Letters and Opinions

These are opinion pieces that I have had published in a variety of newspapers and magazines. I have been writing letters-to-the-editor since 2006, and have had over 160 published since then. I also play guitar and sing in a musical revue called The Loser's Lounge. With a cast of guest singers, we perform tributes to great songwriters and bands. The show is in its 24th year, and we perform at Joe's Pub - The Public Theater and Lincoln Center in New York City.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'd like to thank my friend, Corinne Innis, for her thoughts and ideas about same-sex marriage rights, which helped shape this letter. It was printed in amNY on November 14, 2008:

The first gay marriages in Connecticut mark a step forward for a civil rights cause that has been stumbling as of late. With the passage of California's Proposition 8, which only recognizes unions between a woman and man, and the vice-presidential debate, during which both tickets flatly refused to support same-sex marriage, the nation desperately needs an identifiable leader to champion the rights of gay Americans. If only the president-elect, so ideal in so many ways for our country, was on the right side of this issue.

I received many nice comments on this letter, which was published in both The Daily News and amNY on November 6, 2008:
There is a new phenomenon in American politics that may strongly influence future elections. It involves running a campaign with integrity, intelligence and respect. It seeks to cross and even transcend traditional human and political divisions. It exemplifies behavior that assumes hope and good will define the American character, not fear and bias. It is called The Obama Effect.

amNY published this letter on October 30, 2008. I feel strongly that the photos and names of violent killers (and those who would be) deserve only limited public exposure. I still feel ill when I remember the face and guns of the Virginia Tech murderer jumping off the front page of every newspaper last year.
The letter was edited slightly. The full version:
Thank you, amNY, for not printing on your cover the photo of the Nazi skinhead that was featured prominently in other newspapers. Disturbing images like that do not need to be on public display. His plot with a fellow racist to murder African Americans, including Barack Obama, is a sobering confirmation of the racial tensions that still infect our society, despite the great progress this country has made. But while we need to communicate these stories to demonstrate that reprobates such as these are caught and condemned, allowing them the glory of front page photos is unconscionable.

I sent Metro an op-ed, and they printed this "letter" (October 27, 2008) drawn from the first paragraph. It doesn't really work as a letter. Here's the op-ed:
Early in his campaign, Barack Obama predicted that if he did not win the presidency, it would not be due to his color but that he was unable to convince the American people of his vision and competence. To say that race would not play a role in the first presidential election featuring a major party black candidate is at best optimistic. Given studies, such as Project Implicit, that show Americans more often than not associating negative descriptions with people of color, Senator Obama’s battle is most assuredly an uphill one. And yet, despite facing what many have called the dirtiest campaign ever waged, Obama has remained true to his ideal of how a candidate should present him or herself to the electorate. And in an anomaly rarely seen in American politics, integrity seems to be winning.
The presidential debates allowed Obama to demonstrate his civility and intelligence, even as John McCain increased his attacks with every face-off. Time and again, when the bait was offered, Obama took the high road, much to the frustration of his supporters who wanted Obama to show more fire. During the first debate, I cringed every time Obama said, “Senator McCain is right, but…” And in the final debate, when he was given the opportunity to assess Sarah Palin’s presidential qualifications, Obama said he would leave that up to the voters to decide. What? Waste this golden opportunity? But Obama was right. He was polite, and his composure and the content of his responses came off as much more presidential than McCain’s angry snipes (“That one!”) and frequent grimaces.
The McCain campaign has in essence portrayed Obama as an elitist, inexperienced, unpatriotic friend of terrorists. These politics of fear and falsehoods have helped put many recent Republicans in the White House. Strategy-wise, Obama could have taken a page from their dirty tricks playbook and hoped for the same results the McCain team desires. But Barack Obama has defined his campaign on his own ethical terms. Win or lose, he ran the campaign he set out to run, unlike McCain, who once eschewed underhanded political chicanery until he realized (or was convinced) that his future depended upon those same despicable deceits. An Obama victory will ultimately be a victory for the character and decency Americans can show. A McCain election will confirm that cynicism and suspicion drive the country. I will be voting for respect and virtue. I will be voting for Barack Obama.