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Letters to the editor: November 5, 2009

Dear Editor,

RE: “Not in my backyard;” Alex Perry, November 1

I would like to start by thanking the powers that be for distributing The Collegian to North Apartments again. I awoke on Monday morning to a text from my roommate saying, “You did it. Yahh. Newspapers in north.” If he and I are putting too much stock in my letter’s impact on The Collegian, I can’t say; although, I would like to think I touched the hearts of readers with my odyssey-esque adventure that was formerly required to find a copy of the paper. In any case, the paper is back in North and since I’m not one to question Providence, we’ll leave it at that.

I’m glad The Collegian is back in North. Otherwise, I would have certainly missed Alex Perry’s column entitled, “Not in my backyard.” Mr. Perry, as always, delivers a spot-on analysis of the situation, but there were a couple points I would like to elaborate on:

In his column, he states that, “any chance above zero is a chance I’m not willing to take.” A noble concept, but everyone must realize that, not only is this impossible to achieve, but attempting such a feat would mean a virtual elimination of civil liberties.

He also denounces Amherst for debating and approving “resolutions such as urging the United States to use diplomacy and avoid military action against Iran, opposing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.” I’ve always said that opposing genocide is a gateway to allowing terrorist attacks…

In any case, I was not aware that being proactive in one’s government was a flaw. I shall be sure to keep that in mind. Furthermore, unless my understanding of the English language has failed me, I was under the impression that a “select board” was “selected” by the people, who share similar ideals to those they “selected.” Of course, Mr. Perry believes that people “take their ideals too far.” Again, not something I realized was a flaw.

Finally, Mr. Perry argues that just because there are some innocent prisoners in Guantanamo, “that doesn’t justify releasing all of them.” I couldn’t agree more. Luckily, they aren’t all being released. Most of them will be transferred to high-security prisons.

I hope these minor suggestions have helped strengthen Mr. Perry’s point, and thank you for allowing me the pleasure to read such well thought out columns on a daily basis.

Alan R Levin

UMass Student

 Dear Editor

RE: “On grammar;” Brian Benson, October 29

In Brian Benson’s article “On Grammar,” he claims that “it is easy to imagine why … using the masculine pronoun for a human antecedent whose gender is not otherwise specified upsets a lot of people.”

He then goes on to prove he is not one of these said understanding people, making the ridiculous claim that women should be flattered and contented by the use of feminine pronouns to personify liberty, nature, truth and knowledge. As flattered as I am to be personally aligned with such lofty ideas – emphasis on ideas – it is sometimes nice to be associated with my own species. You know, “mankind.” Benson eventually admits that he “[does] not quite understand why” women may have the wild desire to be included in references to humankind, and conversely I challenge him (futile, I know) to imagine growing up and living in a world where men are lumped into “womankind,” where he is alienated and excluded from all of the “classics” he mentions, down to the very Constitution of his country, the one that denied him the right to vote until 1920.

Benson should understand that the argument about gender pronouns extends beyond what he terms “linguistic diplomacy” precisely because there is a history of sexism in this country and in the world, which is why we have ubiquitous terms like “mankind” in the first place; therefore, these arguments have to be discussed in this context. Conveniently, the task of specifying “s/he” of “her/him” seems to be an arduous and pointless one for Benson. It even contributes to “the trend of increasingly clunky language,” a troubling trend which surely warrants precedence over equal gender representation.

Hilary Gardiner

UMass Student

 Dear Editor

RE: “Amherst has no room on its plate for Guantanamo inmates;” October 28 2009

Both courage and conviction are conspicuously missing from The Collegian editorial board’s Oct. 28 statement on Amherst Town Meeting. Town Meeting is considering a warrant article that would call upon the U.S. government to allow wrongfully imprisoned detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison to resettle in this country, and would declare Amherst’s openness to two of the detainees making their homes here. The editorial barely touches the principle at play, and makes two faulty arguments against the warrant article.

The background: The detainees were held for up to seven years without charge before the government concluded that they were wrongfully arrested in the first place. They cannot return to their home countries for fear of racial or political persecution there, and are currently banned from living in the U.S. once released. America has always promised freedom from persecution for millions. Amherst will lead the nation in renewing this promise if it passes the article.

The arguments: First, municipal government should focus on local issues. Of course. But to spend a small portion of one meeting passing a nonbinding article would do nothing to detract from the town government’s duties and in fact is rooted in a tradition of local statements of solidarity with struggling people – local governments have been passing nonbinding resolutions on global and national issues since the days of slavery. Second, Amherst will be ridiculed by conservative commentators as living up to its “lefty” reputation if it passes the article. Shallow shouting from pundits and blog posters is almost inevitable in an issue as touchy as this one, but to argue against doing the right thing simply because some will mock or criticize is to walk a dangerous path that leads to moral paralysis.

