Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 13, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet:  

The few (?) accusing Cindy Sheehan of “exploiting” the loss of her son in Iraq (and of being a traitor) was as low as perceiving John Walsh, Mark Klas and Maureen Kanka as parents with the same agenda. 

They haven’t exploited their losses, but utilized them, and have gotten a lot accomplished. 

That comment about Ms. Sheehan was downright despicable. 

O.V. Michaelsen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is very difficult for us to recognize the Sherman Boyson being portrayed by Erika Williams and BAMN in the story in your paper. We are Sherman’s students in social welfare and other departments who work with him and we know nothing of this man accused of racism and sexism and assault. Instead we know a man who has been a champion for social justice and worked hard for each of his students. 

We know a man who has been so helpful to students of color that our department is now considered the most diverse on campus. We know a man who helps empower women, and advises the department with more women than any other on campus. 

We know a man who asked his supervisors to allow him to increase his already overloaded workload by allowing extra students into his capped major when 24 transfers arrived in fall 2005 instead of the expected 10 because he did not want any of those students, almost all of whom were women, to be turned away. 

We know a man who reminds us in his email newsletters that this country denies health coverage to too many poor and disadvantaged people. We know a man whose graduation rate of his students, including underrepresented minorities, exceeds the campus average due to his assistance in making sure all his students do well at Cal by helping them organize study groups.  

We know a man whose door is open during lunch and who stays late for us if we need him at the end of the day. 

We know a man who coordinated a volunteer program with incarcerated youths in Alameda County—99 percent of whom were youths of color. 

We know a kind and peaceful man who is not aggressive, but is patient and caring and gives great bear hugs. 

We know a man who helped an African-American student who was graduation speaker last year. The student wanted a strong political speech and Sherman helped him write about the shameful admission rates for African-Americans at Cal. 

We know a man who took an African-American teenager into his home when the boy had nowhere else to go and who still houses and supports that youth today. 

We know a man who empowers athletes of color and makes sure they realize they deserve to be on this campus and expects them to be as strong in the classroom as on the playing field.  

We understand that Sherman made a terrible error in a moment of anger. We understand that he has apologized. What we don’t understand is why anyone wants to fire our advisor that we want to stay working with us. 

This letter is signed by social welfare students and other students in support of Sherman Boyson:  

Tami Rollins, Richard Midgley, Adrienne Bradford, Calen Carr, Mike Oseguera,  

Krystle Henriquez, Jessica Ramirez, Sandy Yang, Arianna Vaeworn, Silvia Salinas, Sam Vizznini Jr., Christine Pao, Celia Myers, Sarah Bacon  

and Cindy Sung. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We appreciated Peter Selz’s rational Dec. 2 review of the exhibition, “Justice Matters: Artists Consider Palestine.” Contrary to the assertions by Dr. White in his Dec. 9 commentary, Dr. Selz is uniquely qualified to write about the exhibition. His forthcoming book, due out next month, is Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond. It is a 100-year survey of the subject and demonstrates his expertise and his long study of political art.  

Two factual clarifications in Selz’s review should be made. Jackie Salloum’s “Caterrorpillar” describes 13,000 Palestinian homes destroyed, not 1,300. Second, while the complaints about the show have been strident, and have run the gamut from intolerant to threatening, there have been only a few, not “many” of them.  

Like these few, Dr. White finds in the exhibition what he brings to it. The exhibition is not a justification of violence, as his penultimate paragraph preposterously asserts. Almost all of the works present the anguish, despair and hopelessness of people caught in a conflict over which they have no control. Perhaps that is why those who may feel responsible for this suffering find the work disturbing.  

It’s an art show, for crying out loud. Art is not only content, but a combination of content and aesthetic expression. The meaning of the work derives from the relationship of the two. To ignore one or the other distorts the work.  

The Daily Planet is to be applauded for encouraging discussion of this courageous show.  

Tim Drescher  

President, BAC Board of Directors  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his rebuttal to Peter Selz’s nuanced review of the “Justice Matters” exhibition at the Berkeley Art Center, physician and bioethecist Lawrence White implies that Dr. Selz—though an “expert in German expressionism as well as many other areas”—is unqualified to critique the show. White comments that Selz has made “the cardinal error of assuming positions that are conventional wisdom among the anti-Israel crowd” before proceeding to his own angry and entirely one-sided position that is conventional wisdom among the anti-Palestinian crowd. White concludes that the show at the Berkeley Art Center “is about propaganda, not art,” and should, apparently, be taken down for inciting anger and violence.  

