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Letters to the Editor

Stand up
As the news of Bush's call on Congress to create a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage settles into my brain ("I Found My Heart in San Francisco," Feb. 25), first, I feel depressed and then move on to feeling disgusted by this false religious rhetoric that Bush hides behind.

He is not a caring and compassionate man; he is a war mongerer who is trying to distract the American public from the death and destruction that he has perpetuated abroad so he may garner more votes.

Sickening as this diversionary tactic is, I am even more troubled by how homosexuals are still perceived in our contemporary society. Gay men are either demons who terrify straight, white men or sissies. Lesbians are only acceptable to straight, white men if they are getting it on in a pornographic film. Otherwise, they are shunted down to the bottom of the patriarchal pecking order with all women in general.

It is time that all gays and lesbians stand up and show that they are not freaks of nature--that they are normal, functioning people in society who deserve the same equal chance at marital bliss. It is time that gays and lesbians stand together and demand equal rights as tax-paying citizens. Can Americans in general afford to lose any more rights? We already have sacrificed so many with the Patriot Act.
Kim Gray
Durham

Goading Godfrey
Looks to me like Mel Gibson has accomplished something I would not have believed possible--he has goaded Godfrey Cheshire (and by implication the aggressively secular Independent) into discussing the passion of Christ during Lent ("The Temple of Narcissus," March 3). In that respect, I believe Mel has pulled off a miracle! (Of course, it would have been even more miraculous if Godfrey would have gotten the point of the movie, but I guess that's asking a little too much.)
Karl Gottschalk
Durham

More passion
What is overlooked in Godfrey Cheshire's passionate criticism of The Passion of the Christ and all the other "passions" raised by this film is that it is not mostly history or fact but mostly myth and fiction ("The Temple of Narcissus," March 3). There is absolutely no credible, documented historical evidence for any of the events in the film, according to historians. No less an authority than Elaine Pagels, author of the "Gnostic Gospels" in the recent New Yorker, says that the gospels are "religious propaganda, not history." The gospels, while a good read with some important moral points, are an imaginative mix of miracles, myth, hearsay and religious zeal with a plot that our present Hollywood writers can only admire and envy.

Mr. Cheshire refers to secular humanists as "deluded" for believing that religion "will dry up and blow away" and says religion is growing, not dissipating. I'd like to suggest Mr. Cheshire is wrong: Non-religious, while a minority of 13.2 percent (according to Pew Charitable Trust polls), has grown 110 percent in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, the "religious," or those who claim to be, attend church only 57 percent of the time.

Western Europe already has moved toward secular societies, despite its history of traditional religion, providing evidence that a moral life without the unhealthy personal domination and insidious political influence of religious institutions is indeed possible.

Mr. Cheshire goes on to his solution that somehow religions, after thousands of years of past--not to mention current--warfare, are somehow going to live in harmony through some vague movement to a personal, sacred, mystical vision.

Whenever we in the U.S. give up our personal and institutional superstitions and build our morality on human values and forego supernatural trappings, esoteric visions and dogma, we will have gone a long way toward a realistic harmony that Mr. Cheshire, myself and most people would like to see in our country.
Hugh Giblin
Durham

More than skin deep
Thanks to Bob Geary for giving a good synopsis of Raleigh's downtown revitalization issues ("Conventional Wisdom," March 3). A vital issue that does not get talked about enough is the general attitude of downtown regulations. I suspect most cities have ordinances prohibiting bicycles, roller skates, etc. on pedestrian malls. There are valid reasons for such ordinances. However, when a person rides their bicycle to their door on Fayetteville Street Mall at 10 p.m. and there is not another soul in sight (except a police officer), maybe the officer could look the other way since the intent of the ordinance is not offended. Perhaps it should be easier for a vendor to obtain a permit for running a business on the sidewalk. Unfortunately this is not the case. Though this attitude is slowly changing with our new city manager, it still has a long way to go. Cities have personalities and attitudes that go more than skin deep. Planning and architecture go a long way towards revitalization, but in and of themselves are not the solution.
Charles Brown
Raleigh

Not so free
I appreciated Bob Geary's coverage of the Nazi/KKK rally ("Lynching and free speech, progressive-style," Feb. 25). However, having been quoted in the article and made to look rather hypocritical, I would like to respond. Is defending the right to free speech for some but not others a slippery slope? Sure. However, looking at the question historically and internationally may help explain my position.

U.S. history is rife with examples of the hollow and unequal nature of "free speech": immigrants deported for union radicalism, the Sedition Act, restrictions on students in schools, suffragettes brutalized for their agitation, blacks lynched with police sanction, and countless others. Clearly, free speech has been a "right" reserved primarily for white men of a particular ideology. However, the KKK and the Nazi party have no trouble getting Raleigh to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to protect their "right" to promote white power. If al-Qaeda wanted Raleigh to pay that much to protect their right to have a rally, would we say that was still "free speech?" In most Western European nations, hate speech is outlawed. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most European hate groups produce and distribute their materials from the U.S., where their activities are protected. Let's also remember that political donations have been interpreted as free speech, providing justification against campaign finance reform. In a nation where the wealthy have quantitatively more free speech power than the poor, where this "right" has historically been nothing but an illusion for black folks, radicals, immigrants and activists, where the government defends the right of fascists to spew hatred here and worldwide while sending subpoenas to intimidate anti-war organizers, "free speech" is a suspect principle that merits closer analysis.

I believe that human dignity is a higher principle than an abstract and corrupt "free speech." Does that make me hypocritical? So be it.
Nick Shepard
Chapel Hill

Correction
Participants may register for the Tikkun Conference on peace in the Middle East, scheduled Sunday, March 28, up through the day of the conference. A Triangle article on March 10 had incorrect registration information. For more information, go to triangletikkun.tikkun.org.

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