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February 4, 2009

Inbox — Feb. 4, 2009

Letters to the Editor

Thinkin’ ’bout Lincoln

I enjoyed Scott Wade’s comparison of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama in the Jan. 21 LEO Weekly. Sadly but inevitably, however, the way in which President Obama will most certainly be like his fellow Illini involves an aspect of Lincoln’s presidency not known to us and not considered tasteful to discuss during this time of warm remembrances of him in the bicentennial of his birth.

This is the fact that the 16th president was the most vilified chief executive ever — and not just in the Confederacy. Newspapers in the North overwhelmingly condemned and ridiculed Lincoln in writing and sometimes-hideous editorial cartoons. Most of the press favored giving the South independence. Even more depressing is the way Lincoln responded. He blatantly violated the U.S. Constitution, shutting down the largest critical papers, effectively assuming dictatorial powers.

Some historians cut him some slack on this, noting the unprecedented and horrendous emergency the nation faced — its actual breaking up. Still, wartime emergency powers by law and tradition do not include suspending the Bill of Rights.

I don’t expect Barack Obama to have the slightest inclination to emulate Lincoln in this way, but the type of scathing criticism Lincoln faced surely awaits Obama as well. Anytime a president changes policies, defies entrenched interests and requires sacrifices, a backlash is certain. I just hope enthusiastic Obama backers — myself included — are ready for this. Understanding historical episodes like the Lincoln presidency more clearly, instead of through the conventional sanitized mythmaking, will help.

George Morrison, Original Highlands

Policy and Politics

My friend George Morrison (LEO Weekly, Jan. 14) seems to have misunderstood my Inbox letter of the preceding week about gay and lesbian political movements. I was writing about politics, not civil rights per se. As Bill Clinton used say, good policy requires good politics. Harvey Milk understood this and he practiced it. He joined other causes to earn the support of others for his cause. Watch the movie. You’ll see my point.

Tom Louderback, Highlands

Jesus and Fire

Many people in Old Louisville and downtown are concerned because Mayor Abramson closed Fire Station 7. The station provides basic fire protection services to both areas of town. Mayor Abramson’s decision to close the station was made without consultation with the residents or businesses that will be directly endangered by lengthening the response time to a fire in these areas. Yes, I speak not only of Limerick and Old Louisville, but also downtown, north of Broadway.

With Station 7 closed, the firemen will come from stations at a longer distance. Therefore, the fire will have sufficient time to increase its intensity. Saving the historic structures will be much more difficult. What is generally not reported by the mayor’s office is that the stations that are expected to respond, the two nearest ones to Old Louisville, are scheduled to be closed in 2011 and 2012. Fire Chief Frederick told residents at a public meeting on Dec. 29, 2008, that when these are closed, adequate protection will be supplied by the Portland and Clifton fire stations. Portland? Yes, such is the judgment of the fire chief. Of course, he boasted to us citizens that the 21st century Fire Plan suggests that “in the next several years, a new fire station will be built at First and Broadway.” He reminded us that the last fire station, before Portland’s new station, was built in 1994. Fourteen years is the waiting time for Old Louisville’s new station, if indeed there will be one. Friends, Jesus will have come back before that.

At the same time that the city of Louisville’s budget cannot afford basic fire protection for residents and businesses, Spalding University and numerous high-rise apartment buildings, the mayor announced that he spent $1 million to buy land on Brentlinger Lane for a new sports complex. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think there are many sports complexes available in Louisville and Jefferson County. I regret that fire protection must be scuttled to build yet another sports complex, this one offering one-stop bowling, swimming and dancing. (See The Courier-Journal, Jan. 10.)

Gregory H. Moore, Downtown

Gannett Strikes Out

Three strikes, well! How sweet it is for Craig Dubow, the CEO of Gannett, including our very own Courier-Journal! Yes, he only earned $7.5 million with a bonus of $1.7 million last year while the C-J employees have been worried about job security for two years. Strike 1: Employees gave more time due to frequent employee cuts. Strike 2: Employees had to accept that all retirement was frozen. Strike 3: Employees’ jobs were eliminated for the good of Gannett to survive. These employees needed their jobs. Who will bail them out? There is a lot to say about family-owned businesses … they care and they share!

Rondi Cobb, West End

Peace At Home

I’m watching people here in Louisville, whom I love and respect, take sides in the Gaza-Israel conflict. Because both sides have family and friends who are suffering, we dig in our heels, support our positions from vastly different sources and convince ourselves that we are “right.” I say this without judgment — the situation is terrible. I believe, however, that this chasm in our own community mirrors what happens in the Middle East.

And guess what — it does not yield peace. The only way we can live in peace, here in Louisville and in the Middle East, is with a very different kind of leadership on all sides. 

This new leadership must come together with one basic premise — that ALL human life is sacred. In the case of the Middle East, this premise must be supplemented with painful compromises. Israeli leadership must work to ensure a two-state solution and remove all Jewish settlements from the West Bank. A new Palestinian leadership, possibly still comprising some Hamas leaders, must change its charter and accept the right of Israel to exist. This combined leadership must then show the world a strategic action plan that improves the quality of life of all Palestinians and Israelis. Outcomes of “quality of life” would include: meeting everyone’s basic needs; allowing for freedom of movement; and ensuring the rights to safety, an education, affordable housing and a living wage. 

What can we do here in Louisville? We can do a much better job of creating safe forums for our citizens to share their feelings and concerns. We should facilitate relationship building for not only Palestinians, peace activists and Jews, but for all people with diverse points of view. We can also model the above outcomes of quality of life to ensure that all people in Louisville have their basic needs met along with a quality education, affordable housing and a living wage. I believe our politically neutral, faith-based leadership could play a much larger role in all of this.

L’Shalom, Assalamu Alaikum and peace.

Amy Shir, East End