Letters to the Editor - Free to do November 06 2003

It is with no little disappointment that I read your coverage of Rachel Boim’s expulsion over her fictional dream sequence about a set of school shootings (News & Views, Scalawag and Flanking Action, “The terror of a teenager’s diary,” Oct. 30).

Let me be clear: Bob Barr and Scott Henry were correct in their characterization of the teacher and administrators involved in this incident as stupid. They also maligned her, invaded her privacy and, in all probability, subjected the school district to potential civil damages for a form of false arrest.

But none of the above is nearly as important as the school district’s UNCONSTITUTIONAL effort to suppress free, private expression (aka thought). The Constitution does not give Rachel Boim the “right to free speech.” She has that right because it forbids all legislatures (through the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment) to pass any law (“no law”) that would empower the agents of the state to abridge her speech or her writing.

This does not give her the right to speak anywhere she wants, or to demand that her work be published wherever she chooses. But it does give her the unfettered right to be free from any “state” interference as to what she writes in a medium that she owns and controls (her journal). She was expelled because of what her teacher read in her journal (the content). Not time. Not place. Not manner. CONTENT!

Permit me to quote Justice Fortas from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the controlling decision on issues concerning the content of student expression: “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students ... [In] our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression.”

It is unfortunate that neither a former federal prosecutor nor any representatives of the press — including the AJC — has thought to raise Tinker in this context. May I suggest that the correct response to any government’s efforts to suppress thought should be zero tolerance.

Oh, by the way, perhaps Barr should raise the issue of armed “resource officers” at the next meeting of the NRA. He might remind the Georgia Legislature that the Second Amendment has never been incorporated into the 14th. Oh, silly me.

-- Stan Risdon, Atlanta

br>?Not reaction, but inaction
The single biggest fraud perpetrated on the public in regard to the Roswell High student who was expelled over her diary, is that there is a “zero tolerance” policy. Think about it. If there really were a “zero tolerance” policy, would each of the major metro school systems have literally tens of thousands of discipline referrals each year? Of course not. Georgia’s students may be dead last in SAT scores, but they’ve obviously mastered the physics of discipline policies in the public schools: For every disruptive “action,” there is an equal and spineless “inaction” when it comes to consequences.

Thus, we get treated to periodic spectacles (Remember the Tweety Bird chain?) from feeble-minded educrats desperate to create the facade of “everything’s under control.” If Gov. Perdue really wants to restore “hope” to Georgia’s schools, he needs to make support for discipline his No. 1 priority. I hate to put it all on him, but obviously, too many Georgia school officials are taking advantage of the “free lobotomy with purchase of lottery ticket” promotion.

-- Andrew Manning, Decatur

br>?Into the light
I just read “The boys from Kennebunkport” (Fishwrapper, Oct. 30) and “The Nazis in Dubya’s closet” (Fishwrapper, Oct. 2). I have to say it explains a lot. Throughout 9-11 and the war, I’ve wondered why our beloved president has turned this country into a police state. Now I know. I don’t voice my opinion on the war because everyone around me doesn’t see what I do in regard to this war being about money and oil. It has nothing to do with weapons; it’s all about control.

I just want to say thank you for shining the light on something so important to our country.

-- Chaka Leavell, Riverdale

br>?Fight the fight
John Sugg: I am amazed every time I read one of your editorials to see that you are one of the few people out there telling us the truth about what’s happening to the rights of citizens in this country — and still, nobody listens to you (News & Views, Fishwrapper). How can Americans be so naive or so blind as to not see what the Bush regime is trying to do to this country? We’ve weathered Nixon, Reagan, Bush the First, and now this one. How much more can we stand before we do something about it?

I grew up in the ’60s, and we had a saying back then that needs to be applied now: “Power to the people!” This Bush doesn’t even try to camouflage his rape of freedom. My God, just look at the fiasco that was his election. Can anything have been more blatant than to have the “deciding majority vote” come from the state his brother holds sway over? And even that was so blatantly mismanaged they couldn’t even come up with the actual votes. They had to “lose” some.

My hat is off to you as a voice I fear is crying in the wilderness; a void formed by our own apathy. But if something is not done soon, tomorrow’s adults will be truly living in an Orwellian world. If today’s young people can galvanize themselves into a generation of fighters for their rights, there is another generation, who has fought before, waiting to join them. The enemy is overwhelmingly powerful, I know. But we have let him get that way. And it is up to us to take our country back from him and the money-laden corporate sycophants who support and supply him.

Keep fighting your fight with words. Knowledge is the key to fighting dictatorship.

-- William Szymanski, Clarkston

?Obsessed with sex
Although I had to laugh at the almost-shameless journalistic version of product placement in your article on Atlanta’s porno businesses (News & Views, “Porn wars,” Oct. 23), their proliferation within the city’s MSA is indeed a subject worthy of analysis.

However, the battle between politicians and the porno purveyors seems less interesting than the real reason for that battle: the fact that thousands of Atlantans patronize these places. A more interesting angle, and perhaps one you may pursue in another article, would be to examine just why there is such a huge market for porno (strip clubs, sex toys and lubricants, adult movies, swingers clubs, etc.) in Atlanta.

If one were to judge from the advertising and articles in CL — let alone a drive around town — he would have to conclude that this city has an obsession with all things sexual. That includes the concomitant obsession with perfecting the body, illustrated by the disproportionate number of plastic surgery businesses here. I know this is not an Atlanta-only phenomenon, but here it seems acute.

Just who are these people driving this large part of Atlanta’s economy? Where do they come from? How many are men and how many are women? Black or white? Gay or straight? Married or single?

The reality of the porno demographic is surely more complex than those simple categories suggest. But in trying to answer those questions, a more enlightening picture of Atlanta’s sexual obsession would be revealed.

-- Brian Coffey, Decatur

br>?Nuke fluke
I’d like to commend CL and Andisheh Nouraee for pointing out the Middle East “elephant in the living room,” Israel’s nuclear weapons program (Don’t Panic, Oct. 23). Bush and his neo-cons go on about nearly every other country in the Middle East. But by far the most regionally destabilizing influence is Israel and its trigger-happy prime minister. An obvious destabilizing factor is its oppressive and violent rule over the Palestinians. But rarely mentioned is its history of threats and first strikes, its advanced military, and its unmonitored nuclear program. Is it any wonder that other countries in the region would want to develop nuclear deterrents?

--Leah Lunsford, Atlanta

br>?Hold me
I have nothing against NPR, but if the “radioactivists” get their way, other newcomers (shocked and dismayed that Atlanta is not a carbon copy of the cities they fled) will complain of Atlanta’s backwardness in not having enough classical music on the radio (Fishwrapper, “Bach off, you NPR scum,” Oct. 23).

As usual, Sugg can’t go more than a few sentences without gratuitous insults and name-calling. (Does he suffer from some bizarre form of Tourette Syndrome whenever he sits down at the keyboard?) Calling composers “dead European white guys” implies that their audience is racist and sexist. While this may have been partly true in the past, now female and minority classical composers are gaining acceptance. Who besides WABE will air their work?

Listeners who can’t attend performances of classical music can hear it on WABE. Reducing the station’s classical programming will eventually result in complaints about how “elitist” and (literally) inaccessible classical music is. WABE is damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In the ’70s, Atlanta had three stations playing classical music. Two of them changed their formats long ago. So it’s no surprise that, after being dumped twice, classical music fans should cling desperately to WABE.

Incidentally, what the hell is “hip ... edgy news” — besides an oxymoron, I mean?

-- Adrian Fillion, Atlanta