The controversy surrounding the Augusta National Golf Club and its Masters Tournament is not about golf any more than the debate over Title IX is about college wrestling (Shirts and Skins, April 9. The issue is whether public discrimination and segregation are acceptable, a point Eddie Matz completely misses--or ignores.
Augusta National is a private organization funded by private dollars, but while not legally tested, the club's membership policy is not at the heart of the controversy. During the Masters, however, Augusta National willingly chucks privacy out the window and becomes the very public face of golf. Furthermore, the Masters is covered by CBS, a television network that has a license from Congress for free use of our public airwaves as a public trust--another very public forum. How many times can you say "public," Mr. Matz?
When a private club opens its doors to the public and invites a public network to broadcast the event to millions of people worldwide, it has by its own choice become a de facto public facility. As such, Augusta National should be held accountable for upholding the legal and societal standards of nondiscrimination required for all public facilities.
Yes, indeed, Augusta National and Chairman William "Hootie" Johnson have a great deal to be ashamed of. But there's plenty of shame to go around. The PGA has tried to slink away from the controversy, citing the lame excuse that the Masters isn't an "official" part of the tour. (Sure, we all believe that.) CBS television has agreed to underwrite the discrimination practiced at Augusta National by broadcasting the Masters without sponsors. (Smart move from a network that in 2000 settled a major sex-discrimination lawsuit for $8 million.) And did I mention that corporate America is spending millions and looking the other way? (What a brilliant way to market to women.)
The endorsement of discrimination and segregation--that's what the Augusta National controversy is all about. Never mind the lesser of Mr. Matz's many fallacies: Martha Burk didn't act unilaterally without consent of the organizations she "allegedly represents"--she absolutely represents, and is the sanctioned voice of, the more than 100 organizations comprising the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO). As such, she speaks on behalf of a combined 6 million-plus members. Furthermore, while NCWO membership is comprised of women's organizations, many of the member organizations themselves admit and encourage male membership, such as the National Organization for Women.
And, while Mr. Matz spent the majority of his column espousing the philanthropic good deeds of Augusta National and Johnson, he failed to mention that Augusta National practiced race discrimination until pressured to open its doors to African-American men in 1990.
Oops--clearly Mr. Matz's research abilities are as weak as his powers of deduction. I think he'll fit in nicely with the rest of the boys in the tree house. I hope the no girls allowed sign doesn't hit him in the ass on his way through the door.
Playing into Bloody Hands
City Paper news editor Erin Sullivan responds to Kay Dellinger's statement that CP has not been covering Baltimore's anti-war movement by citing where CP has mentioned demonstrations (The Mail, April 9. However, I believe that CP has not covered the issues behind the protests with the degree of probity they deserve.
For example, consider the upcoming USA Patriot Act, which was leaked by a Federal employee to the Center for Public Integrity. As discussed by Nat Hentoff (Village Voice, Feb. 28) it would allow for the government to renounce the citizenship of people who have given "material" but lawful support to any organization the State Department now deems terrorist. In other words, if you write a check to American Friends Service Committee, and the AFSC is violating economic sanctions by donating baby food to children in Iraq, you could lose your citizenship (and be deported). Under the new Patriot Act, the "Justice" Department wants to reverse centuries of policy by assuming the power to infer from their conduct that people are renouncing their intention to remain U.S. citizens. If this weren't enough, the new Patriot Act would also permit the government to make secret arrests, i.e., to snatch people away in the middle of the night, hold them indefinitely without charges, and to not release the names of those detained to the public.
Another point of contention with anti-war activists is the illegality of the war on Iraq. It clearly violates the U.N. Charter, which specifies that member states cannot attack another except in self-defense. In addition, the Nuremberg Charter rejected the claim by Nazis after World War II that they had the right to wage pre-emptive war in self-defense. Both examples are relevant because Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that international treaties are the "law of the land." Since the United States remains signatory to both treaties, it is violating the Constitution with its present war. Add to it that the indifferent use of cluster bombs, daisy-cutter bombs, and depleted uranium by the U.S. military in clear violation of the Geneva Convention, and the lawlessness (and brutality) of the present conflict is quite apparent.
The upcoming Patriot Act and the flagrant violations of international law indicate to many of us that our beloved country is sliding toward fascism. And silence is a form of consent. Thus, every issue that City Paper is not thoroughly commenting on the Bush administration's relentless attacks on democracy is another one that plays into their bloody hands.
Occasionally, City Paper does a great job in responding to present realities. For example, the recent interview with civil libertarian C. William Michaels on the implications of the current USA Patriot Act was badly needed (Books, Dec. 11, 2002). However, most of us who have been participating in anti-war vigils, protests, rallies, and acts of nonviolent civil disobedience believe that City Paper has largely been disinterested in this struggle. We wish this weren't the case.
Denise Cherubini's heartfelt defense of Christopher Columbus is naive (The Mail. Columbus did not discover the Americas trying to show that the world was round. Most educated folk knew the earth wasn't flat, and the circumference of the planet had been accurately estimated to be 24,000 miles. Traveling across the immense ocean between Europe and Asia would take months, and the Bible mentioned no unknown lands or peoples to be saved, so why head west? But based partly on his reading of the Good Book, Christopher figured there was just a few weeks sailing between Europe and Asia, and the similarly pious Spanish rulers bought the idea. The explorer literally bumped into the Americas and never realized his mistake, which is why the continents ended up being named for another person who did.
Nor was Columbus a mere explorer who did no harm. Being a typically ambitious man of his times who had little interest in finding new lands, the whole point of his voyages to faux Asia was to become rich and powerful, primarily via gold. So he enslaved "Indians," shipping some back to Spain, and on his follow-up expeditions set up outposts and colonies that set the brutal Euro-colonial standard of controlling and exploiting the natives. Columbus' involvement in these sordid affairs is well-documented, and was denounced by some contemporaries.
Not that Columbus was doing anything unusual for the day. Nor did he ruin a paradise of noble savages. Amerindians were a fractious lot that spent much of their time warring upon, enslaving, and torturing one another while running regimes that would make Saddam Hussein blush. The Aztecs, for instance, were sacrificing thousands of captives each year by ripping out their beating hearts. The beautiful cliff dwellings of the Southwest states are fortifications. This horrified even the Spanish, whose Christian societies thought torture, slavery, and burning at the stake were perfectly fine.
The achievement of Columbus was to obstinately push a mistaken notion until he got the ships he needed and, by an excellent feat of sailing, to serendipitously connect lands that would have remained ignorant of one another for many more decades, perhaps a century. But soon enough the hemispheres would have been connected, and there is little reason to think it would have worked out much better--Euro-diseases alone would have killed off the great majority of Amerindians. It's a Darwinian world we live in, and sometimes it just ain't pretty. Or politically correct.
Baltimore's Seventeen Alternative
I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a great job. It's great to hear about politics and other issues I care about from a fun, frank, honest newspaper. Other papers just don't stack up! And with most of my friends my age not being able to breathe without their Seventeen magazine, it's nice for somebody (in your case, several somebodies) to care about their readers and the world around them, not just some celebrity gossip that may or may not be true. Wow! This has gotten really long! Thanks, City Paper!
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