LETTERS

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May 25, 2001

Letters to the Editor

To those who do not smile

Dear Ms. Niedzielski-Eichner:

You may be unaware that your life is in the constant care of millions of human beings who work together to make sure your life of solitary misanthropy is both possible and comfortable. We make your shoes with which you walk down the street for no one's pleasure but your own, we make the sidewalks on which you walk, the clothes you wear to protect your holy body from the rude glances of children and old ladies, we plow the fields and plant the vegetables you eat, tend our fruit trees to provide you with delicious fruits and juices, make buses for you to ride when your way takes you too far to walk, make stop signs to protect you when you are in a vehicle. We police the streets and wait in ambulances in case of any accident or crime that may happen to you. We clean the streets and sidewalks to make sure your walks are pleasant and we keep your accounts at the bank and at the bursars office. We teach you in class, write books and make music for you, build houses and apartments for you, and we remove your garbage, dispose of your excreta, repair your plumbing, fix your roof and millions more activities every moment of every day. We are not, however, your whores and slaves who may speak only when spoken to. We expect to be treated like human beings; instead we are regarded as rapists. If we have to beg for people to acknowledge our existence, to treat us like human beings, to smile at us in public as a simple acknowledgement that we are here on this earth together, then something is terribly wrong with our world.

Culturally trained to accept misandry, rendered inarticulate by your anger that a black man should expect to be treated like a human being and even ask for such treatment, you blame the victim of your hostility by accusing him and condemning him as a (potential) rapist. Such sexist treatment of the man on the street is exactly the same as a man treating all women as sexual prey: All men are rapists, all women are whores. Two peas in a pod, you and the rapist create a world of fear, anger, and injustice with your refusal to acknowledge another's humanity, your sexist prejudices and hatreds. Instead of being treated like human beings with our common forms of civility—polite greetings, smiles—you regard us as rapists, our smiles and our expectation to be smiled at as sexual assaults. If you regard that man on the street (and all other men on the street) with such hostility and contempt, what kind of an attitude toward you (and women) will that create in response?

That black man on the street is your brother; instead of treating him in a human manner, you justify your refusal to acknowledge his existence, your hostility and your sexism with the sloppy logic of a juvenile philosopher. Like a child who has overheard everything and understood nothing, you babble on in justification of your inhumanity and your prejudices. You have read too much and loved too little. It is time you stop treating people like slaves and whores, to be ignored or paid and discarded, and start looking people in the face, caring for this world and all of us in it. A smile is a good place to start.

P.S. I assume we are discussing the same man, for he also asked the blank-faced unfriendly author of these lines “How ‘bout a smile at least?" Unlike you, I felt ashamed and angry at myself for walking through the world as though nothing matters but me. You and I have the problem, not the fellow who always greets everyone with a smile.

David Bade

Another man on the street

Simple is sometimes best

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Nora Niedzielski-Eichner's Letter to the Editor (Maroon, May 18)

I am a male. Like Ms. Niedzielski-Eichner, I too have been asked for money while walking the streets of Hyde Park. And, after not giving money, I too have been told to “At least smile!" Contrary to her May 18 letter, I believe that Ms. Niedzielski-Eichner's experience was neither a product of her sex nor gender. The “command" to smile that both Nora and I received was an insult. By exclaiming “At least smile," these men (and women sometimes in my experience) took us to task over our perceived coldness and lack of generosity. “At least smile!" was also designed to make us feel bad about what we had done or, in their eyes, had failed to do. Our expressionless faces, another characteristic that has nothing to do with our respective sexes and genders I hasten to add, further made us a target of such a retort.

My criticism of Ms. Niedzielski-Eichner's account does not mean to detract from her otherwise excellent and poignant discussion of the violence against women. As Ms. Niedzielski-Eichner pointed out, a “culture" has been created in which men consciously and unconsciously victimize women socially, economically, and physically. Where I differ from her, however, is in the belief that this particular event did not stem from this “culture." Far from exonerating his actions, I would argue that the man was probably spiteful and, in response to her actions, impishly rejoined with “At least smile!" In the end, I would like to suggest that sometimes the simplest answers, those that realize that patriarchy, other -archies and -isms are not always to blame, can be correct.

