C. Denise Watkins
What a breath of fresh air for a change. Third Eye has the courage to act on what a lot of Baltimoreans are thinking. Despite all of the new building and glitz and believe signs, this city is an ugly, filthy mess.
We have a mayor who is well into his first term (extended, by the way) and will be easily re-elected whenever the Maryland legislature decides on when that will be (a joke for another time) who finds himself wondering why this is happening to him when he should already be governor. He has slipped into what I call the "Schmoke Malaise." There is a City Council that rivals the best circus that has ever come to town. An education system that is in dire straits and is looking for new answers using the same old models. The teachers' union and a bloated administrative staff is no help either. Crime, despite all of the statistics, is not better, especially the murder rate. We have a police department that seems to be rotting at the commissioner's level. Is it so hard to find someone who fits the requirements of the position who is morally and ethically equal to the post?
Are there positives? I suppose so, but yuppies buying town houses with fancy alarm systems in Fells Point, Canton, and Locust Point isn't going to turn this town around.
So I say to Third Eye, you will be missed, but thanks for the honesty and courage to say what so many are afraid to say. I'm not ready to leave my house in the city that has been in my family since 1910, but occasionally the thought crosses my mind.
Although I never had the pleasure of personally meeting Afefe Tyehimba, I spoke to her on the telephone on several occasions. She interviewed me during my campaign for a House of Delegates seat in the 44th District. I appreciated her patience and thoroughness, something not received from some other local news media. Her reflections and introspection about politics in Baltimore were rather insightful and did not go unnoticed. I appreciate the fact that she took time to prick my soul on many issues.
Change oftentimes takes years. Her cries and concern for the state of affairs in Baltimore were indeed heard by many, like myself, and only time will reveal the true impact her stories will have on our lives. She will be truly missed. What a loss.
So the talented and insightful Afefe Tyehimba is leaving City Paper, and the eminently worthless Mr. Wrong is (apparently) staying. Kinda like Tupac getting shot and Vanilla Ice continuing to "perform" . . .
Why the Longface?
Geoffrey Himes, in his criticisms of Ralph Nader, joins the "Anybody but Bush" liberal crowd (including The Nation and the Village Voice) who reserve all judgment on John Kerry while castigating Nader for trying to push the political debate in this country to the left (The Mail, May 19).
John Kerry shares George W. Bush's fundamental agenda. Kerry voted for the PATRIOT Act, for the bombing of Afghanistan, for the invasion of Iraq, and now out-Bushes Bush by calling for more troops in Iraq and more tax breaks for the rich. Is this really a man who is "fighting for what's fair"?
Himes deludes himself into believing that Kerry offers a real alternative and, in the process, cuts down the accomplishments of perhaps the greatest fighter of corporate crime of the last 50 years by preposterously suggesting that Nader is a "secret friend of the Shrub."
While Nader deserves criticism for not trying to build a political party, his calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the canceling of all war profiteers' contracts, the raising of taxes on corporations, and his support of gay marriage and the repeal of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley bill, are all in the interests of "those who are hurting," to use Himes' phrase.
Himes also implies that Nader is trying "to stay off to the side" and "safely stay out of the fight," when in reality it is the Democratic Party machine that tries to silence Nader. (See the 2000 presidential debates, where Nader was barred from debating Gore and Bush.)
If Himes honestly thinks that John Kerry is going to help working people in this country, he must not be paying attention.
Limbaugh in a Powdered Wig
In Russ Smith's May 12 column, he writes of "hard-core leftists who hate America" (Right Field). If I may offer a correction, we hard-core leftists do not hate America. Rather, we are working to change it to the better idea of a democratic socialism where wealth is distributed more evenly and issues of poverty and education are truly addressed. What's wrong with that?
If you look at who owns the wealth in the world and who goes to bed hungry and without shelter, the conclusion to go Left is inescapable in my view.
