On a recent trip to Laos, it was with great shame that I saw the results of the US bombing during the Vietnam War. US pilots indiscriminately dropped more than 250 million cluster bombs, hitting schools, hospitals, and temples, killing thousands of innocent people. Historic sites are filled with bomb craters; ancient relics were destroyed or scared with bullet holes. Hundreds of people, many children, are still killed and maimed every year by unexploded ordinance.
Our government has accepted minimal responsibility for cleaning up the mess it left. US bombs fill villages in Laos as a reminder of the cruel and senseless destruction.
In Laos (and previously, Vietnam and Cambodia), I saw the faces of the people our government describes as "collateral damage," and I found that I could never view my country in the same way again.
Modern Americans have never experienced the horrors of war in our land. If they had, I wonder how eager they would be to support our government, as it moves to "shock and awe" the world by dropping 3,000 bombs in two days on a virtually defenseless country. Or how proud they would be to send young men to spread terror and kill innocent people in the name of peace --- or democracy --- or revenge --- or whatever other name we give to justify the atrocity our country is about to commit.
Lynda Howland, Pittsford
It makes them support a president who has not released promised funding to states to support anti-terrorism security measures, including the state struggling to recover from the greatest humanitarian, economic, and psychological disaster in US history.
It makes them willing to believe that somehow it will be okay when funds are diverted from their parents and children, leaving them to suffer from massive cutbacks in medical insurance and education.
It leads them to support an administration whose meathook diplomacy has alienated friends and potential allies in the fight against terrorism.
It leaves them willing to believe that war is the only possible way to deal with a brutal and inhumane dictator, despite the fact that their Central Intelligence Agency director and many of their military leaders have expressed grave reservations about the planned war.
It makes them willing to strike out against someone --- anyone --- while people and leaders of nations all over the world oppose their choice of targets.
And it makes them support a "shock and awe" strategy that is estimated to kill 500,000 civilians, half of them children.
Does it leave us unable to see that there may be another way?
That is my fear.
Barb Deitz, Rochester
Dear President Bush: I respect you as our leader. I understand your deeply sad and angry feelings for our nation after 9/11. I too had those same feelings. I understand the fear you have for our safety from terrorism and hate. I too have those same fears. I appreciate the difficult position you are in to protect and take care of all the millions of people in our great country.
I am not sure what the answer is, but please consider that war is not the answer. We cannot solve our problems by bullying the bully, or by taking an eye for an eye, or by being the most powerful. We can only fight with unity, peace, and love --- not just by being powerful but by being a powerful example of peaceful leadership for all.
As you are listening to me, please also listen to the other hundreds of thousands of voices, who are getting stronger every day. Who are gathering in nations all over the world to communicate their message of peace.
I don't hate all of the men and women and children who live in a terrorist's country just because there are terrorists who live there; and I don't want those men and women and children to be harmed or hate me and my neighbors and friends and family because of the decisions of my government.
Please, sir, do not lead us into fear, hate, and revenge. Help our country set a positive, democratic example and lead us into peaceful unity with all nations.
Michelle Macirella, Washington Road, Pittsford
In this city, you can't hold political office if you also work for city schools. And I don't mean that you can't be a school board member and a school employee at the same time. That would be understandable. Now, though, you can't serve on City Council or be mayor of Rochester if your employer is the Rochester City School District.
Don't ask me why. No other New York State city has such a policy. I don't know whether any city in this country does. But I bet that lots of folks will now look at Rochester like we're a little strange. And I wouldn't blame them. The supposed reason for this weird decision by our City Council is that someone who works for the school district and serves as a member of the City Council might have a conflict of interest.
But I don't buy it. It's not like it'd be unprecedented to recuse oneself in instances when City Council matters overlap with school-district issues. Those occasions would be quite rare because, from all I know, City Council has shown precious little interest in city schools' issues --- except when it comes to insisting on a balanced budget or taking money away from city schools.
Wouldn't it have made more sense for an accomplished Councilman like Tim Mains to recuse himself once a year than for his colleagues on the City Council to disenfranchise and relegate to second-class citizenship up to 6000 individuals?
The six politicians who voted for this unwise and undemocratic measure were wrong. And they have wronged all of us in the process. This offensive vote should be challenged --- or these politicians should be.
Adam Urbanski, president, Rochester Teachers Association
Re: articles on Emergency Contraception ("EC to the Rescue," February 19, 26): The science of EC is (almost) irrelevant. The real issue is that people holding certain beliefs use their political power to deny safe and effective medication to those who do not share their beliefs.
No one is forced to use EC. Those who deem it somehow unethical or ill advised have the choice not to use EC. Yet the opponents of EC use argument after argument --- a number clearly at odds with the science --- to deny the choice of EC to those who are not swayed by their arguments.
It is particularly unconscionable to delay or prevent rape victims from using EC. They are victims! They should be the foremost object of concern. And, again, even such a victim is not forced to use EC.
