Ornament an affront
Re: "Tinsel, bulbs . . . tiny guns," Nov. 22:
On Dec, 22, 1969, I left Philadelphia to join a Marine infantry unit in Vietnam as a medic; for 37 years, my memories of treating the victims of guns and other weapons have put "an 'ironic twist' on the holidays" for me.
Nearly 400 Philadelphians have been killed by guns this year. The number of deaths in Iraq from guns is staggering. Urban Outfitter's "superglittery ornament in the shape of a handgun," their " 'ironic twist' on the holidays" is disgusting and an affront to us all. To celebrate the death and injury caused by guns is unacceptable and appalling. What's next? Landmine-shaped Christmas balls? Cluster-bomb-shaped tree lights? An AK-47 tree topper?
Masks and realities
Regarding Michael Richards' rant last Friday and his seemingly genuine mea culpa on Letterman, we should take into consideration that the apology came only after he learned that his actions were recorded. More important, the apology was offered after some deep soul searching and sober reflection.
I am sure that Richards was embarrassed by his words and actions and is indeed sorry they transpired, but one can't help being reminded of the words of Lucretius: "Look at a man in the midst of doubt and danger and you will learn in his hour of adversity what he really is. It is then that true utterances are wrung from the recesses of his heart." Some translations of that line from The Nature of the Universe include the phrase "the mask is torn off, reality remains."
Wherever public opinion settles on this issue, Richards will have to struggle with his own masks and realities for quite some time. Don't we all?
Let them serve first
Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) couldn't wait to make his mark on the upcoming Democratic majority in the House and Senate. So, he jumped right into the biggest thing going in America today: the botched war in Afghanistan and the quagmire in Iraq. I guess he figured, since George Bush outsourced the direction of the wars and our foreign policy, that he might jump in early with his own idea. He wants to bring back the draft.
As a father of a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, I am interested in how this draft is going to play out. I want to see the children and grandchildren of our representatives and senators get drafted and shipped out to show us all how to fight. When I see them performing their patriotic duty, showing off their medals or coming back in body bags, I'll know that Rangel and the new Democratic Congress really understand participatory democracy.
'Ownership' means . . .?
Re: "College faults city action on painting," Nov. 21:
Thomas Jefferson University calls Mayor Street's nomination of The Gross Clinic as an historic object "inappropriate" and "misguided." It should have added immoral and unconstitutional. The painting belongs to Jefferson. Ownership includes the right of disposal. If Jefferson wants to transfer the painting, Jefferson can do so by right - not by the permission of the Historical Commission. Yet the city commerce director says, "the mayor very specifically mentioned not interfering with [Jefferson's] property rights." Another city official, unnamed, claims that the city's proposed action "simply does not interfere with ownership." What is the city's definition of "ownership"?
One Reader's View
Don't pander to the tourism gods
Like so many other things that were once special, now the Philadelphia Marathon has fallen victim to the tourism crusade. A race that was already popular among running enthusiasts saw the addition of thousands of other runners to the already crowded pack because the city organizers thought that adding a half-marathon would help make this "a destination" event.
The result was an overcrowded and confusing course with the additional runners dumped onto the same course with the marathon runners. At the midpoint of the race, when all runners were feeling the fatigue of 13 miles, and with no warning, the course came to an abrupt "Y." A lone megaphone-wielding announcer directed marathoners to go left and half-marathoners to go right.
It was a jarring pileup that I'm sure left more than one exhausted runner having to U-turn to get on the correct course.
With the focus on attracting tourists to a "destination," apparently no one cared about making the course suitable for the large crowds. For example, mile markers were at knee level, obscured by crowds of runners.
While the race included thousands of additional runners, several areas were narrowed from the original course into unmanageable and dangerous chutes dividing runners from the full- and half-marathons.
The lesson is the usual one that civic boosters ignore: Devotees are attracted to cultural events and places because they are unique. Altering such unique things to pander to the tourism gods inevitably destroys them.
I have no desire to run the Philadelphia Marathon again, and will seek out races that are about running and not tourist "destinations."
Nicholas M. Tinari Jr.