Inhumanity of war

Perhaps no bit of literature is more damning on the inhumanity of war than All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, a German war veteran, about World War I, the “War to End All Wars.” There a German soldier (yes, the enemy) seeks refuge in a bomb crater, and stabs a French soldier. Stuck in the crater with the Frenchman who takes 24 hours to die, he soon becomes overcome with remorse at having stabbed the man and works unsuccessfully to save him. After the French soldier dies, he rummages through the man’s wallet and is crushed to find a photo of the soldier’s wife and smiling daughter. He knows he has killed someone like himself, a man who cares for his family.

This book should be required reading by our U.S. leaders. Or if they find the book too hard to handle, there’s always the famous 1931 movie starring Lew Ayres. Ironically, Ayres was profoundly affected by his role in this film and became a conscientious objector during World War II.

Perhaps all Americans should take time out to read this book or look again at this great movie. Maybe we would all think again how horrible war is to those who must fight in it.

Kenneth Germanson

Milwaukee WI

Ryan continues Ill. tradition

Has it occurred to others that former Gov. Ryan’s courageous act of commuting death sentences was in the same spirit as that of Gov. John F. Altgeld in 1893 when he pardoned the three surviving “Haymarket Martyrs?” The three, along with five others, were convicted after a bomb attack during a protest rally in Chicago, a follow up of the huge “Eight Hour Day” demonstrations on May 1st, 1886. The trial was a total farce, with the convictions determined in advance by a carefully selected jury panel and Judge Joseph Gary.

Altgeld made an intensive study of the trial records and decided that all eight men had been innocent, the jury had been packed and the judge was prejudiced from the start. In freeing the three survivors Altgeld knew that this might well ruin his career. It did – he was widely maligned, burned in effigy, and not reelected. The railroad barons and the heads of the meatpacking, harvester and other industries were very powerful in Illinois!

The Eight-Hour-Day movement inspired working people for years – among them the Cuban journalist and revolutionary Jose Marti who interviewed the martyrs in prison.

Perhaps unknowingly, Ryan took up this courageous tradition by blasting the death penalty and ending it – at least for now – in the state of Illinois, giving new hope to over 3,000 men and women, most famous being Mumia Abu Jamal, in death cells in other states who are still threatened by a killing with poison, gas or electricity.

Victor Grossman

Berlin, Germany

Water privatization

Jose Cruz’ article (PWW 1/4/03) on the privatization of water can bring tears to the eyes of anybody conscious of the extraordinary danger of allowing water (a necessary element for all humans) to be privatized by the same thieves who have no qualms about enslaving workers around the world.

As I read it, I thought about the much publicized “will work for food” signs that the members of our class are reduced to holding as they search for day-to-day survival. “Will work for water” cannot be far behind if we don’t realize the extreme seriousness that faces the world.

Imagine, a relatively small group of humans in the world want to force other humans to come to them on bended knees for water.

It cannot be allowed.

The water issue is something many of us may have ignored. We can’t afford to do that. When I finished reading the article, I passed it on to another person. They are passing it to someone else. You hit us with the shock of reality.

Thank you very much. You’ve performed a great service and your writing grabbed attention.


Barbara Jean Hope

Philadelphia PA

Affirmative action

George W. Bush’s attack on the “constitutionality” and fairness of affirmative action is blind to the destructive power of the institution of racism past and present in U.S. history. Affirmative action policies as established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were a response to persistent past and present policies of discrimination, represented most dramatically by 246 years of slavery and nearly a century of segregation.

Ethnocultural diversity is a very positive thing in itself, but the primary purpose of affirmative action was and should continue to be economic integration and social justice. The Bush administration’s attempt to scuttle affirmative action by joining its opponents before the Supreme Court would set the country back more than half a century and hurt not only minorities and women, but all citizens.

Norman Markowitz

New Brunswick NJ