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Letters 3/10/05

Various - March 10th, 2005
Why we despair
After reading Lisa Franseen’s recent Express article on environmental despair (3/3), I was left with the distinct sense that the only way I could honestly deal with my feelings was by immediately buying tickets to her upcoming seminar.
But as I am impecunious -- that is, I don’t have the money to purchase admission to seminars -- I was able to resist this impulse. So, I was forced to take up a most desperate alternative: thinking about what Franseen had written. This in spite of the fact that Franseen warns against thinking as a mere “distraction” from important business like attending seminars.
Reading Franseen’s experience with the disappearance of the field she used to play on as a child struck a chord with me, as I‘m sure it does with many readers. The feelings Franseen describes are quite like my feelings when I visit my old stomping grounds in New Jersey. I feel sad when I see the old corner store has closed, or that the freight rail lines where I used to play are now defunct, or that the parking lot I played stickball on is now fenced off, or that the warehouse I watched burn down as a child is now a brownfield redevelopment, or that there is no longer a junkyard. I get a tear in my eye when I see all these changes.
That lump has nothing to do with environmental degradation, though. The place I lived in New Jersey is considered by most people to be a wasteland. By any objective measure, the town I grew up in was an armpit, and today it’d be fair to say that it’s a slightly de-odorized armpit.
And in spite of the fact that many of the changes I see are actually improvements, I still get a lump in my throat. Why?
Because that old place that I knew and loved in spite of -- no, FOR -- its faults is lost to me forever. I wouldn’t care if they turned my junkyard into an institute that found the cure for cancer; I’m sad to see it gone.
These feelings do not constitute despair over the fate of the Lebanese guys who ran the corner store, or for a generation of Americans who will grow up not knowing the pleasure of hopping a freight, these feelings are about me, my sense of loss, and, ultimately, about my mortality. For I, too, will go away someday, to be missed by a few for a while and after a while forgotten about.
It’s easy when you have feelings like these to latch them onto some idea to give it a less selfish shape. You might condemn today’s youth, or question what the world is coming to, or be bitter about change or even tell yourself that what you really feel bad about is global environmental degradation.
But, if you dare to think and reflect a bit, you might see that your concerns are focused rather closer to home: what you really despair of is you. I’m not Ayn Rand: I don’t think we ought to celebrate our selfishness, but we ought to recognize it.
If you have any trouble seeing these feelings in yourself, I’ll be holding a seminar in the near future to help you rid yourself of avoidance strategies and finally come to grips with reality.

Oran Kelley • TC

Sex monitor
Out of conscience, I feel compelled to comment on the abundance of sexual content in many of the articles which appeared in your February 17-23 issue of Northern Express.
See the following examples:
• Your cover features a pornographic actress.
• Page 5: You yourself write or paraphrase a story about a paraplegic male and how much sex means to a 21 year old male... “It means everything.”
• Page 6: (...male monkeys will forgo rewards (juice) in exchange for being permitted to view pictures of female monkey bottoms (News of the Weird).”
• Page 6: “Recent Sexual Obsessions (News of the Weird).”
• Page 7: Condoms.
• Page 7: Erectile Dysfunction.
• Page 31: You present a syndicated advice column by one Amy Alkon from Santa Monica, CA. The subject matter focuses on the size of female breasts.
Why is it so important that you find it necessary to feature a good percentage of your tabloid to sexually related issues? Would not your publication be just as effective without being laced with so much sexual content?

Michael W. Koskus • Petoskey

Hits the spot
I’ve praised you before, but I feel the need to praise you again.
Many of you know that we (my British wife and I) spend three months here, three months in her house in Southampton, England. When we get back here, I almost immediately pick up my free copy of Northern Express.
If I want to read about what is going on in our town, I tune in to the pages of this newspaper, not the bigger, very expensive, advertisement-filled other paper. In the recent (Feb. 24) Northern Express you once again wrote articles about people we know -- or want to get to know.
Sarah Jane Bye (“A Life With the Amish“). I began reading the article because I know a Bye, and I thought this might be his daughter. I read on, fascinated, and I decided I must visit this store -- and before I finished the article I found out this is the wife of the Steve Bye I know. I recently interacted with her on the dance floor at a Bayside Traveler’s dance, and we’ve urged Steve and her to come visit us in England. Now that we know a little more about his new wife, we are even more eager to have them visit.
And then there is Margaret Dodd and the State Hospital (“A Cottage Fit for a Mayor“)! For many, many years I (and many, many others) fought hard to save Building 50 and the surrounding buildings. Now not only has most of the complex been saved, someone we know is going to be the first resident in the renovated cottages.
We met Margaret Dodd long ago -- she (a Scot) and my wife (a Brit) bonded immediately: two “foreigners” in this brash new country, the U.S. of A. We were with her when she made her successful bid for mayor of T.C.
And now we read about her, and the State hospital grounds, and Sarah Jane Bye, and all in our local, free, up to date, community paper.
I’ve quoted the recently deceased Arthur Miller’s words over and over, because his words are well worth quoting: “A good newspaper is a nation [read city] talking to itself.”
The Northern Express is Northern Michigan citizens talking to each other. Long may you live and thrive in our midst.

Henry Morgenstein
• TC & Southampton, UK

Simple arithmetic
This partisan whining and sniping over the Social Security issue has gone past annoying to the nauseating. Let’s sit down and do an exercise in demographics and simple arithmetic. There are fewer workers paying into Social Security today than 40 years ago.
This number will continue to go down as the number of retiring baby-boomers goes up. Simple. Now, as the number of dollars in goes down, and the number of dollars out goes up, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the result. There has to be a point where the two lines on the graph cross.
Trouble is, nobody is addressing the real problem with the system which is Congress and the Senate. For too many years, the Social Security program has been pilfered for spending programs. For those who choose to be informed, the money Social Security gets from our paychecks doesn’t always stay in Social Security. Some money goes out to pay benefits, the rest goes into the Treasury which gives Social Security T-bonds.
So, this money is spent. It’s gone. The only way to get it back is to either have a government surplus or raise our taxes. So, when we reach the point that outgo exceeds income, the money that should be there isn’t!
This situation has been going on for decades. So, anyone who wants to whine about Bush would do well to remember that for 50 of the last 60 years the Democrats were in control of the House and Senate, so they and the Republicans are equally guilty.
Let’s all drop the partisan whining and all band together and demand that our representatives in Washington have to pay FICA too. My bet is that it would get fixed like yesterday. The solution? Remove the FICA cap. Institute a flat tax. No loopholes, no exceptions except the poor. Demand legislation that makes it illegal for Social Security money to be used for anything else. When government officials are stuck with the same programs we are, who wants to bet the bull will stop and an honest evaluation will begin?

Lee Oslund • Mackinaw City

“Today’s White House press corps is less likely to be invaded by maverick talents like a drug-addled reporter from a renegade start-up magazine (Hunter S. Thompson) than by a paid propagandist like Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter for a fake news organization (Talon News) run by a bona fide Texas Republican operative who was a delegate to the 2000 Bush convention.”

-- TV critic Frank Rich, New York Times

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