Reader Mail

Win Some, Lose Some

Who's on first? American sports as metaphor and mirror. Also: Not chuckling at George Allen. Muslim moderation -- any takers? Sanctuary row. Easy rider replies. Plus more.

8.24.06

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REAL VIRGINIAN
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Sticks and Stones:

Lisa Fabrizio completely misses the point in her ludicrously feeble attempt to whitewash George Allen's "macaca'" comment.

Yes, Lisa, I agree -- we should all just have an understanding chuckle, because Allen merely "fudged the man's name in a juvenile way." After all, "Sidarth" and "Macaca" surely sound close enough to a native Virginia ear to merit a bit of boyish wordplay eh? As an Indo-Virginian Ronald Reagan and George Bush supporter myself, I too look forward to wiping away tears of uncontrollable laughter when good old George Allen riffs my absurdly unfamiliar name into "red assed baboon" or some such equally witty bit of jest. Really, nobody should have to put up all these silly foreign names!

No, the real racism is not there, it's here: "So welcome, let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." In other words, according to George Allen (and, apparently, Fabrizio, who jauntily ends her piece by repeating the phrase) you can't be a real American or a real Virginian if you have a brown skin. Don't matter no how that you're Virginia born and bred, as Mr. Sidarth is.

Now, despite Fabrizio's attempt to tar them with the bad-smelling George Allen brush, and for all their "unashamedly unnuanced cowboy" manner, it's hard to imagine Lincolnian Republicans like Ronald Reagan or George Bush making such a low, ugly, stupid, just plain mean-spirited comment.
-- M. Brahmbhatt
Alexandria, Virginia

CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL
Re: Quin Hillyer's Are American's Becoming Losers?:

I am glad this is being brought to light. Not only are we becoming losers, as a nation we are also becoming wimps! Little leagues across America are pushing the warm and fuzzy "everyone is a winner." How will our kids ever learn about competition when these nanny coaches are teaching entitlement? That is why today we have these spoiled athletes who think everything is owed to them. Sadly, the sports world is a microcosm of our country.
-- Matthew B.

I think you have made some really good points in your article, but I would point out the young soldiers and marines serving today, who are perhaps more representative of everyday people. Their toughness, resilience and professionalism in combat is surprising and inspiring. Wounded guys returning from long stays in the hospital to return to combat duty. Combat infantry re-enlisting in record numbers. I think, despite all of the various missteps of this administration, is there any army out there that really wants to go man to man against one of our excellent U.S. Army or Marine regiments? There only hope is that we stay "tied down."

The problems you point out probably have more to do with the way we pamper athletes from grade school on up. We reward physical skill way more than we reward perseverance or character. However, look at the current Olympic basketball team. When there is a serious commitment to winning, as opposed to putting on an exhibition, the Americans certainly look dominant.
-- Sean P. McNeill
Connecticut

Take heart, Quin.

Some Americans have always been losers, and it is true that by frontier standards we've gone soft. That's a mark of success. As Ted "broad brush" Turner once said, with more insight than he knew, "Christianity is a religion for losers."

But men like Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes still exist. You may remember them as the ex-Marines (okay, maybe there's no such thing) who found Port Authority officers in the rubble of the World Trade Center. They're flawed, of course, but not soft. Ditto Chuck Sereika, the down-on-his luck former paramedic with no training in collapsed building rescue who was the first man to reach Port Authority officer Will Jimeno. Ditto Jimeno himself, and his sergeant, McLaughlin.

But you started with sports. Whether Floyd Landis was doped or not, his eighty mile solo attack on one hip in the Tour de France was an epic example of mental toughness. Lance Armstrong won the thing seven consecutive times before that. Moreover, this year's World Basketball Championship is shaping up better than previous iterations have been, because a mentally tough coach has impressed the value of teamwork on the NBA players with whom he works.

