the Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church and its minister, Joel Miller. It was well-researched and very well-written. It did a better job of characterizing our faith than we frequently do ourselves. We are far too often recognized only for what we do not believe. However, it's no surprise that many people feel a need for a spiritual connection without the dogma that surrounds many other faiths. That's why we are here, and that's why we are growing. (In fact, there is an even newer church than ours currently forming in Parker.)
Joel has been a strong anchor in our religious community, and it's very heartening to see him recognized as such. Though the article didn't focus on it, his work in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings has been nothing short of inspirational. With Columbine High School practically in our backyard, he was the first minister on the scene, and his work then and since should serve as a model for clergy responding to crisis.
Your article also did well at describing the growing isolation of the evangelicals in our area. However, it is not entirely their fault. When anything divides us, we are all responsible, and we must all respond. It is our sincere hope that the effort to bring together our diverse community though the Columbine Peace Labyrinth Project will bear fruit. Whether liberal or conservative, mainstream or evangelical, secular or sectarian, we are all Columbine.
Greg Bradt, founding member
Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church
I am writing in regard to Julie Jargon's "The Black Sheep." Although Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church needs all the publicity we can get, I am disappointed by your article's attempt to widen a presumed rift between the churches of Jefferson County. The hallmark of Unitarian Universalism is not doubt (as your article suggests), but the active belief that everyone has inherent worth and dignity--regardless of religious belief, race or culture. Unitarian Universalists make spiritual connections with each other and God through active community service in love. Far from feeling isolated, we believe we are the right church at the right time in the right location. We are proud to be a part of the diverse religious tradition of Jefferson County.
In the aftermath of the Columbine High School tragedy, we have felt the incredible outpouring of love and support from our community and, indeed, the whole nation that has crossed religious boundaries and helped pull us together as a community of concerned neighbors. We are dedicated to bridging our religious "differences" and in helping to foster and build on the groundswell of community support for one another that has overtaken Jefferson County.
Ron Terbush, president of the board of trustees
Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church
I am a former member of the Colorado Springs chapter of the International Churches of Christ, and I must say that the Salley family's experience is a normal one. I had similar experiences to what the family, both parents and child, went through. Also, what the DCOC evangelist said was true: They don't intentionally try to break up, or encourage the breakup of, family groups. But it happened. They never bluntly told me that their church was the only way. It was an underlying issue that came about through the initial Bible studies, which "convinced" a person that he was not a true Christian. None of the issues discussed in the Salleys' testimony of the DCOC were discussed by the church's leadership. I feel the whole denomination of the ICOC wants to evangelize the world and is filled with great Christian persons, but it is through cult-like techniques.
My walk with Christ has intensified immensely since I left the C-Springs ICOC chapter and started attending another, but I give them credit with boosting my walk from a head knowledge of Christianity and turning it into a true faith.
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Much gratitude and appreciation for your story. I had a brush with the ICOC in Los Angeles last year, and I've seen people who have been abused. Bottom line--thanks for another resource that concerned people can access.
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I'm so pleased to see the July 1 responses to Julie Jargon's "Too Much Church," on the International Churches of Christ. Members and former members have such diverse perspectives on the church, its methods and teachings.
I was a member for several years in the late Eighties. Even after eleven years, I consider myself to be a "former member in recovery." At the time I left the ICOC, there were no support groups and there was no Internet on which to search for former members. I remember that period as one of the most difficult times of my life. I found a few years after leaving the church that there is indeed life after the ICOC, and a great life it is! For those who leave, the path is difficult, but there are now support groups across the country, groups of former members who share the experience and knowledge gained by living within and leaving the ICOC.
There are indeed some wonderful people within the ICOC, and I admire them for their love for each other and their convictions. But I know firsthand and through talking with people from all areas of the country of the damage done to individuals and families by the church. I think the church leadership does not understand the impact its young disciplers have on the minds of our sons and daughters on high school and college campuses.
