Letters to the Editor

Letters for July 19, 2001

Maybe she's the one who sent the economy into a tailspin:Excuse me, can we talk? I have been following the "misadventures" of Jen Karetnick, first to humor my boyfriend, then to learn more about the restaurants in the area. Recently I visited two of the restaurants that Ms. K has criticized ad nauseum, and I must say that I am insulted. I am not particularly interested in her and a friend having to spit the food into a napkin ("The Gods Must Be Crazy," June 28). Jen, who is paying you? Whatever your salary is, it's a real waste of the economy. Are you ever happy? Do you ever have a good time anywhere? Thank heavens the tabloid that employs you is free!

Adalinda "Addy" Gonzalez
Pembroke Pines

Recolonize this writer's computer!I read Amy Roe's article in the New Times about the mass white exodus from South Africa ("Generation Exodus," June 21). I go back to southern Africa twice a year on business, and as much as I love Africa, the fact remains that it is and will continue to be a basket case. The work ethic and determination of most Zimbabweans and South Africans is to the advantage of the countries they adopt! The only southern African countries that can manage to a certain degree are Namibia and Botswana. The population of each of those two nations is only 1.2 to 1.4 million; that's why they seem to be doing fairly well.

A week ago I returned from S.A., where I spent some time with a wealthy sugar cane farmer in Durban. He decided to be proactive about educating the local laborers on all his farms about the effects of AIDS and HIV. He flew down a woman from Johannesburg who was HIV positive to lecture his 5000 laborers about AIDS and how it effects us. After she completed her speech, three of his foremen approached him to tell him that they found this woman extremely attractive and would like to sleep with her. "But she is going to die; she has AIDS," he said. They replied: "We do not care, we find her attractive and want to sleep with her." That unfortunately sums up the mentality of some of the people. Most Africans live for today; tomorrow is another day. Without being racist or biased, recolonizing Africa may be Africa's only hope.

Do you realize that different tribes do not like each other? People of mixed color are not regarded as Africans, and Indians are looked down upon. Under apartheid whites were in charge; coloreds and Indians were second-class citizens and blacks third. Now that the blacks are in charge, whites are second-class citizens, and coloreds and Indians are third-class people. The rest of the world has no clue how complicated the whole situation is. Remember what happened when Idi Amin kicked 50,000 Indians out of Uganda? The whole country collapsed. The same thing is happening in South Africa; as the brains leave the country, it becomes more and more unstable!

In order to understand Africa and its people you have to live among them or have been born there.

I believe that most Americans are much more racist than most Zimbabweans and South Africans.

Patrick Pullin
via the Internet

Learning the easy way:Your article "Generation Exodus" brought back memories and also struck home with a few points that I couldn't previously put my finger on. I'm an African-American, a naturalized American citizen born and raised in South Africa. And I'm white. Fort Lauderdale has been my home for the past 23 years. I'm proud of being South African, but until some seven or eight years ago, I didn't dare advertise the fact. I was afraid that, if my neighbors knew my country of origin, my car or house would be vandalized. Once Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994, however, I proudly displayed stickers with ZA (Zuid-Afrika: the international automobile sticker for South Africa) as well as the new flag. Apart from declaring my pride of origin, I hoped it would invite other South African expatriates to make contact. So far no one has. I now realize that, as your article pointed out, ex-pat South Africans are bitterly divided by political convictions, which afflict personal relations even here in the diaspora.

I left South Africa in 1967, when departure was still considered a traitorous act by right-leaning whites. I didn't leave out of any political conviction, just because of a simple urge to see how the rest of the world looked. I returned to my country of birth on a visit after a five-year absence and was at once amazed and appalled. I was amazed that long hair on white men had become fashionable even in such a conservative country, and I was appalled at how entrenched apartheid still was, considering what I'd seen and experienced in Europe and Asia. I wasn't brought up as a racist, but as a youngster, I found it impossible to avoid being sucked into the stereotypical paradigms of the day. Every facet of life was segregated, and my only contact with black South Africans was in a master-servant relationship. For years I went with my parents and family on vacation to Nelson Mandela's homeland, the Transkei, a black enclave set amid pristine hills, forests, and beaches. It was the land of the Xhosa people.