That tennis and golf aren't as heavy with American names as they used to be is no cause for concern. Given the torrid pace he's set, Tiger Woods will hold off the rest of the world by himself until a few more of his countrymen discover the attitude he already has. And have you noticed that tennis stars now tend to be Eastern European, and on the women's side, bombshells to boot (Maria Sharapova, call your office)? Nothing wrong with that at all. You may miss the Cold War days when Americans may have been tougher, but sports fans joked ruefully about the linebacker shoulders on East German women in the Olympics. I don't miss those days. I much prefer watching the likes of Summer Sanders slice through a pool, lithe but lethal. You know anybody in women's tennis who actually wants to meet Venus Williams in a semifinal match? And let's not forget that Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, both exceedingly easy on the eyes, stomped the competition in beach volleyball this past Summer Olympics.

Feeling down? Go read or re-read the Sackett family westerns by Louis L'Amour. Go to a little podunk gym like the one in my town where even women on the "CrossFit" regimen can do handstand pushups. Or go watch the independent movie, "Little Miss Sunshine," in theaters now. That goofball family is quintessentially American -- and a lot tougher than it looks.
-- Patrick O'Hannigan
San Diego, California

Quin Hillyer replies: Mr. McNeill is absolutely right about the young people in our Armed Services. They deserve our deepest admiration. I only hope their hardiness and patriotism proves to be the rule here rather than the exception. Either way, our debt to them is incalculable. As a matter of fact, I already have a column in the works on this topic.

As for Mr. O'Hannigan's letter, I find it inspirational. Of course I believe that many Americans remain not just strong-willed but heroic. He provides some excellent examples thereof. I particularly liked, by the way, his description of Summer Sanders as "lithe, but lethal." What a great goal for us to aspire to!

Mr. Hillyer asks some interesting questions and makes some interesting points, even if they are golf related. The central question of the piece is not, as might be assumed, are we losers; but rather what will make us strive to win?

To answer this question, revisiting some old slogans may help. Who dares, wins. There is nothing as dangerous as a man with nothing to lose. Never back a man into a corner. The common denominator in these concerns loss. Not losing the fight or the game, but losing what a person has; his possessions, his family or his life. And, surprisingly, the least important to most individuals is their life.

We are, currently, a guarantee society, an insurance society. We expect a social safety net. Unemployment insurance, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and safety provided by someone else. Therefore, we have become reluctant to do anything that will jeopardize that which we have amassed, be it social standing, personal possessions or relationships.

So, what will make the people of this country excel? Two things. The first is if the reward is perceived to be far greater than the risk of loss. The second situation is grounded in pure selfishness, though it may not always seem so. That is when the risk of inaction is perceived to be great enough to result in the loss of that which we hold dearest.

Following the attack on 9/11/01, the people of this country proved that they were winners, in every sense of the word. They made significant sacrifices, largely because they perceived a direct threat to the survival of this country and this society that could have resulted in their losing everything that they hold dear. That perception was still in effect when this country invaded Iraq in 2003, though it had begun to wane. Now people no longer perceive an imminent threat to their future or well-being. So, the will to win is lacking within a large segment of society. If one does not dare, then one not only does not win, but when they lose, they can blame it on someone else.

All of this sociological psychoanalysis is interesting, but will prove pointless in the long run. For the average person will not change unless forced to by circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances will arise. There are other players in the game, players who have little to lose and much to gain by daring to win. They will apply pressure to the people of America. But, being naive as to the true nature of the American people, they will become emboldened by their perceived success and apply too much. At that point, Americans will react and the fact that the people of the United States are truly winners will be revealed. Because the people of the United States of America do not fold under pressure. The more pressure that is applied, the stronger and more determined they become. Until they explode and are victorious.