Peter Selz cannot be so easily dismissed. The lengthy bibliography of his books and articles demonstrates the vast range and depth of interests that has made Selz an internationally recognized authority on the ethical content of contemporary art. Berkeley is fortunate to have him as a resident and the Daily Planet as an occasional reviewer. Selz writes and speaks with a long and profound personal knowledge of fascism in its many guises, as well as of the danger of artistic censorship and of the value of the First Amendment. He has just published a groundbreaking study of political art in the 20th century.  

Lawrence’s letter made me turn to Bram Dijkstra’s book American Expressionism: Art and Social Change 1920-1950 which documents the largely Jewish contributions to unpopular causes. Artists such as Hugo Gellert, Ben Shahn, Peter Blume, and Philip Guston spoke visually for those who had had everything taken from them—including their dignity. Dijkstra contends that it was precisely their concern for justice—along with anti-Judaism—that drove their powerful figurative art underground during the McCarthy era.  

I am afraid that Dr. White’s op-ed adds nothing new to the debate around the long-festering wound in the Middle East that is taking us all down with it. The exhibition at the Berkeley Art Center does: I commend the Center for its courage and hope that it will resist the forces of attempted censorship and intimidation.  

Gray Brechin  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Everyone wants world peace. And to have world peace we need to each practice it, every minute, every day, in all interactions. I am dismayed by the incredible rancor and hostility which is regularly displayed in much of our civic discussion. The latest issue being the Derby Street matter. We as a community need to develop a process, early in every issue, where all involved can sit together to develop a solution that works, through a practice that honors peace. 

I am dismayed that an elected official has used a public forum to stoke divisiveness. I am dismayed at the near hysteria and fear based arguments in some of the letters. I am dismayed that a ballfield for kids could possibly be called anti-community. (Inappropriate, not preferred yes, but anti-community?) Is it really vegetables versus kids? I am dismayed that the school district and city council has not worked to mediate what should be a resolvable issue. How will we humans resolve Darfur, the Middle East, or even urban gang violence, if we cannot sit down and resolve a ballfield dispute? 

I ask the city and school district to immediately implement a process for mediation on Derby Street. I ask that the city and school district develop a process which should be used in all future issues that gets everyone into the same room, early on. I also ask this newspaper not to highlight obviously inflammatory rhetorical letters. Art Buchwald’s solution to the Vietnam War was the Finnish model. Strip everyone naked and stick them in a sauna until they work out a compromise! 

Soon it will be a new year. I wish everyone a happy new year, and ask that we all “Give Peace a Chance.”  

Sandra Horne 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My growing discomfort with the deluge of new multi-story buildings in Berkeley sharpened recently when an architect told me that California state law lets developers off the hook for paying taxes! 

Is this “upper-class cookie jar” the reason Tom Bates and his closed-door cohorts have given Patrick Kennedy and Panoramic Interests the keys to the city? 

Glen Kohler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Early in the morning of Nov. 16, UC police removed the all-steel free clothing box which had been installed the previous weekend by volunteers during a free concert in People’s Park. The absurdity of this action merely illustrates the greater problem that faces the park: being owned and operated by the University of California, its traditional nemesis. There’s no denying that the park has problems, but the freebox is not one of them. The problem that surrounds the park is the University of California. 

The last freebox burned to the ground at the beginning of April, but now the winter rains are upon us and a 24-hour source of dry clothing will help homeless people to survive the misery of being marginalized. The university refuses to recognize the long-standing tradition of free exchange in People’s Park, and has forgotten the compromise agreement made with free box advocates in 1998 when the university itself moved the activist-built freebox to its most recent location. 

Why is the university dictating policy in People’s Park? The problems that confront the park in its relationship with the university are similar to the problems that the university presents to our community. Issues such as blatant administrative corruption make the freebox seem a rather small issue, but appearances are deceptive, especially in the case of the park. The park’s value to this community is symbolic as much as it is physical, and as we all know, you cannot place value upon a symbol. They are precious, especially a symbol born of the peace movement. 

The Regents of the University of California are not the appropriate deed holders for this piece of land; the citizens of Berkeley appropriated this property long ago in reparations for another illegal and immoral war. Until the conditions that lead to the fragmentation of healthy social relationships within our community are recognized and repaired, the park will continue to be the clearest model that we have to understand the mechanisms of cultural evolution and oppression. 

The platform that David Nadel was working upon at the time of his death was the campaign to democratize the Regents of the University of California. 

We want to know why there are some people in our community who are capitalising upon another illegal war, and who seem to be intent upon unravelling the very fabric of nature itself (nanotechnology, nuclear power, large-scale military contracts, genetic engineering and the Novartis/Chiron merger...) 

Perhaps when we become strong enough to wrest our public universities out of the hands of vested corporate interests, People’s Park will stop being an issue of controversy, and can truly become a community peace garden for the world. How do we make this happen? By participating in its processes. It requires patience to deal with poverty. 

Arthur Fonseca