Fortunately, a few anti-abortion advocates in the Legislature understand this. But their and others' concern for the victims of rape may yet be trumped by the powerful few who seem to find it hard to show empathy even for rape victims.
Sidney Shapiro, Parkwood Avenue, Brighton
I wanted to express my appreciation for your recent articles on Emergency Contraception. You make excellent points on all fronts: exposing the outrageous agendas of anti-choice groups like Feminists for Life, laying down the harsh reality that exists for sexual-assault victims who end up in Catholic hospitals (or under the care of conservative doctors), chipping away at the myths that surround the "morning-after pill." Hopefully your work will enlighten folks, and the world will be a better place for someone because of it.
Andrea Lipomi, Child Street, Rochester (Lipomi is Reproductive Choice chair, Rochester NOW.)
"Committed to protecting the character of our communities" is a cornerstone of the Smart Growth Coalition. The proposed Monroe Avenue Business Improvement District will do just that. Yes, it will cost the commercial property owners in assessment fees. However, the benefits will be tremendous.
Monroe Avenue has come a long way from what it was 30-plus years ago. It has interesting stores and architecture that reflect the history and interests of the neighboring population. Like any project, money, caring people and vigilance are necessary to maintain it. If the area looks appealing and interesting, people will be attracted to it. They can walk and bike to one-of-a-kind stores, without driving to outlying malls. As word gets out, people will come from further away.
Imagine people coming into --- not leaving --- a city area to shop, eat, and live! Reinforcing our cities and villages is the way to build caring communities that function to the benefit of all.
Jane Schmitt, Smart Growth Coalition, Fawn Ridge Road, Henrietta
On Saturday, March 1, Duce Duce Crew, an African-American Motorcycle Club in Rochester, held "Duce Duce Day 4 Kidz." It was a four-hour event to let children ages 10 to 15 enjoy interaction with the bikers, receive free pictures sitting on crew members' bikes, participate in a free art workshop on drawing motorcycles, win beautiful biker prizes, enjoy entertainment from a color-guard step team, and get all the free refreshments they wanted.
Although "Duce Duce Day 4 Kidz" was a success that put smiles on the faces of many children in the community, Duce Duce Crew would like to address an issue brought to our attention during the event:
As hundreds of flyers for the event went out to children from James Madison School of Excellence during the week leading up to "Duce Duce Day," several irate parents called the school, upset that "a bunch of drug dealers" were being allowed in their children's school. It is hurting and shameful to us as Black people that after working tirelessly to make this day a success for the children, our own community refuses to see anything positive in this event and stereotypes a group of Black men who ride motorcycles as "drug dealers."
It is this negative thinking that allows the media to keep feeding the public with negative images of Black men. It is this same thinking that hides the fact that all the members of Duce Duce Crew hold legitimate jobs and work hard.
Several members even own their own businesses, including a family restaurant, an auto detail/car accessories shop, a barbershop, a construction business, and an art business.
Some of the members worked double shifts the night before the event and had to be to work directly after, but still made it their duty to be there for the kids.
For those of you who were unable to make it, it was truly a beautiful thing to see the time that our members spent with the children. As children dropped question after question on the crew members, not once did one of the members get impatient with the kids. In fact, the bikers were so eager to answer questions that they were competing with each other to do so.
As the children participated in the art workshop, all of the Duce Duce Crew members went around to each child to give them individual attention and positive feedback about the motorcycles that they were drawing. Some of the members even sat down and participated themselves.
In other words, not one member was at this event because they had to be, but because they wanted to be. Not one penny was made off of this day, but many dollars were spent to make it happen. All because Duce Duce Crew truly cares about giving something to the community in which most of us grew up. We sincerely care about the children because we feel, as Black people, that it is our responsibility to show our own children that there are clean and fun and safe alternatives to a life on the streets.
On behalf of Duce Duce Crew, all 14 men and 3 women, we would like to make it clear to the city of Rochester that no matter how much negative publicity we receive, we will continue our efforts in helping the children. We will not allow such false comments to negate the good of "Duce Duce Day 4 Kidz."
We challenge any parent who feels it was wrong for Duce Duce Crew to be at their children's school: Talk to any child or parent who came to the event. And we want you to know that any time Duce Duce Crew holds an event such as this, you and your children are welcome. We are confident that you will walk away with a smile on your face just as all of the participants did on March 1.
We would like to thank SWAN for allowing us to have "Duce Duce Day 4 Kidz" at the James Madison School of Excellence. We would also like to thank The Mighty Men of Valor for providing much of the refreshments. We would like to thank Hollink Motorsports and Cyclestop for donating such beautiful biker prizes for the children. We would like to thank the drill-colorguard step team "Teamwork" for their wonderful performances.
And we would like to thank all of the children who came to the event. It was a pleasure to work with such a fine, respectable, and well-behaved group of kids.
Nori Vazquez, Rochester (Vazquez is a member of Duce Duce Crew)