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Letters to the Editors

Limits on corporate power applauded

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 2000


Re: Government has no business in Redskins opinion, July 23.

I applaud the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's ruling that canceled seven of the Washington Redskins' trademarks. Not only was it constitutional, it was a breath of fresh air.

Any instance where a corporation's usually unquestioned power to appropriate, commodify and exploit is limited enriches our so-called Democracy and revives my spirit.

Robyn Blumner's market-based defense of corporate free speech and her criticism of Suzan Shown Harjo's using the court system are troubling. Her constitutional analysis is a perfect example of how deeply engrained unquestioned corporate power is in our public consciousness.

According to Blumner's argument, if the Redskins' logo is so offensive, then market pressures magically would force the Redskins to change its logo. She cites the downfall of the Sambo's restaurant chain as an example. What Blumner ignores, however, is that Sambo's downfall took place in the context of a civil rights movement that utilized not only boycotts and organized protests, but also the court system to demand change.

In the wise words of Frederick Douglass, power concedes nothing without a demand. Had Harjo relied on boycotts and protests, she simply would not have achieved the results she has.

Blumner's absolutist First Amendment approach to commercial speech is not surprising. It's what she was fed in her media law and First Amendment courses in law school. Corporations are not people. They are legal fictions, created by written laws. When a corporation's speech is harmful and offensive, it should be regulated.

I agree that we don't want the government making indefensible value judgments about speech. But limiting a corporation's power to profit from a trademark as grossly offensive as the Redskins' one is hardly "from-the-hip."

Let us not forget the genocide, broken treaties and theft of land that took place prior to the existence of this country's favorite reality diversion, football.
-- Brett C. Zeeb, Esq., Tampa

Absurd explanation

Re: Government has no business in Redskins opinion, July 23.

Sure do get tired of the masochistic folklore repeated so gratifyingly about Indians by American leaders. Robyn E. Blumner has it that the term "redskins" "gained use when bounty hunters would turn in scalps and the "red skins' of the Indians they killed for profit, instead of the full corpses." Could it be American Indians were called "redskins" because they have red skins?

It would be just as absurd to say white people were called "palefaces" because Indian braves turned in to their chiefs the scalps and pale faces of the white people they killed for profit instead of the full corpses.

The European settlers were no worse and probably a whole lot better than the Indians who killed and tortured each other for pleasure and honor. They weren't called savages for nothing.
-- Francis J. Sullivan, St. Petersburg

Don't divide community

Re: Program gave some questionable grants, July 23.

This article, as well as others in the same paper, serve as sterling examples of how the Times does nothing but promote a chasm between the races. Rather than doing in-depth interviews of the positive aspects of Front Porch Florida and its bold attempt to actually give grass-roots programs a chance to get a start, you focus on a few problem programs.

I clearly see this as an attempt by the Times to discredit a magnificent attempt on the part of the state and governor to provide some direct assistance to the people who have a hands-on relationship with the inner-city kids. These kids often get no attention until they get into trouble.

The Times could have partnered with Front Porch in this process. You could have helped to fund workshops or training sessions to help move these grass-roots programs toward stability.

I guess that would have been too much like taking a responsible stand toward building bridges across the racial divide, rather that pushing the races apart by sensationalizing.

These stories clearly show that you care nothing about this community (Front Porch) in particular and the greater St. Petersburg area in general.
-- Mary Williams, St. Petersburg

An altered dynamic

Re: Wasting time on nonsense like a pimp cap, by Bill Maxwell, July 23.

More often than not I find myself in disagreement with Maxwell. Occasionally his column makes me feel like walking through the nearest wall. But I keep reading, hoping to learn something (I do), hoping to understand better (I have).

But after Sunday's column concerning the "pimp" cap, I just wanted to buy Maxwell a car, bake him my grandmother's secret brownie recipe, hug him, walk his dog and just say, thank you! Somehow our disparate selves merged on this issue!

If I may add just one brief observation from personal experience: A few years ago I was asked to substitute in a class at my older son's elementary school. In the first 10 minutes, I was stunned to discover something that changed forever my perception of the child/adult dynamic today. The children who most needed guidance were absolutely fearless. They had no specific fear (of me) and no general fear (of principal, parents). The attitude was one of amused tolerance with "in your face" behavior at the ready. I can't tell you how utterly shocked I was; my reaction to what I was seeing in these 9-year-old children was almost visceral. And this was a parochial school with the nuns who still looked like penguins!

At the end of Maxwell's column, where he segued into a racial riff, my first reaction was, "Oh no! Here we go." But I read on (I always do) and may I say, those few sentences were more affecting, more powerful, more soul-searing than many an entire article he has done on that very subject.
-- N.G. Heston, Brandon

Respect authority

Re: Wasting time on nonsense like a pimp cap.

My hat is off to Bill Maxwell! I have lived in Florida for close to 15 years and totally enjoy his style of writing and "telling it like it is!"

I guess the father's reaction in this case kind of sums up the general attitude of a lot a parents today. This is very disturbing to me! Every day we see articles about what is wrong with the educational system and how much money it is going to take to improve it. The main problem with the educational system is not money! It is the total lack of respect for authority! We have come a long way since the '40s and '50s in technological advances, but we have lost an awful lot in respect and attitude toward others.

Instead of looking around for ways to bring lawsuits against teachers and school systems, parents should spend a little time "educating" the kids to the fact that in 12 years they have one whale of a learning task to do. It has to last a lifetime. Don't abuse the system. Make the kids understand what it all really means to them and their future. If you don't, you are not fulfilling your obligation as a parent.
-- H.R. O'Neill, New Port Richey

Lesson still holds

Bill Maxwell was was right on the money in his July 23 column.

When I was a teenager years ago, my parents informed me that if I got in trouble, at school or anywhere else, then I was also in trouble with them as well. I was taught to obey adult authority, and I instilled that lesson in my two daughters, who are adults now.

I lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line and never had any problem with the white-versus-black barrier in those days. We have come a long way in our efforts against discrimination since then, but we still have a long way to go. People should just remember that we are all God's children, white, black, red, brown or yellow and that adult authority should still be recognized.
-- Edith Johnson Whalen, Madeira Beach

Musket control?

Re: Making a hash of history, editorial, July 16.

Why did the St. Petersburg Times find it necessary to write an editorial denouncing the movie The Patriot? If historical accuracy is the test for writing a negative editorial, then the Times should have been writing many, many negative movie critiques over the years.

Are the "progressives" nervous that a movie positively portrays youths firing weapons in the aid of their family and freedom? Are they afraid that the movie-going masses will suddenly realize that the foundation of this country started with the violent overthrow of a centralized government that imposed more and more taxes on the people?

The movie hopefully will awaken Americans to appreciate their precious freedom and perhaps even get them involved to help our increasingly fragile democracy (by voting or working in a campaign, for example). And that makes the movie worth seeing. But remember to take your tissues.
-- Kerry H. Brown, Tampa

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