Letters to the Editor 03-07-14

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Trivializing a sensitive word?

After spending an hour talking about Judaism to the high school humanities class a few weeks ago, I took some questions, and one student raised an important issue; one I could tell was difficult for her to pose in public. Why did I think, she asked, that Jews have been labeled as obsessed with money? 

I looked at her with my best poker-face, and asked “Will you give me a twenty for an answer?” When she meekly said no, I pretended to then disregard her and go to the next raised hand. Everyone laughed at the obvious self-mockery, and I felt that the joke had diffused the tension around us, so I could go on to speak to the subject of anti-semitism and ethnic discrimination in general. 

I don’t think that anyone would be surprised or puzzled that the joke only worked because it was I who said it; if someone else had yelled out, “Do you have a twenty to give to Mr. Izraelevitz, or else he won’t answer you?” it would have been deeply offensive to me and to everyone else in the room. 

The reason I share this anecdote is because the recent editorial in this newspaper presents a disingenuous display of ignorance that the context in which words are used, sometimes the exact same words, can result in humor or in deep insult. 

I don’t think the concept is that difficult. A hug in one context, even in a formal work environment, may be appropriate, but in others it may not be. Two girlfriends may call each other the B-word, but the same word spat at them by a drunk may land the drunk in jail. 

In fact, this observation, that the same words, jokes, physical contact, etc. may be appropriate, welcome, funny, endearing, in one context, or inappropriate, insulting, demeaning, in others is a trivial one, and certainly someone in the journalism profession, where words are the essential building blocks of your product, should be perceptive to this effect. 

The triviality of the subject and point of the op-ed piece was not what was troubling to me, it was the fixation on the specific instance of the “N-word” as somehow a unique paradox in English language usage. 

This fixation, which to add insult to injury, is not even novel, is a clear attempt to delegitimize a sensitivity to this specific word and deny the context in which it has been used; it was a theme unbefitting to this newspaper.

I don’t consider the initial disclaimer of how horrid the N-word is then gave the author the latitude to subsequently puzzle why Eminem could use it with impunity. Eminem was making a point, a Nazi skinhead is making a point; why is it so hard to understand that they are making different points? 

I have two suggestions for the editorial staff of this newspaper; first, please opine on items of real relevance to our community so that we are better informed about these issues and reading the opinion pages of this newspaper provides some value to your readership; and second of all, please raise your expectation of the sophistication and intelligence of this same audience. 

David Izraelevitz 

Los Alamos

Izraelevitz is a member of the Los Alamos County Council

Time to hold school board accountable

It sounds like Judy Bjarke-McKenzie has a personal agenda per her statement that “there were some things from previous evaluations that he has not done.... It is a personnel matter.”  Is this “a personnel matter” one(s) that would stand up in court or “personnel” agendas of some of the board members? Actually, who deserves termination? Schmidt or the school board? Who is doing the best for Los Alamos?

Decisions behind closed doors: “when a ‘vote’ is not a vote!” How many ‘voted’ against Schmidt? Are the 2 new + 1 old officers just those who would have ‘voted’ against Schmidt?

As Morrie Pongratz pointed out: “Voters of Los Alamos Deserve an Explanation;” the ravings of the board members about how great Schmidt has been over the past few years do not jive with giving him the option of “resigning” or “being terminated” with a year to go in his expressed desire to retire.

Of course, there is always the scenario that the board is trying to have Schmidt leave in the most favorable light they can give him. But Schmidt would always have to explain to a new employer why he resigned (why the non-support) and the prospective employer would ask for references (what would the “nay-voters” say in such a request?).

Joel M. Williams

Los Alamos