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Letters: Mar. 1, 1999

10 minute read


The hip-hop nation described in your cover story continues to grow [MUSIC, Feb. 8]. I am inspired by Lauryn Hill’s music. When I have to get up at 5 a.m. and stand at the bus stop, I listen to her song Nothing Even Matters, and I am encouraged. A hip-hop nation is being formed by talented, beautiful and ambitious musicians. After 20 years, hip-hop still triggers artists to create on the basis of realistic truth. Hill is a part of my nation! TOMEKA HAYWARD Orangeburg, S.C.

Hip-hop may very well be the voice of the invisible, but what I hear just makes me miserable. REX BARRON Albuquerque, N.M.

It’s about time that Middle America finally acknowledge hip-hop’s impact on our society. This music and culture go beyond all the stereotypes that people hold. Hip-hop is only getting bigger. CHRISTOPHER CURRIE Detroit

Hip-hop is anti-intellectual, self-absorbed and void of inspiration. The music, which has barely moved beyond its foundations of anger, violence and misogyny, now wallows in materialism. Hip-hop needs to be more responsible. A people cannot progress so long as its icons persist in celebrating depravity. SUSAN MCWETHY Atlanta

You don’t understand what rap is all about. It’s about neither status nor history but the wish to belong. There are exceptionally talented black people who want to make sure they make it into the U.S.’s extremely nationalistic “hall of fame.” The only means accessible to them is to create their own “music,” which white people call hip-hop. RETO ZOPPI Mexico City

I suppose the times have passed me by, but I’m not convinced that America is so deeply influenced by the hip-hop culture that it can accurately be referred to as a hip-hop nation. For decades this country has been and will, I hope, always remain a bunny-hop nation. STEVE MOSLEY Cape Girardeau, Mo.

I understand why parents might believe that rap and hip-hop music could be a bad influence on today’s youth. But I would urge them to read the lyric sheets and then decide whether the music is bad. There are positive rappers out there, such as Puff Daddy and Lauryn Hill, who rhyme about family values, childhood experiences and friendships. JESSICA GIARRUSSO, 12 Canton, N.Y.

Hip-hop nation? Forgive me, dad. I now know why you hated rock ‘n’ roll. JAMES S. BOMGARDNER Columbia, Md.

Wow! Your article on hip-hop was just amazing! You hit it right on the head. I appreciate the fact that hip-hop music and its importance are being recognized. I hope your report will help the older generation understand hip-hop for the first time and accept it. Hip-hop is the music of the present and the future. LAWRENCE CHUNG, 17 Burlington, Ont.

I don’t understand how anyone can write the word hip-hop with a straight face–unless you’re writing a children’s book involving rabbits. DANIEL A. JENKINS Louisville, Ky.


In his column “Right Back At You,” Jack E. White suggested that I am closely associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which he described as a “white-supremacist group” [DIVIDING LINE, Feb. 1]. As a former U.S. Attorney who has prosecuted white supremacists and racially motivated police violence, I find this charge offensive and absolutely inaccurate.

The racial views of the C.C.C. are repugnant to me, and I would never have spoken to the group had I known beforehand of its stand. It is absurd and irresponsible for anyone to suggest that one speech–during which I discussed only the impeachment process, as I was asked to do–implies that I in any way share or support the group’s view. As the record shows, I don’t.

BOB BARR, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE 7th District, Georgia Washington


Our firm represents real estate developer E. Ossie Smith, who was referred to in your story on the attempts by North Carolina farmer Phillip J. Barker to reclaim his family’s farm [AMERICAN SCENE, Jan. 25]. You said Smith, who bought the farm at auction, had bulldozed the grave of a Barker family member. Smith had never been advised that there was a grave on the premises. In the process of clearing the land, workmen came upon a small gravesite hidden by brush and overgrowth. Upon finding the grave, Smith stopped work and began to clear and preserve the site. He intends to restore it to proper condition, fence it in and record it in public records, so the cemetery will be preserved in perpetuity. JAMES E. CROSS JR. Royster, Cross, Currin & Winfrey Oxford, N.C.


Your story “Banana Wars,” on trade agreements and restrictions [BUSINESS, Feb. 8], painted a one-sided picture of the dilemma. The dependency of Caribbean islands like St. Vincent and the Grenadines on bananas for hard currency far outweighs Chiquita’s need to maintain market share in Europe. Perhaps if Chiquita’s chairman, Carl Lindner, had not spent so much time and money lobbying Congress and the White House, his company would not have “lost money four of the past five years.” It’s been said that business is war, and wars cost money. Chiquita is at war with the eastern Caribbean, and that is why the company has lost money, not because the E.U. has subsidized poor nations. T. CARL JACKSON Ozona, Fla.