We wouldn't mind a military that honestly went after right-wing dictators and fundamentalists around the world, rather than supporting right-wing dictatorships and trying to insure markets for large corporations at the expense of ecology, third- and fourth-world peoples, etc. But that's not what the U.S. (us) represents right now. Do you think our government represents the people or large corporations like Disney and Halliburton first?
I think it's the Right that "hates" America, for they are blindly leading it down the old path--the path of Rome. I have no doubt that the "revolutionaries" who founded the United States (although they were not here first) would support us leftists, not the Right. They would laugh folks like Rush Limbaugh off the stage.
I know you have Mr. Smith as balance--or should I say, wind-baggy ballast--for the cogent liberal writers on the staff. It just bothers me that he, like many Republicans and conservatives I know, is so wrong all the time. Do we always have to have a balance between right and wrong?
I'm Bourgeoisie and I'm Proud
Since a co-worker heard me discussing Broadway plays and called me "bourgeoisie," I will tell letter writer Larnell Custis Butler what I told him (The Mail, May 12). I find it interesting that as long as I'm miserable, complaining, and blaming white people for my problems, certain so-called black people were happy. The day I decided to closely monitor my daughters' education in the Baltimore City schools because I realized that I am responsible for their education, not the overworked teachers, I became a snob. The day I got my college degree because my daughters needed a mentor and a standard, I became a snob.
My mother was correct: I needed to talk to other bourgeoisie African-Americans who stopped the excuses and decided that if taking control is bourgeoisie, then we enjoy a lifetime membership.
As for black churches in Baltimore, I have a friend who belongs to one, and buying new cars and suits are more important to him than making sure his son can read.
The Fat Guy Doesn't Sing
I want to thank Afefe Tyehimba for her humor, honesty, and skepticism about her experience at "Buddha Day" (Third Eye, May 5). As a longtime member of the Baltimore Shambhala Center, I've found it takes these very traits to be able to take ancient teachings and apply them to our modern, chaotic world. I too find myself struggling sometimes to find out how the Buddha's teachings can benefit people now, and concerned about just falling into self-absorption and uplifting talk that doesn't actually benefit anyone.
I do find that one of the most profound practices of Buddhism is to sit in silence and meditate. I happen to be a musician, and while it's important for me to express myself in a sometimes very vibrant manner, in quiet meditation I can look deeply into the beliefs that cause me to live the way I do, and find the strength to begin to alter those actions that cause suffering for myself and others.
Meditation isn't always fun, as Ms. Tyehimba's experience attests. It can be painful to look at one's own faults and realize that change comes more slowly than we'd like. But ironically, that can lead to more patience and gentleness in our approach to others; it can open our hearts and help us to better see both the suffering and wonder of our world.
To be able to truly address a situation, even one as urgent as the decay of our cities and the defilement of our youth, we must be patient and be able to see without moral prejudice and preconceptions. Only then will we maybe see what's helpful. That's what meditation is about.
In an excellent book called Instructions to the Cookü the American Zen priest Bernard Glassman details his process of doing this in Yonkers, N.Y. He describes the relatively simple beginnings of one of the most successful nonprofit organizations in the country, the Greyston Foundation (www.greyston
.org), which is a model for dealing with homelessness, job training, AIDS/HIV care, and other problems. He never had a big plan, but just looked very simply at problems that he saw and asked how he could help. He would not have had the clarity without his training in meditation. He also began leading "street retreats," where participants spend several days living on the streets, without money, having to beg for food, while still meeting together to practice meditation, in order to truly begin to understand the difficulties and prejudice encountered and take it to heart.
This clarity would be of immense benefit to youth, helping them develop the courage to withstand the media onslaught, degraded conditions, and chaos, to see how their mental attitudes are being affected by forces outside of them and to turn to a more inwardly based attitude. It can help to fight the apathy, depression, and anger that can infect people in such an unjust situation, leading them to value their lives, environment, and people around them more, and perhaps want to do something themselves.
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