I accepted the fact that blacks lived in a semi-Stone Age culture with thatched mud huts, naked boys tending cattle instead of attending school, and adults trudging miles and miles to the "local" trading store for food and supplies usually wearing nothing more than blankets dyed red. Women were more often than not topless, their faces covered in cosmetic white or red clay; long, beaded tobacco pipes protruded from their mouths. They were following centuries-old traditions, in conditions that would strike outsiders as being poverty-stricken. But to my young eyes, somehow it seemed simple and pure. Their personal hygiene was very different from our city-raised sensibilities, and it seemed perfectly natural to me that there should be separate toilet facilities, transportation, and places to live. "We" lived in modern suburbia; "they" lived in ghettos called "locations" and "townships" (SOWETO = SOuthWEstern TOwnships). I didn't fancy traveling in a bus or train with unwashed hordes of illiterate itinerant workers.

My epiphany came in Greece, I believe. I was traveling to the suburbs of Athens via public transportation. The bus was crowded to bursting, and I was standing next to a rather malodorous old woman dressed in widow's black who clutched a chicken under her arm. It struck me that there I was, in modern Europe, in a situation I would have dreaded in South Africa, and yet it was all perfectly normal. Every one of us had an equal right to transportation and an equal right to be exactly where we were, all together in that same bus. What right had one segment of the populace, which by the grace of God had the modern convenience of a shower or bathtub, to force the exclusion of less-fortunate people from public services and facilities?

I love South Africa, and I always vowed that someday, once apartheid was abolished, I'd return. Unfortunately the economy and crime rate don't make that feasible at this time. But who knows? Perhaps some day...

Graeme Strickland
via the Internet

Hate us tender:John Stacey's response (Letters,June 14) to the jealous ravings of Jeff Stratton, an obviously insecure novice, in the May 10 Bandwidthwas perfect. Elvis unknowingly affected us at a basic level. His image, young or old, spoke of individuality and self-expression. He has transcended death. Isn't everybody afraid of his or her own mortality? Elvis started out dirt poor and ended up the king of rock 'n' roll. The same things that made him what he was were also his undoing. He even said himself, "The image is one thing; the human being is another." Let's just say it's hard to live up to an image.

I do an Elvis tribute for a living. I know who I am, and I know there will only be one Elvis. I choose to represent the earlier stages of Elvis's career. Along with my performance, I give some historical references and my personal memories of Elvis. I was in elementary school when he died. My memories are from watching movies on TV with my mom on Saturday afternoons. Elvis looked like he was having fun. I thought he was cool. Later there were videos and books. Even after all that information, I still came back to that same simple childlike statement, "He was cool."

No one does Elvis better than Elvis, so when I do my tribute, I just try to deliver the music naturally with good vocals and have fun with the audience. That's what Elvis did best. I'm grateful to Elvis and for his effect on our culture. I'm able to have a great time performing music that I love for people all over the country. I get paid to have fun. It seems to be well received. It's been about nine years full-time. And this is the third year I have been hired by Elvis Presley Enterprises to sing at Graceland during Elvis Week in Memphis in August.

By the way, if anybody would like to see my tribute to Elvis, I perform at Brazil, Brazil in Fort Lauderdale. Or check out my Website at www.chrismacdonaldselvis.com. I would very much like the writer of Bandwidth and John Stacey to check out the show. What was the Bandwidth writer's name? I wonder if anybody will remember it in 100 years.

Chris MacDonald
Margate

But sorry:I'm in China stringing for USA Today and other U.S. publications and I saw a letter you ran February 8 ("The Truth from Chi-town") by "Malachite" claiming I was "apparently forced" to leave the Sun-Sentinel. Allow me to clear the record. I was never pushed out. My mate started medical school in Nevada in the fall of 2000, so I decided it was a good time for me to go abroad and pursue some journalism and life goals that I normally couldn't do because of his prior work and life situation. I tendered my resignation in October and agreed to stay on through election week because the paper had trained me in computer-assisted data analysis and I felt it my obligation to give them a return on that investment. I was assigned to cover voting problems and turnout because normally that story is short and uninteresting. We figured, as we planned ahead, that this assignment would leave me time to crunch precinct data later in the evening.

My editors told me they were sorry to see me go. Perhaps that changed once I published a story in Editor & Publisher describing the election mess, and I'm really sorry about that. The piece came off in a way I did not intend. It was written hastily and poorly and offended many by downplaying their contributions to the Sun-Sentinel's excellent postelection coverage. No, it was not through some brilliant journalism skill of mine that the world knows about the butterfly ballot; I had intended only to describe what it was like to be at the epicenter when it happened. It was a remarkable stroke of luck to be assigned to the routine task of covering voting problems and then see those problems change history.

I wouldn't have spoken publicly about this except that your newspaper has allowed someone to imply something about my employment history and situation that is outrageous and false.

Steve Friess
via the Internet

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