The focus of your report was very narrow, concentrating on the trade war that concerns only the 13% of worldwide banana production that is exported. The real banana war is the one that concerns the more than half a billion people in developing countries of the tropics, for whom different types of bananas are a staple food crop. In this war, people are battling the diseases and pests that are becoming more and more rampant. Average yields achieved by the small farmers who depend on this crop are one-tenth of those on the large multinational plantations. But the small farmers’ harvests don’t have to remain small. Research can successfully address production problems by developing higher-yielding varieties of banana plants that have built-in resistance to pests and diseases. EMILE FRISON, DIRECTOR International Network for Banana and Plantain Montpellier, France


The Founding Fathers never considered behavior like President Clinton’s when formulating the U.S. Constitution [NATION, Feb. 8]. Back then, people who engaged in illicit sex lied about it, and if found out, they were often thought to be possessed by the devil–a condition deemed beyond the reaches of constitutional law. Clinton’s behavior would have been dealt with by burning at the stake in the town square. Were one to apply today such a stricture from the framers’ era, there would be one big bonfire on Capitol Hill. WILLIAM JOSSE TRIEST Maldonado, Uruguay


I do not know if Raul Salinas De Gortari, brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, is guilty of the crimes he is accused of [WORLD, Feb. 1], but I find it scary to live in a country where a judge can sentence someone to prison for 50 years despite there being only circumstantial evidence. MARIA EUGENIA CANCIOLA Mexico City

Do you really think that Salinas’ conviction shows there is an actual change in the implementation of the law in our country, hunting down all those who have enriched themselves working for the government? Give me a break! What we are really witnessing is the vengeance of dinosaurs who were affected during the Salinas administration. Of course, the Salinas family members are not white doves, but this case is more like a Mafia war than an application of justice. VICTOR SANCHEZ DE LEON Puebla, Mexico


The fear of the year 2000 is again a perfect example of Americans’ ability to create hysteria [Y2K, Jan. 18]. Your article “The End of the World as We Know It?” showed how normal American families are preparing for the millennium by purchasing handguns and storing food. Of course the year 2000 has always been the perfect date for the end of the world, but now the computer bug Y2K gives an even better reason for religious leaders to scare already paranoid believers. If people are so easily frightened, it would not be such a bad thing to let those who believe in the apocalypse have their own doomsday if they want it so much. VESA VIRTANEN Helsinki


Your article about Pope John Paul II’s visit to the U.S. [RELIGION, Feb. 8] made evident a growing problem with the attitudes of Roman Catholics today. People want “convenient” religion. The Rataj couple featured in the article decided to disregard the church’s position on birth control in favor of what they thought was right. That’s quite a big decision to make! The fact is that to be a good Catholic, one must adhere to, although not necessarily agree with, the teachings of the Bishop of Rome, however inconvenient they may be. SCOTT A. LEGRAND Dubuque, Iowa

I have grown increasingly alarmed by the media’s portrayal of Catholics in this country. It was inaccurate to present Americans as unfaithful bohemians who have traded their Catholic identity for support of the Pill, capital punishment and women priests. Rest assured, there are still many of us who have the courage to accept the Holy Father’s words with humility and obedience. BRYAN HUDAK Pleasant Ridge, Mich.


Your article on the homeless in America [NATION, Feb. 8] suggested that nothing short of the return of full-tilt liberalism and its emphasis on “housing, housing, housing” will be able to solve this persistent problem.

The liberal agenda has now been recognized as misguided because it did not address the fact that a sizable segment of the homeless population suffers from numerous barriers to employment and stability: substance abuse, little or no formal education or work experience and a history of incarceration. Today there is widespread acceptance of the idea that truly assisting the homeless means helping them address these problems and preparing them for employment and self-sufficiency. GEORGE MCDONALD, PRESIDENT Doe Fund, Inc. New York City


Jack E. White’s column “The Other N Word” [DIVIDING LINE, Feb. 8] described an incident in which David Howard, a white man employed as an ombudsman by the Washington mayor, used the word niggardly in a budget discussion with a black staff member. Although intellectually defensible, Howard displayed a lack of sensitivity. How might a gay person react if, in planning a bonfire for some civic event, a straight person suggested “piling a few fagots on the fire” to get it going? Let’s not confuse intelligence with wisdom. RANDY FISCHBACK Walnut Creek, Calif.


TIME’s article on homework [EDUCATION, Jan. 25] might be describing an alarming new epidemic. Yet the reluctance of children to do homework is not new. Moreover, there is a curious silence about television, although you did describe what happened when a mother “tried” banning television for a night. Absent any evidence to the contrary, it seems clear these children are consuming an excessive ration of TV each night. Television is bad enough in itself without pre-empting time that would be better spent on homework. To the extent that there is a homework problem, it is a failure of priorities. JOHN SILBER, CHAIRMAN Massachusetts Board of Education Boston

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