Letters for January 24, 2002

Christians have rights too: With all due respect, I will never understand the modern liberal mind that is so offended by God and religion and devotes so much time and energy to its crusade of opposing any free expression of faith but then at the same time celebrates with such excitement a piece of art like Clash of the Holidays ("Ax, Lies, & Audiotape," Chuck Strouse, January 17). It is the liberals who created the ridiculous PC movement, the liberals who want to control speech, and the liberals who demand the suppression of Christian free expression, all because they fear one person may be offended. Liberals are so worried about being offended by a point of view they don't agree with, but they take incredible liberty when it comes to offending others. Being offensive has come into vogue among many liberals; it is the cool thing to do, but Lord help the person that offends a liberal!

I agree that censorship is wrong, but liberals clearly do not. A case in point is many public schools, where kids are prohibited from wearing a cross and are not allowed to say the name "Jesus." Students have been suspended for having a Bible in their possession, for wearing a T-shirt with a biblical verse on it, and even for wearing green and red at Christmastime! There is a public school district I read about that has censored the word Christmas from all literature, even the calendar. How can anyone who values freedom support this, especially when the name of Allah, Buddha, and Satan are so acceptable in that same school?

If Mr. Schorr feels he is entitled to offend Christians and devotes his career to doing just that, he has no business being offended by someone else.

Scott Hilbert, MS, CSCS
Director, Student Wellness Center
Florida Atlantic University, Davie

Protecting culture: I feel the need to clarify some of the issues raised in Mr. Strouse's column January 17, 2002. The work by Todd Schorr Clash of the Holidays was moved into a gallery by itself. It was moved prior to the controversy. The gallery in which it was originally placed was full of pencil drawings, and, as Clash is a full-color print, we decided it did not belong in the gallery with the drawings. On January 7, 2002, during the executive board's regularly scheduled meeting, I brought the subsequent controversy up to the board's attention. As a compromise, it was suggested that we move the work of art in question. I indicated to the board that it had already been moved to a separate gallery. The way in which I communicated this to Commissioner Cathleen Anderson was misleading, and I apologized for that.

Past that point, Mr. Strouse has not quoted or paraphrased me correctly. Mr. Strouse came to see me on Friday, the day after the Sun-Sentinel article was printed. I had not yet seen the article, and I had someone bring it to my office while I was meeting with Mr. Strouse. After reading it, I admitted that the information was incorrect because the work had been moved, but not as a result of the controversy, as was stated in the Sun-Sentinel article. I did not say, "But is it our place to point that out?" What I did do was ask Mr. Strouse whose responsibility it was to make sure the information in print was correct. I told Mr. Strouse that I thought the Sun-Sentinel reporter should have spoken to me before moving forward and printing the article. Mr. Strouse agreed with me.

Furthermore, I never declined to comment to Mr. Strouse. In fact, we had a meeting for about 45 minutes (in which I do not recall seeing him take any notes). Toward the end of that meeting, I indicated that I would be calling the Sun-Sentinel right after our meeting to correct the situation. Mr. Strouse asked me not to divulge to the Sun-Sentinel reporter that he was covering this story so that he would not be preempted. I did call the Sun-Sentinel that day, but the reporter was not there, and I left a message. On Tuesday, I spoke with the Sun-Sentinel reporter and Commissioner Anderson and clarified the situation.

The result of my statements continues to remain the same. Clash of the Holidays is in a separate gallery. In an effort to be sensitive to the community's continuing concerns, we have posted a sign outside the gallery notifying visitors of its presence and that its subject matter may not be suitable for children.

Cynthia Miller
Director, Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

Chuck Strouse replies: The 12 pages of notes that I took -- in red pen -- during my interview with Ms. Miller bear witness to how closely I listened to her. The quotes are all verbatim.  

These guys got dignity: Let me help Jeff Stratton with the bathroom-attendant deal (Bandwidth, January 10). Bars and restaurants hire attendants for two reasons only: to keep the bathroom clean and to deter customers from trashing it. A pretty lowly gig in anyone's estimation, and more worthwhile to the attendant in question if he or she can make some tips by proffering a towel, a breath mint, or whatever.

For an immigrant from Haiti (as is the case with most bathroom attendants, floor moppers, and bottle washers in South Florida), it's not a bad gig. If they assume the pose of attentive valet, whisking lint off your jacket, etc., it may in a way lend dignity to the job. They're not just standing guard in a pisser; they're providing a personal service to gentlemen!

