Restrepo, for real
I saw Restrepo ("The art of war," Film, Aug. 12) in a unique situation at the theater with about 20 young men who were assigned to and fought at Restrepo. After speaking with them, I found they were the ones who closed Restrepo in April 2010. Watching this movie and hearing their comments during the movie were much more than watching a documentary.
They recognized and felt the emotions that the soldiers on the screen were feeling. They'd laugh at simple things that, unless you were in the military at some point, you probably wouldn't see the humor. And when a soldier died, they were as quiet and somber as would be expected from the true feelings of losing a brother.
Losing a family member hurts all of us; losing a brother in war hurts not only your person, but leaves a void in you that can only be held in. You deal with it in your own way and on your own terms. No one can take that from you. No one.
The movie gave people who will never see war a glimpse that no other movie has given. But just a small glimpse. What these brothers went through and are going through will never belong to anyone else.
We owe a lot to the men and women serving now. Many sacrifices made daily go unheard, and it's just part of the job.
Whether you support this war or not, our military is all-volunteer on behalf of all of us. Many of your children will never have to go to war because there are those of us who have answered the call.
From a veteran with two sons still serving and one in Afghanistan now, my respect to all who have served and are serving now.
— Name withheld
Still no answers
Larimore Nicholl ("Inside the mind of one atheist," cover story, Aug. 12) makes excellent arguments regarding religion and atheism. Who wouldn't prefer an easy answer to all the mysteries, plus the comfort of a life after death?
This alone is sufficient to make all religions trivial for me. We have evidence of humans turning to gods, totems, idols, rituals, etc., for as long as we have formed societies, and after these millennia to conclude we have in fact discovered the true religion among them is the most massive self-delusion imaginable.
None of this would have mattered if the eternal lesson had been to love one another. Instead we see, over and over, the excuse to feel comfortable about killing or subjugating one another. A lesser consequence has been to assure believers that sacrifice and death are not consequential, as a better life awaits. Poverty, starvation and natural disaster are seen as a mere test of faith, evil as something to be forgiven, guilt as a sign of having a soul worthy of redemption, etc.
None of this answers the great mystery. How come so many of us can love, hate, thrive, suffer, cheat, share, be selfish or compassionate, vote liberal or conservative without any faith whatsoever, while others do the same while proclaiming a faith in some almighty?
As long as there is no consistent indicator of how the faithful are different from the faithless, we are back at the beginning: Why does anyone believe in a god?
Here is my best guess: The religious have more holidays. Until we atheists contrive to have more gatherings, holidays and rituals proclaiming our unity, we will never catch on as a major movement! God help us!
— Bruce Budy
The true test
If Larimore Nicholl, God forbid, ever finds himself trapped in a burning building or some other such predicament, I bet he'd be praying his atheist ass off.
— Bill Schaffner
Demonize the illegals
Surprisingly, the Aug. 5 news article "Barbed ire" passed without comment. I am irritated when someone tries to make illegal immigrants out to be victims. In the article, we are invited to imagine being a child afraid someone would invade your home and take your mom or dad — or you — away to some strange place. The phrasing is designed to elicit sympathy for the criminal!
This is the police we're talking about, enforcing the law, not some home invasion! When I hear about family members traumatized by deportation, I'm not horrified by the insensitivity of law enforcement. Instead, I think about what a poor choice the criminal has made, selfishly inflicting hardship on his (or her) family, knowing they would suffer the consequences of his actions. Why are we trying to demonize law enforcement, instead of the illegals?
I don't care what country they came from, if someone is in this country illegally, the consequence is deportation. Simple!
— Jacques Sears
In response to Joshua Dawson ("Meat of the matter," Letters, Aug. 12): Mr. Dawson's letter is a feat of irony. He writes with a deliberately earthy dialect to illustrate that the point ought to be more important than the packaging. Quite so.
And what is his point? Well, that the packaging is more important than the point. At least, that's what I gather from the fact that his entire letter is an exercise of "opinin' and whinin'" about "some folk using big words," instead of an attempt to honestly engage with their ideas.
