Open your eyes!
From Russia, with love: When I first discovered that the kind, motherly Russian teacher I had for two years at Oberon Junior High was in fact Mrs. Tom Tancredo, I was frankly shocked. It seems that behind every dangerously right-wing, giant-fence-building, immigration-halting extremist is a genuinely good woman.
Mrs. Tancredo was one of the best teachers I ever had the good fortune of learning from. She could be a stern disciplinarian when she wanted to be (as I had the displeasure of discovering when I made sarcastic taunts about a classmate's Catholic beliefs and was sentenced to a particularly lengthy stay-in time-out or, as she called it, "Siberia"), but she generally ran her class as an open forum for political discussions, ethical debates and philosophical deliberations. A particularly opinionated thirteen-year-old, I often engaged her in light rhetorical sparring, but her respect for the viewpoints of others, the principles of free speech and, yes, the fruits of America's hegemony always superseded her own personal attitudes. Add to that her extensive knowledge of the Russian language and culture, a sincere concern for her students' well-being and a passion for her profession (how rare is that?), and you begin to get a picture of what a gifted educator she was.
Yet all these traits are far outstripped by her greatest asset: She never once patronized her students. Unlike all the other condescending, head-patting "teachers" from whom I learned nothing but how to use stupidity to my advantage, Mrs. T. always taught up to her pupils, challenging us to challenge ourselves at something other than inventing creative excuses for missing homework.
After twelve years of suffering through average public-school teachers' reckless disengagement from their students, I have only begun to realize the depths of Mrs. Tancredo's commitment to America's youth. But I still think her husband's a dick.
Last but not leech: I've seen Amy around and never watched her act; I've always assumed she was "just another panhandler" and didn't want to subsidize what I saw (and still do) as a lack of work ethic. Now that I've read David Kawamoto's "Nail Art," in the July 3 issue, I don't know that I have any more sympathy for her, but I'd like to tell her something from the working public:
We've all accepted the responsibilities and difficulties that come with holding down a regular job, and as such, we enjoy the benefits that go with that: a regular paycheck and at least some measure of respect from the community. If you choose not to follow that path, that's your decision, but don't expect us to support you.
Get off the drugs, get a job, and we won't look at you like you're "here to be spit upon." Either take some personal responsibility for your life and support yourself, or learn to accept the idea that quite a few of us don't want to be subsidizing your laziness, and we will continue to consider you a leech on society.
As for suicide, give me a break. Your mentioning this as an "option" is nothing more than the lazy way out. And I know, because I speak from experience.
Mad max: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Cowboy Justice," in the June 26 issue:
Given the overwhelming flaws in our present criminal justice system, it is imperative that both prisoners and their captors (rhymes with "raptors") be kept honest through omnipresent video and taping systems and snooping devices that cover every inch of prison space and are spot-checked frequently by randomly chosen, rotated teams of, say, three.
Most inmates are low-life scum, yes, but they have hearts, minds and souls "capable" of regeneration if they are treated with honesty, dignity and justice.
Larger problems are the need to keep prisoners segregated from one another and earning their full keep (if not also paying restitution). We could learn from the no-nonsense Japanese prison model. Predictably, our prison "system" needs a major overhaul from the ground up, just like all of our other institutions. Why is USP Florence filled to double max? What do you expect? Talk about an impossible situation!
Gene W. Edwards