Letters to the Editor

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Sharon McPhail responds

Re: “Name game, Detroit style” (Metro Times, April 6), to say the least, I am surprised, maybe even shocked. You never tried to reach me and yet, in the article, you mention me prominently, as if I have something to do with calling Freman by his first name, Helmut. You seem to think that using his first name is “racist.” I expect more from the Metro Times. I have come to see it as a real alternative to the electioneering done by the dailies under the guise of journalism. You can always tell whom the local papers support: Everyone else gets negative articles and accusations.

You did not call me: Had you done so, I would have told you that I did not even know that Freman’s name was Helmut until this election cycle. I do not know why you think it is a mark of some kind of racial identification to be named Helmut. My mother named me “Mae,” my middle name, and, though I would not have chosen it, I cannot imagine anyone maligning her choice of my name. Freman’s name is entitled to the same level of respect. I do not “direct” my supporters to call anyone out of his name, even the name he prefers to use.

You say, “There are some who would like to make the upcoming election a referendum on who’s the ‘blackest’ candidate.” As a popular song says, you might consider “looking at the man in the mirror.” All of the “contenders” are African-American. It is the press that is injecting “race” into this election, and shame on all of you. Shame on you for not asking the hard questions like, “How does a guy who worked in the assessor’s office and spent his career in public service own a golf dome, a half-million dollar home in Detroit and a million-dollar condo in Florida?” and “Where is the investigation of the pay-to-play administration of the current mayor?” We rely on Metro Times for hard-hitting journalism.

I am disappointed. You are better than this. —Sharon McPhail, Councilmember, Detroit

Before publication of “Name Game, Detroit Style,” News Hits placed calls to both Sharon McPhail and her campaign’s media contact, Steve Serkaian, seeking comment. As noted in the original article, neither responded.


Left must be relevant

Mr. Lessenberry, I was glad to see that you’d written about Tom Hayden (“Tom Hayden: Fighting to end a second war,” Metro Times, April 13). I went to go hear him speak last Saturday, partly to observe the various idiosyncrasies of the liberal community in southeastern Michigan. (How can there possibly be so many communists left? They kept trying to sell me copies of The Revolutionary Worker, which seems a little bourgeois.) I couldn’t help but notice that Tom Hayden continues to mobilize the youth, meaning people who were young back in the day. In terms of people who are young now, not so much, judging by the very few students at the teach-in.

I don’t know if the identity crisis of the left is some delusion of mine (or if it’s just a continuous, inevitable thing that I should learn to live with) but at such gatherings of progressives, everyone is under the impression that they’re in another decade. Even after the Weathermen turned themselves in and counterculture ceased to exist and Phil Ochs died and Jane Fonda married Ted Turner, it seems like the general mood is that the ’60s are still around and, if we’re good, the revolution will be here soon. And then some of the really old people think it’s still the ’30s or ’40s — hence, most problems can be solved by singing union songs and engaging in subversive Marxist discourse. Another example of how dazzlingly realistic we are: There was also some discussion of bringing back the draft as a means of arousing public anti-war sentiment. (This is clearly a great idea, especially since it worked so well in Vietnam, give or take 58,000.)

Nevertheless, I think that the panel speakers were very effective at placing issues in a modern context, as was Tom. (The woman behind me was upset that he’d spent time talking about NAFTA and not about SDS. Never mind which was more relevant.) I’m not really sure what impression I emerged with, except that it was a teach-in and I feel more educated than before. You might say illuminated — which Tom Hayden did, frequently. (“War is a time of illumination of underlying problems,” or “Iraq has offered us a long period of illumination.”)

Perhaps the lesson of all this is that when activists worry too much about what activism is, they forget to act.

By the way, thanks. Tom Hayden says, “independent media are the most important tools for education.” He also noted that there is now a Pentagon channel if one feels that Fox is too unbalanced (or, perhaps, too liberal). —Molly Shannon, Southfield, [email protected]


Mystical insights

In the last paragraph of your excellent article, “Why the next pope matters” (Metro Times, April 6), you ask a profound question; “How humanity rises beyond this without destroying itself isn’t clear …”

The answer is sprinkled in bits and pieces throughout the rest of the essay. It’s my sincere hope that the rigid constraints of atheism do not prevent readers from seeing the answer for themselves. —Alex Vojnovski, Auburn Hills


And hard-nosed realism

Your article about the pope and the good things he has done made me pause. Certainly the good is there. However, the evil is there in the policies of the Catholic Church in the United States. They spent millions on campaigns about abortion and gay marriage that really elected George Bush. We have war, pollution policies, health care policies and gun policies that kill because of George Bush. They push abortion laws that do not address the issue of a woman’s life and health. They marginalize women and gays.

The pope has had extreme power over the ages. The church continues to use it to perpetuate its power and uses it only in limited ways for good of humanity. —Barbara Jackson, Troy


Johnny: On the spot

Re: “Up in the sky: Super Cochran” (Metro Times, April 6), I thought it was a fitting tribute to Johnnie Cochran. I don’t know if I agree with all of your conclusions about the O.J. case, as I think Judge Ito’s conduct of the trial had a bit to do with the acquittal of O.J. Nonetheless, I think you made some keen observations about racism and the white-black divide that still exists in America. And you did so with a certain candor that today’s politically correct environment barely allows.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the article. I’m a lawyer so I can really appreciate Johnnie Cochran’s accomplishments. —Paul Youngs, Brownstown, [email protected]


Take it to the bank

Thanks to Nancy Kaffer for drawing attention to the opportunities created by the state land bank legislation the Michigan Legislature passed last session (“Blight busters,” Metro Times, April 13). Not only does the land bank have enormous potential for addressing vacant and abandoned property, as chronicled in Kaffer’s article, but it has tremendous promise to expand the supply of desperately needed affordable housing. Detroit is the home of hundreds of thousands of low-income people in chronic need of affordable housing who pay more than half of their income in housing costs. Nonprofit affordable housing developers and advocates around the country have universally embraced land banks as a tool to insure that affordable housing developments are given priority, preference and nominal land costs. Let’s hope that local politics don’t destroy this important tool or block its utilization and that any land bank formed out of the new legislation gives affordable housing the prominent role it deserves. —Steve Tobocman, state Representative, 12th District, Detroit


The odds on Mitch

Re: “Mitch slaps” (Metro Times, April 13), the reason for not firing Mitch Albom is simple; with the exception of his name not being part of the rag’s title, he for all intents and purposes owns the Free Press.

Consider what he gets away with, all his perks:

• An independent reviewer doesn’t like his latest book, no problem — Mitch gets the review quashed. (It’d be nice to get some of my negative reviews squashed, I’d own my own corporation by now.)

• He doesn’t see the former Spartans at a game, no prob — just make it up. He knows there won’t be repercussions; after all, he’s the almighty Mitch Albom, single-handed savior, deity and cash cow of a major Detroit periodical.

I don’t know, maybe the Free Press enjoys watching their reputation for fairness and journalistic scrutiny getting flushed down the toidy.

That Mitch won’t be fired is a certainty. That he won’t even be reprimanded is almost as assured. —Jonathon Kecskes, St. Clair Shores, [email protected]

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