The editorial echoes language from blog posts describing the warrant article as “un-American.” The Collegian’s editors should know better than to bow to the use of this cheap word, infamously used to quash the most American value of political freedom during the unthinking mass fear of the McCarthy era.

The editorial is a symptom of a national problem: The loudest voices in today’s media are those that flatten multi-faceted issues into cardboard cutouts. These voices abuse rational fears and warp human stories to win ratings for irrational and inhumane coverage. They reinforce the notion, fatal to democracy, that dissent is treasonous. The Collegian, as a laboratory of ethical journalism, can do better.

Sam Dreyfus

UMass Student

Comments
5 Responses to “Letters to the editor: November 5, 2009”
  1. Ed says:

    Heaven forbid that Hillary Gardner learn Spanish or French or Italian where “sexist” adjectives also are required.

    “El Toro”, “La Casa.”

    Animate objects are male, inanimate ones are female. Blame the Romans, this all comes from the Latin roots of our languages.

    Our railroad tracks are the width of Roman chariots, and the current red/yellow/green system of traffic lights dates to kerosene lanterns and the steam railroads of yore — the 72 character line in computer applications comes from the 80 column IBM punch card (the first 8 columns were needed for something else).

    At some point, we need to have some sort of order lest we have total anarchy — why can’t I drive on the left side of the road???

  2. Alex Perry says:

    Alan,
    you really hit the nail on the head in this letter. That having been said, i would like to make a couple minor adjustments to some things i believe you misinterpreted.

    -snip-
    “In his column, he states that, “any chance above zero is a chance I’m not willing to take.” A noble concept, but everyone must realize that, not only is this impossible to achieve, but attempting such a feat would mean a virtual elimination of civil liberties.”

    You can have a 0 percent chance of these people conducting a terrorist attack here if they are not here. Obviously i wasnt talking about someone else already being here potentially carrying out a terrorist attack.

    -snip-
    “He also denounces Amherst for debating and approving “resolutions such as urging the United States to use diplomacy and avoid military action against Iran, opposing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.” I’ve always said that opposing genocide is a gateway to allowing terrorist attacks…”

    Yeah you’re right. No way terrorists would ever attack innocent americans who arent proponents of genocide. They would never do something like that. That’s one of the first things terrorists take into consideration before they blow up buildings and subway cars, “where does the local government in this area stand on genocide in darfur?”

    -snip-
    “Of course, Mr. Perry believes that people “take their ideals too far.” Again, not something I realized was a flaw.”

    Well you mustve missed 9/11 when people in the name of a religion took their ideals way too far.

    Again alan, i love you’re sarcasm in the letter and i love how you attempted to make me look terrible. Well done. You even got me to respond.

    I think it wouldve been more effective had you actually addressed the columns main point though, which of course was what is the benefit of bringing them here.

    Thanks.

  3. Kelleyanne says:

    Hillary Gardner, your response was exactly what I was thinking when I read this article. To people who disagree, just because other languages are inherently sexist does not mean that we should not try to make English inclusive the other half of the population.

  4. Alan R Levin says:

    Mr. Perry,

    Since you obviously don’t understand the point I’m trying to make with my letters, please allow me to elaborate:

    Your opinions are not the issue here; it is the manner in which you present them. You’ll notice that Ms. Goodman, in her recent column, “Innocent, even when proven guilty,” seems to hold a similar opinion as you on the Guantanamo Detainees situation. You’ll also notice, I hope, that her column lacks the inane tangents, the ad hominem arguments, and right-winged stock phrases that your column is riddled with.

    By including such garbage in your column, you are inviting criticism of this form. Why should I spend time arguing against your actual point when it is so clear that you have no understanding of the subject.

    I didn’t even bother to comment on your column on global warming because you so obviously misrepresented the facts that there was almost no argument to be had. Luckily, a number of more dedicated readers pointed out the flaws in a more thorough (and serious) manner then I would have.

    Mr. Perry, these are serious issues that deserve serious contemplation. By oversimplifying these issues in such a negligent fashion, you do nothing to actual solve the problems; instead, you just perpetuate the mindlessness that caused most of these problems to begin with.

    Alan R Levin

  5. hilary says:

    ed: you’re totally right. inclusive gender pronouns will lead to anarchy.

    -hilary gardiner.

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