Information is a powerful tool for ICOC members, former members and would-be members alike. I encourage and support the kind of dialogue we see from articles like this and the responses of those with a vested interest in the lives of those involved in the church. For more information on former ICOC support groups, search the Internet or visit www.reveal.org.
Regarding Bill Gallo's July 1 "That Summer of '77," his review of Summer of Sam:
I always thought that Bill Gallo was one of the best writers for Westword. (I still think that.) I find his articles insightful and exceptionally well-written. But on the issue of the movie Summer of Sam, he apparently took personal offense at the depiction of Italian-Americans in this movie. My reaction? Bad review. Did Spike Lee invent these images? There are a bunch of well-known white directors who have made a pretty good living off of those same images. But a black director doing it is such a crime!
Bill Gallo showed me his true colors here. He referred to Spike Lee as possibly the "most talented minority filmmaker." That's a slap in the face if I ever read one. Maybe if Spike made thirty more movies in the next thirty years, he'll have the honor of being just a plain "filmmaker." As a black man living in America, I find his reaction to the movie quite comical--especially when I'm bombarded with negative images every day of my life.
Bill: Grow up, get a life, eat some pasta and chill out.
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Michael Roberts's "Songs of the Century," in the July 1 issue, is a bit short.
Has he forgotten the Charleston? A simple show tune that inspired a dance craze and came to represent an entire decade of American history. What qualifies a song to make his list? Popularity? The Charleston's got it. Musicality? You can put it side by side with the great works of other great American composers. Integrity? The composer is only credited as the father of stride piano, a major influence to jazz pianists of all stripes. He taught Fats Waller how to play the piano, for crying out loud!
I must admit, I'm a bit biased. The composer, James P. Johnson, was my grandfather.
James P. Johnson
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An Oldie but a Goodie
In his review and analysis of Bob Dylan's recent Denver appearances (Feedback, June 10), Michael Roberts displayed a critical misapprehension of Dylan as a vital performing artist. Roberts asserted that in recent televised appearances, Dylan has been "plain old incoherent--and America loves him for it." To which appearances is Mr. Roberts referring?
Could he be referring to the 1998 appearance at the Grammys in which Dylan performed a heartfelt rendition of "Lovesick" before picking up his Album of the Year award? In his acceptance speech, Dylan quoted Robert Johnson and recalled making eye contact with Buddy Holly at the latter's final show. That moment obviously had tremendous significance for Dylan; he went on to assert that the spirit of Buddy Holly was present throughout the recording of Time Out of Mind.
More recently, at the Johnny Cash tribute concert, Dylan offered a few words to the ailing legend before performing a wonderfully reworked version of "Train of Love." Dylan confided: "I want to sing you one of your songs about trains. I used to sing this song before I ever wrote a song. And I also want to thank you for standing up for me way back when."
To anyone with a sense of history in regard to the music of the twentieth century, Bob Dylan's reflections tell personal stories of identification and inspiration. "I used to sing this song before I ever wrote a song," Dylan said. Can you see it in your mind's eye? A teenaged Bob Dylan identifying with a song about human longing. A teenaged Bob Dylan making eye contact with a soon-to-be-deceased legend. These are the events indelibly marked in Dylan's own personal development, and he chose to share these candid reflections with a vast audience. The symbolism of these stories would be lost only on a person with no understanding of Dylan's undeniable role in redefining the vocabulary and landscape of the popular song.
Admittedly, Dylan's Grammy appearance of 1991 was incoherent. Since then, however, he's played in excess of 1,000 concerts and has taken his live act to a "whole other level." How many of these shows have you seen, Mr. Roberts? Two?
Finally, Mr. Roberts's assertion that America loves Dylan because of his incoherence really broadens the vast realm of crappy journalism. It's not his songs (in excess of 500). It's not his tireless touring schedule (over 130 shows a year, eleven years running). It's his incoherence that endears him so deeply to so many. It's his incoherence that has earned him his place in cultures throughout the world. That's brilliant, Mr. Roberts!
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