Unfortunately, a great deal of personal loss will have to be endured before that point is reached. Loss that really is not necessary. Loss that will result from a reluctance on the part of Americans to dare to win. The wake up call will come, soon. Unfortunately, many Americans will be asleep when it comes.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

PEW GRANTS
Re: Mark Tooley's Sanctuary Chic:

Once again, liberal hypocrisy demonstrates four square that liberalism has no ethical or moral integrity. Our sacred pulpits are once again being hijacked by political operatives disguised as clergy. Liberal political orthodoxy, disguised as religious teachings, is now being spewed by certain empty-pewed churches for the raw politics, including the fashionably chic decision to aide and abet lawbreakers by allowing them to hide within their hallow walls. Nothing new here I guess. After all, people like Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton have been using their churches for their political gain for years. But now, according to Mr. Tooley, sanctuaries are chic again. So much for the rigid notion of separation of church and state.

Of course, violation of this separation is only verboten when Conservatives attempt to engage in political discourse. And of course, the violation only goes one way. The Methodists, as well as some other well-heeled liberal denominations, have absolutely no qualms about making overt raw political pronouncements from the pulpit; but woe to any attempt by the Boy Scouts to use public buildings to conduct their meetings, why, all hell breaks loose then, no pun intended. Funny how liberal clergy manage to loose their voices when the Boy Scouts need aide and succor. Liberal secularists break out into a cold sweat at the thought of religious displays on public property, but when liberal clergy advocate the breaking of laws, especially those promulgated under a Republican president, why, the New York Times is not the least bit concerned. No hyperbolic editorials by the New York Times will be forthcoming when liberal clergy join in the Bush-bashing. I guess it's fortunate for the Methodists, as well as Ms. Arellano, who's holed up at the Adalberto United Methodist Church, that a true man of faith is President of the United States. After all, the Branch Davidians were a religious sect, and we all saw how Bill Clinton honored their religious sanctuary.
-- A. DiPentima

This was an interesting article, but reading about Elvira Arellano made me think of the first article I read about her. It stated that she was deported once before and that she came back. The second time the article stated that she had a child born in the U.S.

I saw no mention about her husband or the baby's father. It seems to me she had the child only as a tool to stay in this country. Being a Christian I wonder what is the Methodist position on this.
-- Thomas S. MacKay

IN MODERATION
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's Voices of Muslim Moderation:

The situation in Great Britain is a frightening one. When "moderate" Muslims are asking for (or threatening?) Sharia law and a woman Communities Secretary is actually considering it, then it's time for a reality check.

When other nationalities move to a country and want to become a part of that country, they must change and accept that country's laws, not the other way around. Are we listening here in the United States? Multiculturalism is Balkanization under a bright, new, shiny name. This shows us in a stark way the importance of limiting immigration and even "student visas" from Muslim countries. Since we no longer enforce our immigration laws, this could be us sooner than we think.

The world needs to wake up. Western civilization is under attack from within, and it's time to face that reality and get busy fighting back. I would think that liberals would be up in arms since it's their constituencies that will be first to be marginalized: women's libbers and homosexuals. Or will they just throw those "pests" away for what might be considered a new voting block of Muslims?

Let's see what former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne said in a speech at the U.N. in 1974: "One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere to go to the northern hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory." According to Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, what Islamic armies have not been able to do with force in more than 1,000 years can be achieved in less than a century through high birth rates.

We ignore or pooh-pooh the statements by such as Boumedienne and Iran's Ahmadinejad at our own peril. It's time to remove our heads from the sand. Good luck to you in Britain. I fear for your country.
-- Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

So typical of the defense line used by all "moderate" Muslims. It is obvious the truth will devastate millions, and only then will it be obvious that the enemy is indeed Islam.
-- R.P.

Nearly five years after the unprovoked attack by Muslim imperialists on the U.S. I have become disabused of the idea of Muslim moderation. I no longer expect Muslims in the West to condemn their blood thirsty coreligionists. Like Irish-Americans who for generations funded the Marxist IRA (because they were wrongly identified as "Roman Catholics"), Muslims in the West are now giving aid and comfort to Islamic-fascists due to a perverted sense of a shared "faith." Reason and moderation have no home in minds blinded by religious bigotry and hate. "Muslim moderation" is today an oxymoron, but one can hope that some day it will become a reality.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

But where oh where is the demand of the British for the "Muslim moderates" to assimilate and accept the laws of their host country? I have seen no attempt in Britain or elsewhere at enforcing the laws that keep Britain British, or Europe European.

