Two Views, one wriTer
1. Syracuse is beset by wanton violence.
Like others, lately I’ve been attending too many candlelight vigils. Murder and untimely death are the order of the day. We wring our hands and ask why.
I’ve also been attending the frequent protests at the main gate of Syracuse’s Hancock Air Base. Hancock, home of the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard, is the national maintenance center for Reaper drone aircraft. Hancock facilitates the operation of these robotic killers over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Reaper is the Pentagon and CIA’s favored device for stealth attacks and extrajudicial executions. Thanks to the Reaper, in Afghanistan and Pakistan hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians have been maimed and killed. Tens of thousands are forced to flee. Hundreds of thousands are terrorized.
We need to connect the dots. Can it be our methodical killing over there helps foster distain for human life here?
2. Regarding Ed Griffin-Nolan’s Nov. 23 Sanity Fair column, “In Focus,” about the installation of surveillance cameras on the Near West Side, it seems to me there’s more to the story.
• From attending the Common Council hearing a few weeks ago I could see the police weren’t laying adequate groundwork for presenting their proposal publicly. And as far as I know, they still haven’t. The police representatives had very few answers to questions raised by the councilors and the public (especially Barrie Gewanter). Nor did it seem like the police realized that such concerns were relevant. I think they would have been content to have gotten their cameras with little or no public discussion. I wonder who advised them that this was the way to go. If camera surveillance is such a public good why wouldn’t the police have wanted more discussion and more publicity?
• Another concern is that camera footage might be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After all, it may be that undocumented folks may frequent the Near West Side. Presumably, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick (and perhaps ICE, etc.) would have ready access to footage; I’m skeptical that that footage would be just as accessible to defense and migration attorneys. Once more a prosecutor would have the edge over an accused or detained person.
• How about the risk that particular blocks of the Near West Side may be further stigmatized by its being a known surveillance zone. Talk about profiling! While I can imagine that property owners in the area might welcome surveillance, I wonder how (far less empowered) tenants feel.
• Apparently there’s a lack of evidence from other cities that cameras reduce an area’s crime rate.
I liked the way Griffin-Nolan ended his column—suggesting that transparency should work both ways: with the public having a window on the (all too secretive) police. That’s a notion you might well enlarge upon.
—Ed KiNaNE SyracuSE
Reading the news accounts and hearing discussions of the bullying of gay young people on the news has brought many unhappy memories back to me. As a child, I was bullied because of who I am by other children and adults and by family and people I have been in contact with as an adult. I know that there is also bullying of people within the LGBT community by others in our community. I know this as a survivor of domestic violence by a former partner. This person used physical, emotional and psychological abuse to bully me. You can say that as an adult one can stand up for oneself but that isn’t always possible.
In a conversation on this topic with a friend a couple of days ago we agreed that bullying and its consequences aren’t new at all. It is only because our society is more open that there are more discussions of this now than in the past.
When I was younger, especially in a small rural town like I grew up in, a young man had to conform. If your lifestyle was different, you were ostracized and the joke of the town.
I do remember a few teachers in school who thought it was fun to demean me to the laughter of my classmates. I didn’t tell my parents for fear of their not wanting to know about it and the fear of their being disappointed in this part of my life. I felt like I was (and still am) an embarrassment to my immediate family.
My family’s next-door neighbors took me to church as a child, beginning my relationship with God and thus giving me a meaning that saved my life. This has been the constant throughout my life, even when the pastor of the church I grew up in told me that I was not welcome, wanted or needed there because people were afraid of AIDS. I knew this person didn’t know what she was talking about and I let her know that. I was not and am not infected with HIV and could not believe that a supposedly intelligent, educated woman, using the title “reverend,” would say such a thing, showing how little she knew about a subject. I have prayed that she will learn tolerance and respect of others if she is leading people to their salvation.
I am now a member of a wonderfully open church in downtown Syracuse that welcomes everyone with love, patience and respect in Jesus’ name. I am so blessed.
As for this epidemic of young people taking their own lives because of the intolerance of others: It’s time for parents to love their children for who that child is—gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, questioning—because that child is a gift from God. Take your child to church, bring your child into God’s love and let that child know that you are there for them no matter what they need to discuss with you. Stand up for your child! If you discover they are the victim of bullying or there is discrimination against them anywhere, speak to the authorities at the school or your church without fear of reprisal. Address the school board if you feel your concerns are not being taken seriously.
Jesus would be the first person to defend your child! Do not allow your child to feel there is no one to turn to! Discrimination due to sexual orientation is not to be tolerated anywhere! Most of all let them know you love them no matter what!
I do wish that I had grown up in a time that I could have felt comfortable enough to discuss what was going on at school with my parents and could have felt parental support in that area of my life, but I am so grateful for those wonderful neighbors who cared enough about me to want to help me begin my life’s walk with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
—Larry FuLLEr SyracuSE
As involved citizens we must ask the question, for whom is this the greatest country?
