Photo by Kaitlin via Flickr Creative Commons

Letters to the Editor – June 2014

What Does America Truly Stand For?

For as long as I can remember, I have been told that America is the greatest country in the world. We are the land of the free, supporters of democracy and freedom. The more I have been able to tap into my ability to critically think, I find that this perception of America is deceitful.

America is looked to for leadership in the global community. As global leaders, it is our responsibility to cultivate peace and harmony with all nations. Unfortunately, historically, we have not lived up to this responsibility.

I am currently taking a course titled “Sociology of Terrorism and Genocide.” What I have discovered through my own research is that in many instances, America has supported acts of terrorism and genocide. It is reasonable to believe that our country’s decision to support such conduct is in the self-interest of the power elite in American society. Our decision to participate in and ignore acts of terrorism and genocide goes against all the things that I have been brought up to value as an American.

The cultivation of peace and harmony is not solely the responsibility of the government but of all people. I have faith in the power of the American people to promote a fair and just society. The average person on the street does not want to harm, does not want to kill and does not want to pay for those things to occur. Like the Vietnam War, I trust the voice of the people can be heard and force the government to be truly representative of the people.

Jennifer Vargas

Progressive Group Recommends Vote for Smittcamp for District Attorney

The Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee (CVPPAC) is recommending that voters choose Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp for district attorney.

Members of the CVPPAC agreed that Sondergaard Smittcamp would be a much better district attorney than the current district attorney, Elizabeth Egan. In a candidate forum held on April 30 at Fresno City College, Sondergaard Smittcamp stated her support for restorative justice, drug treatment options for drug offenders and mental health treatment for the mentally ill. She also committed to an aggressive effort to reduce the pretrial population at the Fresno County Jail, which is currently at 69% of all inmates.

This is clear departure from the current administration of District Attorney Elizabeth Egan, and these changes will have a major impact on our communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs. Latinos, African Americans and low-income communities are disproportionately targeted for enforcement of drug laws.

Although the CVPPAC urges a vote for Smittcamp, the group decided not to give her a full-fledged endorsement. In her response to questions at the forum, she stated her support for the death penalty and for gang injunctions that, in practice, target low-income and communities of color. These are positions also supported by Egan.

Howard K. Watkins
Immediate Past President, CVPPAC

The Yanomami Helped Me Understand Greed

A May 2014 CBS Sunday Morning program showed how David Good’s mother grew up in a remote village in the Amazon jungle. After a few years in New Jersey, his mother returned to the jungle and stayed there. Twenty years later, he found her in a Yanomami village. He asked her why she left him and his brother and sister in New Jersey.

He explained her response and his perceptions about the “primitive Indians”: “They do not experience loneliness. They do not experience anxiety.”

To paraphrase her husband, “People are not meant to live this way. In an impersonal world (New Jersey, aka civilization) that was not the way people were meant to live.”

Most psychologists would define greed as an anxiety neurosis. If you think about it, then you will see the greed of the wealthy as a disease of loneliness and like most anxieties a disease of the fear of death. Out of their control, anxiety feeds on itself as the solution to itself so more money seems like the solution when the need for its acquisition is the main manifestation of the neurosis.

To clarify, I return to “The Poetry of Protest,” one of the last classes Bob Mezey taught in 1968 at Fresno State. In attempting to reveal how all poetry was protest poetry, he explained how good poetry revealed a personal and universal empathy for other people.

He also brought in several Black students to talk about what their lives had been like, and I sensed their expressions of community was their strength. They were the most humorous group of “together” people I at 20 years had ever witnessed. While I laughed at their humor, most of the White students did not. When one of the Black men said he trusted only two White students in the classroom, me and another guy named Mike, I knew it was because of my laughter and empathetic facial expressions to their discussions.

In different words, my friend, the poet Arthur Smith, reinforces this same empathy concept for me in nearly every weekly phone call we have together. In his own poetry, a maturity of writing and a love of life and sensuality come from learning about what loss teaches us. He shares his love of life delicately, wisely and warmly. I have yet to find contemporary poetry as good as Smith’s in doing just that in his four books.

Mike Starry

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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