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Feedback 7/27 

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Airport should up its music game, too

Building on Mary Anna's Towler's Urban Journal article about "Art, ads, and the image we show to the world (July 6)," I would like to add "beautiful music." Why in a city graced by outstanding music schools and a successful jazz festival does our airport broadcast humdrum elevator music? What are they thinking?

Step inside Chicago's O'Hare terminal and catch some cool jazz, or a small Midwest terminal and hear country music.

Let's hear it for the classics; let's let visitors know we appreciate good music.

SANDY BAKER

We must strive for intellectual honesty

I'm with CITY on the politics and the despair and the wish to find a way to end the violence that we see inflicted against segments of the black community through police actions, or crushing poverty, or racial prejudice. If we're going to effectively explore the deep divisions in our society, though, and work effectively toward overcoming them, I think we all need to be as searchingly honest and intellectually fair as we can as we evaluate, suggest, even demand solutions.

Along these lines, it may seem a trivial detail, but I found it odd that your editorial against racial violence (Urban Journal, July 6) explicitly mentions "black" men who have been wrongfully killed by police officers. But then, in addressing the shooting of white police officers by a black individual in Dallas, you drop the race labels. Someone who doesn't know the story might infer that a white sniper had shot several black police officers.

There seems to be no doubt that overt racial violence in America is inflicted in a highly disproportional way against — and most defines the experience of — people of color, not whites. But what possible use is there in glossing over the fact that it can go other ways? President Obama, by contrast, took it head-on in his Dallas address. He called the shootings, "an act not just of demented violence, but of racial hatred."

That the underlying cause of that violence may be the long history of racism in this country does not make it less important to point out that victims of racial violence can be any color, as can the perpetrators, and they all matter.

As a society we are not just divided black against white, but also economically, culturally, and in many other ways, some just as threatening to our future as a nation. Some may be as important to take into account in the fight against racism.

Cultural commentators as illustrious as Martin Luther King Jr have pointed out — and right-wing strategists have noted — that fanning the flames of racism helps to distract poor and underprivileged people of all races from making common cause against an oppressive economic system and against those who have secured the overwhelming benefits of the system.

Conversely, conflating the broader fight against poverty or economic injustice with the fight against racism (or letting one be subsumed into the other) can undermine both causes, and increases the tendency to abandon practical effort in favor of toothless posturing.

As an aside: One of the most troubling divisions in America, thrown into sharp relief by the current election cycle, is the one separating what some characterize as the angry white right-winger and the smug intellectual liberal. It's easy to disparage the right-winger.

A different division, less noted, is that between well-educated and poorly-educated whites. The latter group is currently experiencing, in middle age, an alarming increase in death rate when all other major demographic groups show decline. The cause is suicide and substance abuse, and the despair behind this phenomenon is an energy that the likes of Donald Trump are happy to harness, while the liberal establishment appears hardly to care. Which might be part of the problem.

At any rate, we on the left, of any color, especially those who think we see the truth more clearly than the other side, need to be scrupulous in guarding against the intellectual double standards and spiritual dishonesty that, frankly, course through many of our cultural discussions.

This seems advisable partly because there's no chance of constructive cultural dialogue, let alone liberal arguments reaching the "other side" effectively, without striving for complete honesty and fair consideration of all people under discussion (recognizing both black victims and white victims, for example).

I know some right-leaning people who can be persuaded by thoughtful reasoning. But there is a reluctance to accept a conflicting outlook, and they are cued in to reject out of hand any position from the left that appears to lack integrity in what may seem to be the least detail.

Maybe more important is that, in these troubled times, we simply have to strive for deep intellectual integrity if we hope for reason and humanity to prevail —- in ourselves and in our community — over the powerful forces of chaos and inhumanity. I'm a little embarrassed to make such a big deal out of one or two missing adjectives, but I think it all connects.

JIM MOTT

Oil train fears unwarranted

(On a neighborhood leader's concerns about oil trains traveling through Rochester's Neighborhood of the Arts.)

Trains are the safest option for the transport of bulk commodities and pose no greater threat than planes falling from the sky.

OTTO VONDRAK

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