Several days ago a news story detailed the rising use of food banks and shelters by citizens.
New official statistics say that millions more people have been added to the poverty rolls.
This is more alarming when poverty level for an individual is $10,000 a year and for a family of four it is $22,000. More than $3 million are being saved from poverty rolls by extended unemployment insurance benefits.
Yet we continue to vote in a knee-jerk reaction to the bad news. Case in point is the midterm elections. Democrats bad; Republicans good. When we see the Republicans fail miserably we will swing the other way. We have to understand that it isn’t failure but conscious social/political policies that find us in this state. The only way to kill this charade of representation is to think outside the box.
We missed a golden opportunity to do that by not electing or at least supporting in greater numbers Howie Hawkins for governor. His platform was about real ideas, not lip service. But this letter is not about hawking the Greens. This letter is about listening and taking seriously other voices of other parties in the political arena. Perhaps the Tea Party is a misguided attempt at this. But voting in even more radical Republicans is not the answer; that’s more of the same. If you don’t believe this let’s get together in a year to see.
None of us would take our car back to an incompetent mechanic. Why isn’t our political life infinitely more important?
—DaviD Griola EaST SyracuSE
What sense does it make for one level of government (the federal government) to demand better gas mileage for new trucks and buses while another level of government (New York state) to demand first 10 percent then 15 percent ethanol be mixed in our gasoline thus resulting in lower gas mileage for our vehicles? It is becoming increasingly evident that this kind of ethanol usage not only results in lower gas mileage but also a variety of drivability problems in most gas powered engines.
It is past time for our elected representatives to get their environmental facts straight before they mandate new laws that actually lead to more gas usage, more air pollution and increased energy costs.
—robErT l. obErST SyracuSE
Dear President Obama: I am writing to strongly encourage you to rethink your pro-natural gas position. While it is true that natural gas burns cleaner than coal, the process used to extract it, known as hydraulic fracturing, is incredibly polluting. I urge you to research this process and consider the many serious consequences.
Natural gas is not a clean or safe fuel for the United States’ energy needs. We must turn to green technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro-power, as well as conservation, rather than using such a harmful technology to meet our energy needs.
Hydraulic fracturing has already contaminated water and air and destroyed lives in Pennsylvania, Texas and many Western states. It has the potential to provide natural gas and money for a limited amount of time, but at the expense of the environment, local communities’ safety and well being, and our public health. Please protect this country and withdraw your support for natural gas drilling. The future of young people like me, and of our entire country, depends on it.
—lEyaNa DESSauEr, aGE 16 SyracuSE
A dark day for justice and fairness in the Muscogee County Courthouse in Columbus, Ga., occurred on Saturday, Nov. 20, at Fort Benning. Judge Michael Cielinski can only be described as a bully masquerading as a defender of blind justice.
On Friday, Nov. 19, 16 Central New Yorkers arrived in Columbus once again to march in front of the gate at Fort Benning to protest the existence of the School of the Americas (aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Ever since the execution of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on Nov. 16, 1989, by soldiers trained by Fort Benning military personnel, protesters have stood at the gate in mid-November demanding its closure.
Those six Jesuits had been outspoken advocates for the poor and critics of human rights abuses committed by the Salvadoran government. This notorious U.S. Army School’s graduates continue to be linked to decades of documented human rights atrocities and massacres throughout Central and South America.
The protesters have always been committed to the philosophy of non-violence and those who wanted to commit acts of civil disobedience were prepared to accept the consequences. Since 1990, there have been close to 300 convictions of human rights activists who have served nearly 100 years of collective prison time. The recent relationships marchers had with the Columbus police at times were cordial and respectful but not this year as federal, city and state authorities randomly accosted and arrested innocent bystanders.
Twenty-four were arrested on city and state charges, including unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and parading without a permit. Two were charged but not taken into custody. Some were blockading the highway leading into Fort Benning with a sign that read, “Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA,” and intending to be arrested. But many of those arrested were swept up as they walked back to their cars after they left the permitted protest following the vigil on Saturday. These included four credentialed journalists and a Columbus barber, who came out of his barbershop to take a photo of the protest. A minister from Tennessee walking with his wife to his bus in the parking lot was arrested but she was not.
What these arrests reminded me of was how justice was meted out to African-Americans in the South and continues to be to this very day throughout the United States. Antiwar advocates are presently facing the same treatment in Minnesota and Chicago. Justice on Sunday, Nov. 21 was not based on fact, evidence or testimony but determined by Judge Cielinski before he entered the courtroom. The judge listened to the stories of the Columbus police who testified that they warned the marchers several times to move but the marchers never heard any warning save the directive to move to the sidewalk. Yet they were apprehended as they did.
But never doubt our commitment because we will endure and never give up the struggle to shut down this killing facility for we know that peacemakers are blessed and they are called sons and daughters of God.
—GEralD r. loTiErzo balDwiNSvillE