History Lesson

Nick Gillespie writes, "The system that delivers greater material wealth and greater personal freedom will triumph" ("Life After 9/11," October). That statement ignores history. Rome would still be an empire, and there would have been no Middle Ages. The Mongols would never have prevailed in China, and certainly there never would have been pyramids of skulls stacked by Tamarlane's troops around old Baghdad. Nor would there have been Mogul rulers in India.

Matt Ryan
Bremerton, WA

Nick Gillespie replies: I wouldn't go overboard in attributing too much personal freedom or material wealth to Rome and the others Matt Ryan mentions; these were societies in which a few people enjoyed virtually all of whatever political and economic privileges existed. Such inequality still describes too much of the Islamic world, in marked contrast to the modern West, in which civil liberties and high standards of living are widespread.

You Go, Girl

Cathy Seipp's "You've Lost Your Way, Baby" (October) is exceptional. As a man and a feminist, I find Seipp brings candor, clarity, and responsibility to the dreadful plight of contemporary feminism. Progress has been made, but equality is still lacking. The movement has rutted itself on trivial issues, or, worse, as Seipp eloquently argues, put other issues before their own, as in the case of the mighty O.J. Simpson.

Nathan P. Blouin
Boston, MA

I take Seipp's fundamental conclusion to be that leftist feminists who equate the U.S. war against the Taliban with neocolonial imperialism need to take stock of their values and get a grip. I agree, but I wonder if there isn't more to this gender story.

Among the heroes of Flight 93 was Mark Bingham, an openly gay man (for whom residents of the Castro in San Francisco have recently renamed one of the neighborhood gyms, incidentally). Was he one of the "manly men" applauded by conservatives? Why hasn't his name enjoyed the widespread recognition of Todd "Let's Roll" Beamer? Why has 9/11 resulted in a reassertion of "traditional" gender roles?

An alternative view of the gender dynamics of 9/11 might go something like this: Sure, there are a few wacky leftist feminists out there, but the majority of socially liberal Americans embraced the flag quite deeply following 9/11. It became "acceptable" for Democrats, Greens, liberals, gays, women, and others to celebrate the flag in a way unseen for over 30 years -- for some, never before. The social left had an opportunity to shape the narrative of this event, to show that social progress for women is a defining characteristic in American society, in contradistinction to the societies of the Taliban and Saudi Arabia.

But political entrepreneurs on the right (read: socially conservative Christians) have hijacked (pardon the pun) the cultural imagery of September 11 to promote an atavistic social vision of "manly men" and of women who shouldn't complain too loudly -- they don't have to wear burqas, after all. While the objective facts of the 9/11 tableau include gay Mark Bingham and female Condi Rice, conservatives have whitewashed the narrative of its gay and female characteristics. Pace Ann Coulter, the right, using the bully pulpit and the literal Christian pulpit, plays a large role in defining the terrain of the culture wars, especially in times of war and crisis. And it has used 9/11 as an opportunity to promote their familiar ideal, the 1950s nuclear family with defined gender roles and identities.

In other words, I think the real story is the inability of the moderate, socially liberal left to define the gender narrative of 9/11. People should be up in arms that the radical-minority left -- i.e., Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, et al. -- have been allowed to serve as the voice of anyone to the left of George W. Bush. A real political discourse on these issues would require a more, well, representative representative from the left.

J. P. Gownder
Boston, MA

Coulter Club

The thing that bothers me about Sara Rimensnyder ("Bitch Goddess," October) and others who are intimidated by Ann Coulter is that they always take the things she says out of context.

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