Letters to the Editor

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Man of the purple

In response to your interview with Dr. Glaeser ("Men of the people," Metro Times, April 5), I am both offended and, surprisingly enough, encouraged. Offended, because an intelligent, articulate man of influence, an educator, has made a very self-righteous determination as to the negative fate of very many people who reside in the inner city in Detroit and New Orleans. I thank you for pointing out that his words are the ramblings of a man who was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth — a person who would not know the first thing about the struggle to survive and prosper. The tragedy of his philosophy is also the thing that encourages me the most. Captured in his insensitive words and thoughts might lie the truthful sentiments of those who have, who are opposed to those who have not.

As an economist; you would hope that this astute man would recognize that the economic divide in this country, which is increasing on a daily basis, has the potential to go down in history as America's greatest tragedy. Tragic, only because it does not have to be this way. I remember taking an economics and government class in high school. Although it was more than 25 years ago, my teacher's words have stuck with me; they made sense then and they still arouse my greatest thoughts to this day. The words were simple. "The richest 12 percent of the people living in this country control 87 percent of the economy." I was not a rocket scientist then and have not grown any smarter since. But, I am intelligent enough to recognize that the other 88 percent of the folks that live here are fighting over the 13 percent of the money that has not been spoken for.

It may sound simple and altruistic on my part, but for me the answer is simple. The only way we will have positive change, and not just a poverty shift, is by having a true shift in attitude and a legitimate sharing of the wealth. I am not talking about social programs, I am talking about investment in urban areas, investments that create jobs and provide functional salaries. Professor Glaeser needs to recognize and understand that many of the social ills that plague the poverty-stricken people that reside in urban areas are problems that were inherited. The cycle can only be broken through positive action. For example, a son who sees his father go to work every day is much more inclined to understand that it will be his responsibility to one day go to work and provide for his family.

The bottom line for me is that there can never be a "disposable society." We need to use the same intelligence, strength, vigor and commitment to build cities like Detroit that we do to condemn them. I enjoy it when men step up to the plate and espouse their true feelings. I think that honest and frank dialogue should be encouraged on all fronts. However, as an educator, Professor Glaeser, it is very important that we never bypass the conversation simply because we do not have the sensitivity to see the human side of the big picture. —Kenneth Williams, Detroit


The cost of the joint

I'd like to thank Jack Lessenberry for "Our $2 billion prison blues" (Metro Times, March 29). I agree that the prison population is costing Michigan way too much. However, Mr. Lessenberry left out that the majority of the prison population is nonviolent drug offenders. These people are essentially prisoners because they wanted to consume a politically incorrect substance. To make matters even worse, the overburdened prison system encourages real criminals, such as thieves, rapists and murderers, to be given plea bargains for shorter sentences. Do we really want to spend precious money locking up the man who was caught smoking a joint in his basement while letting a rapist leave prison a few years earlier? The libertarian solution of keeping peaceful people out of prison and violent criminals in makes so much sense that I wonder why Governor Granholm hasn't considered it in these trying economic times. —James Allison, Warren


Draft the daft

I caught Jack Lessenberry's column entitled "Should we bring back the draft?" (Metro Times, March 22). I say bring back the draft, but a targeted draft. (Hear me out on this one.) Instead of drafting poor whites and minorities in the inner city and rural areas of America, let's focus the draft on the rah-rah Bush-is-the-greatest-thing-since-the-invention-of-the-Sony-PlayStation crowd. Yes, I mean all of those campus conservatives and college Republicans. After all, they defend Bush, they support the war in Iraq, so why should they cheer for a war in the safety of their dorm rooms or their mothers' basements? They should be the first ones on the front line to prove George W. Bush's naysayers (like me) wrong. Who wouldn't want to dig though rusted-out scrap heaps for extra body armor? Who wouldn't want to be stuck in the middle of religious civil war? Who wouldn't want to make less than a Halliburton employee doing the same job? And who wouldn't want to come back to the United States and find out your pay and health benefits have been cut and the local VA is closed down? —John Conner, Detroit


We're sensing a theme

Having done my time, I'm always amused by the number of post-draft-age centrists who decide that maybe we ought to think about the draft after all. The typical plan discussed is a "fair" plan that has no exemptions for college or whatever, apparently under a delusion that, in this new "fair" draft, rich white kids from suburban neighborhoods will be treated just like kids from the projects and the hollers once they hit boot camp.

Dream on. The same factors that help the suburban kids avoid service entirely today will, if a draft is instituted, qualify them for advanced training and push-button rear-echelon jobs so they can avoid eating dirt and finding themselves limbless or worse. If I were ever to support a draft — and I won't — the one I would support would only draw names from college application lists. —John Gear, Lansing


A view from inside

Jack trumpets his ignorance of the military. He has absolutely no understanding of the kind of people who are working to make things better all over the world.

The main reason the people we want don't join is that there are better financial opportunities in the private sector. Also a four-year commitment bars people from potential opportunities for quite a long time. The pay is very low to enlist. We just haven't kept up with the times.

A better idea would be a two-year conscription for everyone. Then everyone could get a better understanding of those who serve our country and learn habits, skills and discipline that will help in college. However, this would probably degrade the fantastic diversity of our military and put more unqualified people in the way. —Aaron Chmielewski, Arifjan, Kuwait

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