I read the letter about Nazis ("Not about Nazis," July 8). It caught my eye because my paternal grandparents happen to be Holocaust survivors. So it came as only a mild surprise to discover that the Nazi letter was penned by my own father. To answer Dawson's question — "Do all ya'll talk 'sactly the way all ya'll write?" — yes, he does. My father talks like a human encyclopedia. His most-recommended book is Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution. Every inch of wall space in his house that is not taken up by furniture is taken up by books. He has degrees in English and electrical engineering, and he is a software programmer by trade. Suffice to say, he did not have to consult a dictionary to write a paltry letter to the editor.
To top it off, my father would be the last person to judge an idea based on its presentation rather than its merit. He is a bohemian at heart and cynical of self-proclaimed intellectuals.
The greatest irony of all is that Mr. Dawson has managed to insult the integrity of one of the few people in this world who would not judge his intelligence by the breadth of his vocabulary. It just goes to show, it don't take larnin' to be a snob.
— Leah Katz
Basic economics, revised
Edward Smith's master's in economic development no doubt gives him much credit as an analyst of the economic benefits of unemployment. But his condemnation of anyone who has a shred of doubt concerning unemployment benefits, such as religious followers of classic right-wing pundits Beck, Hannity, and Co. ("Basic economics," Letters, Aug. 12), is unduly harsh and misguided.
Smith asks where I come up with my assertion that unemployment benefits can worsen unemployment. A wide array of economists agree, including President Obama's own economic adviser, Larry Summers:
"Each unemployed person has a reservation wage — the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase that reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer," Summers wrote for the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics in 2008.
Mr. Smith also claims every dollar of unemployment benefits leads to $1.60 in new spending. I assume he is citing the work of Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder, two respected economists. But the paper Mr. Smith cites, as pointed out by economist Arnold Kling, fails to provide confidence intervals for this particular number, which means we don't know how accurate or reliable that estimate is. Furthermore, this type of number, known as a "multiplier" in economics, is incredibly hard to estimate, and calculations tend to vary considerably. So at best I'd take that $1.60 number with a hefty grain of salt.
(By the way, I did earn a degree, Mr. Smith. It may have even had something to do with economics.)
— Tim Canon
What's your gospel?
Re: "Look harder," Letters, Aug. 12: Wait a minute here, paid police-support preacher. Are you saying your gospel is conformist appearance and (ahem) membership in your church, rewarded with a low-paid job? That's sounding remarkably like a cult to me.
What would you do if you hadn't pulled strings to get your new proselyte that construction job? Maybe get him a job handing out flowers at the airport? (I know, they don't let them into the airports anymore, but I think most Indy readers are smart enough to see where that points.)
As for people being angry when screwed over by your system, rather than meekly coming to you and begging forgiveness (and help getting a low-paid job in payment for their subservience), the first reaction is more human and normal than the second.
Church isn't a social club or employment agency. Jesus has no record of shaving or getting a haircut. If he had a Roman-style crewcut and shave, he would have looked mighty funny compared to the Middle East extremists with whom he surrounded himself.
John the Baptist was a Nazarite. You can read that in the oath Elizabeth and Zecharia took when the Angel told them he was coming. Touch not strong drink, or wine, or grapes? Like Samson. Means he, John, never cut his hair or beard.
I just get the feeling, maybe I'm wrong, but if Jesus or John the Baptist showed up at your church, you'd call the cops on them.
— Jonah Elijah Brown
Give Christo a chance
I have followed several Christo and Jeanne-Claude projects over the last 17 years, the most famous of which were Wrapped Reichstag in Germany/Berlin, Wrapped Trees in Switzerland and The Gates in New York. All suffered from great misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Authorities were reluctant to give permission to what seemed to be journeys into the unknown. The uniqueness made it extremely hard to forecast the outcome.
The fear of financial disaster and mistrust has been replaced by enormous extra incomes. Every realized art project became a historical landmark. Never have they have sought any financial help.
So trust the power of imagination and let this gift for mankind become real. People will thank you for what is very rare nowadays: a masterpiece that will be there only for a very short time, but will be remembered forever!
— Aleksander Perkovic