Blowing Up the Apple

Week of July 23, 2003

Bombing Byron: I generally don't read the RFT unless I'm in a restaurant waiting for a table to open up and I've already looked over the menu a couple of times. However, I did happen to catch a blurb called "Death from Above" by some guy named Byron Kerman [ Urban Experience, July 2]. It was funny. It made me laugh. Does this guy actually draw a check? I guess if you can't dis an air show over the Fourth of July while injecting a "liberal" dose of self-important sanctimoniousness, then it's just no fun being a left-wing writer for a left-wing shopper.

Kerman writes that cities have recently been clogged by the bodies of war dead, so how dare we sit back and enjoy an air show? (Clogged? Sigh. The self-appointed social conscience begins by piling it high and deep.) Or that military aircraft on parade are just visual reminders that "human order is maintained by threat and punishment and death." Gee, Byron. Maybe in your world, but not mine. I'd like to think that order is maintained by ideas found in Locke's social contract, or possibly even in the Golden Rule. Your comment about keeping people in line does, however, smack of the Ba'ath Party playbook, so you might want to scrape that dogshit you've stepped in off of your shoe now.

Tell you what, chief. Next time, you just print the times and schedules for the air shows and leave the morality trips to the better qualified. I realize that it's every liberal writer's dream to get noticed by the Village Voice, or (ack!) Mother Jones, but next time just send them a résumé and don't worry so much about manufacturing drivel for your tear-sheet collection. But then again, I guess when you're just the calendar editor, you have to try that much harder.
Dan Zoernig

Anarchists Again
It's a racial thing: The sort of condemnation Randall Roberts writes about in "Meet the Anarchists" [June 25] happens all the time. The motivation is just as political as the one involving Bolozone. Throw in a handful of racism, and you have "Project 87," a special partnership between the St. Louis building division and the police department. Most of the condemnations happen to African-Americans living in less-than-trendy neighborhoods. The usual scenario is: The occupants of a housing unit -- say, one unit in a four-family flat -- are suspected of drug activity. The police arrive with Mr. McEnulty and a board-up crew in tow. Mr. McEnulty enters under threat of intimidation or force of arms and finds enough violations to condemn sometimes the entire structure, not just the unit occupied by the suspected offenders. Now the occupants of the other units are homeless as well. They may have no association with the suspects and may even be the ones calling the police in the first place. No evidence need be found; no one need be arrested. The building is the offender. People are not allowed to live in a building condemned for occupancy.

I will admit that these condemnations have made my neighborhood quieter and safer, usually only temporarily. Even though my household has benefited by such condemnations, I have always felt uneasy with the process -- or rather, the lack of due process. My neighbors and I have been at our wits' end. We have witnessed extreme antisocial behavior, including assaults, robbery and shootings. Some of my neighbors view a boarded building as a victory. All I see is a failure of government, business and the economy. Making people homeless cannot repair these failures. The situation only gets worse. African-Americans are usually the victims in these condemnations. This smells of racism. There has been little attention to this in the press. This lack of attention reeks of racism. When the same thing happens to a few young European-Americans, the press is in an uproar. This uproar smacks of racism. Those arrested in the Bolozone case spent some time in jail and most probably had places to stay upon their release. Being a part of a collective means having support system. The truly poor and disenfranchised have no such system.

I do not wish to diminish the Bolozone victims, only to point out that their case is in no way a special one. These condemnations happen nearly every day, and almost always because someone perceives that there is some kind of threat either to public safety or, in this case, corporate freedom. These condemnations are a political football. The good people demand them, the politicians make them possible and the victims suffer in silence.
Mark Davis
St. Louis

To know them is to love them: Despite 26 years in the military, seven of those in command, I've somehow found myself associating with several of the folks Randall Roberts wrote about in "Meet the Anarchists." I've found these young people to be anything but the evil and aimless waste I'd had pictured in my head. I'm finding that I have been wrong about many commonly known "facts" -- the kind that "everyone" knows to be true and that you must avoid experiencing at any cost. I still find myself bewildered by the dissonance between what I so deeply believed and what my own direct experience is now showing me. I've come to the point where I no longer feel the need to either fear or repress what they are doing or what they represent.

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