Jack Warwick

Student in the College

Watch your attributions

To the Editor:

Visiting my undergraduate child this weekend past, I was shocked by a front page Maroon article reporting a professor's view of grade inflation. Your reporter stated: "According to [Professor] Mansfield, in the wake of the civil rights movement, white professors ceased giving low or average grades to black students." While my memories of the origins of undergraduate grade inflation differ (instructors didn't want male students to be drafted into the Vietnam War because of low grades), the racism inherent in the statement attributed to Mansfield should have raised alarm bells.

Is there any evidence that the statement is true? Is this just an opinion, an intuition? How was it uttered? Did Mansfield say these words at the University, in an article, a book?

I personally suspect that there is no factual basis for the statement. If so, the Maroon and the article's author owe the University community an apology for such inflammatory conduct. Freedom of speech is not the freedom to defame. Further, simply attributing the statements to Mansfield does not relieve you or your journalist of the duty to report fairly and accurately. Is it difficult to understand the impact of such a slur?

Daniel Millstone

Bronx, NY

Communism does not equal liberalism

To the Editor:

As an extreme leftist, or Communist, I don't appreciate Tim Miller, a moderate with no real consistent political base and little understanding of leftist politics, putting words in my mouth. His simplistic categorizations (liberalism equals people who want freedom in all forms) are more or less useless.

Communists do not try to instill guilt in the middle class in order to gain redistributive legislation — that's what liberals do. Communists attempt to organize the working class and the oppressed in society to fight for better working and living conditions, among these higher wages, better schools, etc. Communists believe that ultimately these workers ought to take over the running of the society from the upper classes in order to run the economy democratically. I think everyone having access to a decent job and good public services would enhance, rather than limit “economic freedom." Sure, one guy wouldn't be able to have a factory and pay the workers less than they produce in order to get rich, but I think the additional freedom of the people who don't need to slave for this guy any more outweighs his freedom to exploit. Striking and other forms of struggle (boycotts, demonstrations, etc.) are not instances of using guilt as a means to “will" to “power" — they are means to force concessions. Mr. Miller's not the first whelp to attempt to use a poor understanding of Nietzsche to attack communism in my four years here.

Also, leaving aside the fact that Miller does not build up any reasonable base for his final statement — that communist and fascist governments are the most brutal — maybe he ought to compare the U.S. and one of the only countries that he would still call “communist," Cuba (I would not call Cuba communist, but that would take too long to explain). The U.S. incarcerates a far higher percentage of its population, has a higher infant mortality rate, a higher murder rate, and bombs a lot more civilians (in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and other places) than Castro ever has. By these measures, Cuba is more “liberal" than the U.S. Miller would do well to try to develop a point in more detail rather than making sweeping claims which are rendered meaningless by the vagueness of his terms.

Edward Hershey

Avowed Communist

Fourth-year in the College

Don't hear Horowitz

To the Editor:

I was extremely troubled to read about the Horowitz fiasco at the University of Chicago. From what I have read, I believe David Horowitz is much less interested in finding truth than in selling books and stirring up controversy. Whatever the issue may be, I am sure he will debate it in the most offensive way he can, so vulgar and one-sided is this great champion of free speech. Horowitz is a sophist, and he ought to learn that rabble rousing won't cut it at the University of Chicago. I am sure the professors and students there have “the balls" to stand up to this great man, but why should they bother? He's Gorgias — he's getting paid. It is good that Chicago students know where to find real issues — in Plato, not in the National Enquirer, Jerry Springer, or whatever organization it is that Horowitz is associated with.

I am utterly offended by the nonsense Horowitz said about Chicago and the students there. Horowitz is not fit to clean the floors of that fine institution. I cannot believe the moronic audacity of the things he said! Chicago! 70+ Nobels! This man is a tiny insect! It is unfortunate that he has received so much free publicity, as he is a mere advertisement, and wants only to hear himself speak, no matter how idiotic his words may be, each word is another dollar and a Horowitz reparation is taken from each person who is so careless as to give him the time of day.

Charles Lundquist

Student of Cornell University class of 2005