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Elian Nation

Posted 2/16/2000

Hats off to Wiley Hall for putting a human face on Cuba's anger over Elian Gonzalez (Urban Rhythms, 2/9). While I hope the child's best interests will come first, I deplore the way he has been turned into an icon by the Cuban colony in South Florida. To take a child to Disney World so soon after witnessing his mother's death was, in a word, obscene. Another lapse of judgment is the lack of security as the boy is paraded to school, attends the circus, and takes part in huge photo ops. Apparently, his relatives are unaware of stalkers and other dangers that are around these days.

The way Cuban-Americans have built a solidarity utilizing Elian Gonzalez is troublesome. He is placed in a position to enrage Fidel Castro and unite the Cuban émigrés of Florida. Although the native Cubans call their American cousins the "Cuban Mafia," I find this epithet a little harsh. Unlike immigrants of the past, there appears to have been no assimilation into the mainstream American mindset and culture. When thousands of Cuban-Americans threaten to burn down Miami if they don't get their way, this country is in trouble. We really must take a long hard look at our immigration and refugee policies.

Rosalind Ellis
Baltimore


Block BustingVan Smith's article on the Block ("Around the Block," 2/2) refers to it a couple of times as a "red-light district." Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines "red-light district" as "a district in which houses of prostitution are numerous." There are not now—nor have there ever been, to my knowledge—any houses of prostitution on the Block.

Yes, illegal activities have taken place there in historic and recent times, including the selling of flesh and drugs. However, the Block also has a notable theatrical history (one that has never been written about), and its current doings, compared to the lethal mayhem that regularly occurs in many other parts of our town, do seem relatively benign.

Nevertheless, the movement to do away with the Block continues, fueled by the periodic ranting of the city's major daily newspaper and notwithstanding the Keystone-cops raid six years ago by 500 state police and National Guardsmen who cordoned off the area, arrested everybody in it (including mostly innocent people), and then had to answer for the illegal conduct of their own undercover men. I don't think anyone really believes that replacing the Block with more blank office buildings and parking garages will do much to alter crime in Baltimore; in fact, it may well make it worse by adding to the already abundant supply of dark, empty downtown nighttime streets.

James Dilts
Baltimore


Editor's note: James Dilts is a City Paper contributing writer.

Holy HooeyThanks so much, Sandy Asirvatham, for debunking the patently absurd Jesus-as-Superman myth (Underwhelmed, 1/12). The mail-page responses from those self-righteously indignant fundamentalist Christians pose an interesting question: What the hell are those imbeciles doing reading City Paper in the first place? Surely the morally superior ones can't have tired of the Holy Gospel fairy tales for their literary fodder.

Believe in Big J and heaven is yours—nothing more than a cowardly cop-out for not having to face the fear of the unknown. I feel extremely fortunate, Sandy, to have escaped, by birth, the fucking "my religion is better than your religion," holier-than-thou, infuriating, condescending, and totally unfathomable mindset that good little Christians have toward anyone who isn't a Christian. Last night on the TV, I actually heard an evangelist single out Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews, in particular, for eternal damnation. Even my cat was laughing. (She's Persian, by the way.) I say to hell with the goyim! I'm so happy to be one of God's Chosen People. (That's a bit self-righteous too. I guess everybody must have a little of it. Oh well, what's a poor Jew boy to do?)

I love your stuff, Sandy. Keep it coming and don't let the saved, born again, or whatever the fuck they think they are (Klingons?!) intimidate you.

Andrew Kirschbaum
Cockeysville


Sandy Asirvatham's article from nearly a month ago, "The Jesus Trip," has for the last three weeks invoked angry letters.

David Gonzalez feels that "to assert their superiority . . . nonbelievers must sacrifice the innate dignity of those who believe, by sheer faith, what is unprovable or even unlikely" (The Mail, 1/19). Where is the "innate dignity" of accepting things "by sheer faith?" Without reason and empiricism, anything can be regarded as truth, including the morality of burning "witches" and the righteousness of shooting doctors who perform abortions.

Mr. Gonzalez writes that "Christianity is a philosophical rock upon which Western —ergo, global—culture is based." By making such an extreme claim, Christianity must also shoulder responsibility for doing nothing for centuries about things like slavery, misogyny, and genocide (which is not only condoned but commanded by God in Numbers 31, an eye-opening chapter of the Good Book that would never find its way into the sermon of any fundamentalist preacher worth his salt).

Gonzalez's final argument is that people like Sandy and me will be on our deathbeds bemoaning the fact that we never adopted his irrational perspective. This is what his supposedly superior convictions boil down to: fear. Despite urban legends about Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, not all atheists die regretting their atheism. But even if they did, if they lived a life that was concerned about the betterment of man rather than the appeasement of God. I think that's a pretty fair trade-off.

Similarly, V.T. Whitehead offers the tired, familiar bromide that a life lived without hope for an afterlife is meaningless (The Mail, 2/2). Does this really make sense to anyone? Is life less purposeful to someone who thinks this realm is the only existence than to someone who thinks this realm is inferior to an imagined one succeeding it?

Gordon Pratt, so bothered that someone would even consider an alternative world view—he bristles at Asirvatham's mention of a secular-humanist organization—thinks that Christianity has lasted because its "principles" hold some "kernels of truth" (The Mail, 2/2). No, it has lasted because, without shame, it promises its adherents all they desire—something a philosophy based in fantasy and scornful of having to prove any of its promises can do.

By asserting that Asirvatham has a "quest to show that nothing in life has any redeeming value," Pratt reveals how shaken he is at her audacity. He just can't fathom that her criticism of Christianity is not the rejection of everything noble in life—it is merely a criticism of Christianity.

The strangest thing of all is how fundamentalists have made a conscious decision (at least in their rhetoric) to reject the objective reality of the world, while they still declare they have something affirmative to say about it.

Lorne Marshall
Baltimore


Correction: In last week's Nose item on the Pen Lucy neighborhood, a quote on crime-reduction methods in the community serving "as a model for the city" and authorship of a letter to police Commissioner Ronald Daniel on the matter were mistakenly attributed to police Maj. Robert Biemiller, due to an editing error. Both the quote and the letter should have been ascribed to Pen Lucy activist Robert Nowlin.

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