What I see are demands being made (under the lingering threat of terrorism), by a minority that a majority, after hundreds of years of evolving into a certain refined culture, to suddenly change all that defines them and evolve into the country the minority just left!

Why did the minorities leave their home countries then? In order to survive this, and win the Global War on Terror, the West is going to have to shirk off its mysterious collective guilt-myth of non-acculturation and tell these religious and incredibly pious minorities to assimilate or butt out of our national affairs and policies.

To the West I say: Defend your culture, and we do have a great one, or you let others dictate your culture.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

The so-called "moderate" on the other side is Western diplomacy's answer to the Loch Ness monster. Honest, they're in there, saw them myself, it's just that the camera jammed. Or it was raining. But we'll really have something if we ever get one! " Moderates" from Muslim countries -- authors, journalists, scientists, activists -- are on tap in all the think tanks around the USA. Admittedly these rebels against the dark side are brave souls. But how much influence do they really wield outside the editorial boards of the magazines nobody reads, or the studios of the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour?

The people in the Muslim world have been brought up to regard Americans as enemies from literally before there was an America. A country whose government is based on the assent of the governed, rather than the will of Heaven, is quite literally blasphemy to these folks. (I've lived and worked in the Middle East, and I speak from experience. I know because the people I worked with told me this to my face, and they damn well meant it. This is the opinion of the people who really count, the ones that nobody ever asks.)

The more I see, the more I'm convinced that the point of no return has been passed. Armageddon is coming, because the people who want Armageddon are the only ones with a clear idea of what they want to do.
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

EASY RIDER
Re: The "Harley Noisemakers" letters in Reader Mail's Menace to Society:

In regards to the complaints regarding loud Harley Davidson bikes, jeez, get a life. C'mon, how much "real nature" do any of these folks "experience" riding down the road in their SUVs, windows up, AC on, stereo (or DVD) playing? And I've come across so many BMW-ers who constantly whine about the noise HD bikes make. Well, I expect that from folks riding a finely engineered washing machine.

Actually, I'm a very recent addict to HDs. I bought my first bike (1999 Sportster 1200s) last fall, kind of on a whim. My wife has always been a HD fanatic, but I just didn't like the image of the people or the lifestyle. But all it took was a few times out on the rode, and I'm hooked for life. I found that the HD people are some of the best in the world. Sure, there are the ne'er-do-wells, but you find those in almost all situations.

But the riding experience is incredible. Tooling down a country road on a bike is an experience worth remembering for all time. Sure, I can't hear the crickets, but for crying out loud, NO ONE can hear the crickets, even with the windows down, when driving at 50+ mph.

Oh, I sold the Sportster this year and bought a 2006 Ultra Electra-Glide Classic. What a beautiful bike! And I had the dealer put on Vance and Hines pipes that sound sweet when riding the canyons of Utah. With the Big Bore Stage I kit putting the engine at 95 cubic inches (about 1550 cc for you metric folks), this thing has incredible power. The dealer won't even put on after market pipes with the 2007 models since they now include an oxygen sensor. Bummer, but since HD "tuned" the exhaust to keep as much of that HD rumble as possible, they're not too bad.

But hey, the HD experience is all about freedom. I'm 52 years old so it's not a case of "look at me" fever. You could make a case that it's a "second childhood" thing, but I'll leave to my shrink if I ever get around to having one. Right now, I'm having too much fun.

I won't complain about your huge SUV sucking up gas (I get about 48 mpg), so don't complain about me making a little noise. This too shall pass. And with the 95 cubic inches, quickly...
-- Karl F. Auerbach

SHORE LEAVE
Re: Peter Chagnon's letter (under "Reader Mail Corner") in Reader Mail's The Eyes Have It:

Michael Tomlinson lives in Crownsville, Maryland, a suburb of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County on Maryland's Western Shore.

Otherwise, good idea Pete.
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

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