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Reader feedback - 12-06-06 

The mail


In "Bridging the Racial Divide," City Councilman Dana Miller speculates that the reason businesses are reluctant to set up shop in the 19th Ward is racism.

Could be. Or --- who knows? --- maybe it's the random crackle of gunfire in the streets; deadly drive-bys; street-corner muggings, sometimes in broad daylight; potential merchants scared stiff; potential customers scared stiff; storefront stickups; drug deals going down; the occasional murder. Stuff like that.

That same paragraph alludes, in an impressively bland phrase, to the "rugged urbanism" of parts of the Ward and notes that "violent crime and drug activity have blighted the neighborhood's main commercial arteries." Perhaps Councilman Miller would agree that this "rugged urbanism" is hardly a welcoming prospect to the Mom-and-Pops and Macys and Penneys of our land.

But not to worry.Rochester has done what Rochester always does when this or that evil begins to threaten records: we've launched a Task Force! So God's in his heaven and all's right in Rochester.

Seriously, though. There's no quick solution to the current problem, which is certainly not just a 19th Ward problem and even more certainly not primarily a law-enforcement problem.

But here's a whisper in the councilman's ear: There is a long-term solution. It's parents, sir. Good, strong, caring, available parents.

Peter Dzwonkoski, Westmoreland Drive, Rochester


ItaloSavella (The Mail, November 22) is concerned that the "war on terror" has never been properly presented as a "war on fanatical Islamo-fascists" and an expression of "the moral righteousness of our country as a fundamental force for good." Unwittingly, he touches on the root of this and many other conflicts.

It is comforting to think in terms of "good" and "evil" when confronted with the unceasing acts of cruelty and violence that pervade our world, especially when so many of them seem senseless. When an enemy kills, we react with outrage based on some "moral authority." That same moral authority salves our conscience when we kill in turn.

President Bush has written off entire nations as members of an "axis of evil" which the forces of good must bring down. It is this very notion of duality that is the basis of our troubles. Once we are able to view a fellow human as evil, some sort of nefarious creature with whom we cannot identify, we are able to take that human's life without the revulsion that such an act would naturally elicit.

Do we really believe that there are entire countries full of "good" and "evil" people? Do we really believe that terrorists "hate freedom," as President Bush has repeatedly asserted? Or could there be something more to the picture?

One person is killed out of self-defense, another killed out of revenge, yet another killed to protect the lives of others, still another killed out of prejudice and blind hatred. In each case someone is killed: the act is defined in our minds by the motive behind it. Perhaps if we could get over our emotional, moralistic conceptions we could dig a bit deeper and address the underlying causes of conflict.

The "us versus them" mentality is a huge source of trouble. Only when we are able to accept that our fellow human beings want the same things from life that we do will we be able to engage in the kind of meaningful dialogue that diffuses conflict rather than foments it.

Solomon Blaylock, Argyle Street, Rochester


"A war on fanatical Islamo-facists....would have required a confident and serene certainty in the moral righteousness of our country as a fundamental force for good" ("Notes from a Somber Conservative," The Mail, November 22).

I was on board with the well-written letter by ItaloSavella for a little more than a paragraph. Then the wild but not unusual distortion of the meaning of "liberal" and "conservative" got underway. Maybe we just need to drop the terms altogether, so we can reacquaint ourselves with having conversations instead of food fights.

I respect conservative values that favor fiscal responsibility, caution about entering into wars, and actually conserving the Constitution instead of trashing it. In this, neither Mr. Savella nor the Bush administration seems to be remotely conservative.

Mr. Savella refers to "extremists like Pelosi and Kennedy." The extremists here would be people like me who hate this miserable mess of a war in Iraq. We "vapid, effete, hate Americafirsters" worry a lot about the likelihood that Pelosi will play the usual losing game of Democratic politics. We worry that she will find some meaningless, "value free" middle ground that has drifted well starboard of what was once perceived as fringy right.

While starkly absent in recent times, there do indeed exist many examples of the US acting as a force for good. But look at the record of recent US misadventures in Indochina, Africa, Latin America (and less recently in the Philippines and Cuba), where we have too often ground both elected and unelected governments and their people underfoot. These inconvenient realities can never support serene certainty. No wonder so many are so effete.

Michael D. Connelly, Cypress Street, Rochester


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