Letters to the Editor

Week of Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I doubt that the New Times board of directors has had time to finalize its Iraq policy yet, but I will certainly let Mr. Brugmann know the minute the company releases it. Come to think of it, I have yet to receive the official corporate stance on Afghanistan and Bosnia. How will I put out the "Muslim World" special issue ...?

But (as the comics say) seriously, folks: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a complex matter that deserves real thought, rather than knee-jerk lefty rhetoric and cynical marketing campaigns disguised as "progressive" journalism. I have written of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq, but the invasion is a fait accompli and no longer the point. The point, now, is what to do, given that (using Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy) we've broken Iraq and therefore own it, along with all the longings and hatreds of its inhabitants.

I suppose there is an argument for just getting out, and letting the Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis, and other armed factions roaming Iraq kill one another in an extended civil war, the end result of which is very likely to be the kind of failed state (or states) that harbors the kinds of terrorists who greatly desire to inflict massive American causalities -- in American cities such as San Francisco. But I don't think it's a reasonable argument. It seems to me that a reasonable resolution of the current situation requires, yes, an increasing internationalization of the effort to bring something approaching democratic self-rule to Iraq, and also a commitment of significant numbers of American troops for significant amounts of time. I know that reaching a reasonable resolution to this debacle requires the election of John Kerry as president, because George Bush has so angered key allies that a true internationalization of the Iraq situation simply cannot happen with him at the helm.

As many different polls suggest, outside the liberal bubbles enclosing Cambridge, Berkeley, and San Francisco, John Kerry is not going to be elected on a "just get out" platform, and he therefore absolutely will not run a "just get out" campaign. And if "just get out" voters insist on ideological purity and stay home or go for Ralph Nader, we're going to have four more years of President Bush. So I will be watching attentively to see whether the San Francisco "peace" movement backs Kerry or finds him insufficiently cut-and-run to garner its members' pure-as-snow votes. I won't have to watch attentively to know what Mr. Brugmann will do. He will continue to fill cyberspace and burn up fax machines nationwide, decrying the great New Times conspiracy that is denying him his God-given right as a San Franciscan to run SF Weeklyas he sees fit.

Sometimes, we get letters that try to tell us what to do, but are wonderful, nonetheless. Here's one:

Postmodern musings:On the one hand, I entirely agree with [Garrett Kamps'] juxtaposition of Avril Lavigne and Tracy + the Plastics ["666, Dude," OK Then, April 21]. Avril equals brainwashing, hegemonic capitalism; Tracy equals self-creating, self-reflective transgression.

On the other hand, I see both Avril and Tracy on the same plane. Avril's distortion and (what some might term) usurpation of notions of rebellion, revolution, individuality (blah blah blah) amounts to nothing but moneymaking gimmicks. But, hey, these mall rats and these expired 40-year-olds are digging it, or so it seems, and so: So what? Then there's Tracy, who I see as using the music medium to express sentiments about something entirely separate from music -- not that music can be separated from culture or ... dum dum dum ... "the human condition." Whether or not this is possible, musicians should at least attempt to make music for the sake of music. OK, whatever the hell that means. But, it's just annoying as hell to watch these art school kids comment on the postmodern fragmented blah blah blah onstage. We paid to get into the show, goddamn it.

To answer your rhetorical question of "I don't know of any other musicians expressing that [ruling class] point as effectively and originally as Greenwood": Check out Chicks on Speed. Not from the U.S., but Olympia is the home of their U.S. record label (they do have one). Not to one-up Tracy, but Chicks on Speed didn't even have the patience to finish art school and dropped out instead. Last weekend, I attended one of the two shows they performed in SoHo/NYC consisting of full multimedia commentary on um well how much capitalism sucks (sewing machines, discombobulated visuals, and agitprop galore). And both shows were free.

Tram Nguyen

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