It may seem "classist, racist, and elitist," but given the actual circumstances explained above, it is hardly that. Indeed, mature black American males are on their knees in every major airport and office building across the land shining shoes! Consider the fact that there is no such term as "shoeshine man." I can't think of a more demeaning anachronism than "shoeshine boy." But they aren't complaining. Hell, they even got a union!

As for club-goers who blow more on a drink tab in a night than washroom attendants make in a week, stiffing the poor guy on a measly tip seems a supreme lack of class. Also, if having someone hover over ya with a towel while you're holding yer willy at least guilts you into washing your hands afterward, I think good hygiene is well-served and the world is a much cleaner, healthier place!

Up with the hard-working bathroom attendants of Earth! Down with classist elites too miserly even to tip them!

John Stacey
via the Internet

Norman may be liberally myopic, but...: "Crash Landing," Bob Norman's December 27 cover story, was much too long, quite biased against Delta Airlines, dishonest, poorly thought out, and completely missed the point. It ignored and distorted facts while clinging to the antibusiness agenda of the bleeding-heart liberals.

I am not an employee of Delta Airlines, I am not an attorney, and I have no personal interest in the case. I read about cases such as Janie Axelrad's every so often. The same model is always present: an appealing "victim" and a large corporate target. Lawyers dream of this situation, particularly when the victim is not prosperous or well-educated. The contingency fee will hopefully provide early and luxurious retirement; at worst, such cases provide excellent advertisement. In most cases, the lawyer fills the victim with visions of a large settlement for damages real or imagined, such as diminished quality of life. The judicial system frequently mishandles these cases. The media is frequently dishonest.

First, let's look at Norman's reporting. Early in the story, he states that Axelrad sued Delta for $100,000 in medical bills and other damages. Nowhere in the entire story, which covered three full pages of newsprint, was the amount of the "other damages" revealed. I strongly suspect that the amount of the "other damages" was the reason that Delta resisted so vigorously. There is one short sentence that notes that Axelrad had injured her left knee while skating and that both knees were arthritic. The seriousness of Axelrad's injuries was clearly due to a pre-existing condition. Norman never made this point clear. The side-by-side photographs of Axelrad, one taken several years ago and the newer photo with Axelrad wearing a knee brace and an unhappy expression, are obviously meant to tug the reader's heartstrings. No enlightenment, lots of sympathy.

Now, let's look at Delta's performance. Remember that prior to September 11, 2001, no aircraft had ever been blown out of the sky or even damaged by a hijacker or terrorist. It seems to me that Delta acted quite responsibly. It evaluated the threat and ordered the aircraft to land with all possible haste. What else could Delta do? Counsel made an issue of the difference between the shortest possible theoretical time to land and the actual time it took. If the same criteria were applied to policemen, firemen, and paramedics' responses, not a single department in the country would emerge unscathed.

Axelrad herself acted somewhat strangely. She says she was expecting a set of stairs "like the president goes down." I find it almost impossible to believe that a person born and growing to maturity on the North American continent would not know that in emergencies, airlines use chutes to clear the plane in the fastest possible time and in the safest way. Axelrad, by her own words, "turned to the right." This chick is unbelievable. Possibly a bomb ticking away onboard the aircraft and she stops to discuss things with the flight attendant. The flight attendant rightly moved her onto the chute as quickly as possible. Anything less would have been grossly irresponsible to both Axelrad and the remaining passengers.  

Axelrad's first lawyer, Jeffrey Wolfson, recognized the "appealing victim-big corporate target" model and went to work. Delta rightfully resisted. Wolfson abandoned the case. Enter Julie Hager. She smelled blood (money) and acted accordingly. The case went to trial in October 2001. By now, the facts were submerged in mud.

The system is clearly imperfect. The court system usually provides justice. Usually, but not always. For example, how many readers think O.J. Simpson is as pure as the driven snow? One of the flaws in the system is the tendency of judges to permit frivolous lawsuits to be heard. The practice of smearing one another's clients can and should be stopped. Cases should be decided on their merits.

Character assassination should not have been a part of the case. Judges allow cases to drag on and on before being heard. Judges also allow lengthy, tedious, and irrelevant testimony to be part of all too many cases. Seemingly, if the judges involved in this case had their spines stiffened, it would have been all over in short order, and possibly with quite different results.

Neil Falvey
Fort Lauderdale

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