September 4-11, 2006

“Grief culture” is just another embodiment of the towering self-absorption that is one of the unceasing hallmarks of the people of this city [“Cityside: The Long Funeral,” by John Homans, August 21]. The avarice machine is back working just as hard, or harder, than ever, but we still want to be allowed a good cry here and there.
—Kenneth P. Scrudato, Manhattan

I read with great interest your various articles about what the world and New York would be like if 9/11 hadn’t happened [“What If 102 Minutes of History Were Erased?” August 21]. Would criticism of the Clinton administration have been as harsh as that of the Bush administration if the terrorists had been successful in 1993 in bringing down the towers? If Clinton had successfully dealt with the Islamic-fundamentalist threat thirteen years ago, we may not have had 9/11. If Carter had dealt with Iran in 1979 when they took our ­embassy staff hostage, we might not have had to worry about a nuclear Iran. When thousands of Muslims demonstrate in the streets and chant “Death to America,” they are not joking around. They have been at war with the West for over 25 years. Thank goodness President Bush realizes this, even if most Americans do not.
—Matt Kurth, Hoboken, N.J.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” Milan Kundera wrote. I think he’d be as disturbed as I was by most of your ­writers’ “alternative histories.” The frequent suggestion that life would have been more or less the same for most people is not just snidely facile but a failure of memory. On 9/10/01, the Bush agenda was at a standstill, and it was hard to imagine how he would be reelected. The government still had the fiscal agility from ­Clinton-era deficit reduction to tackle real domestic problems. There was a reformist government begging for our help in Iran. New Yorkers were talking more about affordable housing than office ­towers. Most important, Americans were not so scared that they couldn’t think straight. We could have done so much good, and, if 9/11 had never happened, we just might have.
—Oliver Kramer, Manhattan

Democrats and the Economy
In his column “Liberal Losses” [“The Bottom Line,” August 28], James J. Cramer suggests that I will take a hit in the stock market if the Democrats get control of Congress. I base my vote not on my own financial gain but on what is best for the country and its future. People like to talk about how Democrats are bad for investments, the economy, et cetera, but the stock market overall has not done better over the past decades under Republicans than under Democrats. Personally, my portfolio had its best years when Clinton was president.
—Nancy L. Ashton, Haddonfield, N.J.

Spike Lee
As a black American who grew up in an educated, ­upper-class environment, I have found that privileged, successful ­African-Americans are often seen as wanting to be white [“The Angriest Auteur,” by Ariel Levy, August 21]. White Americans have long been granted the right to be as successful as they desire, but once a black person becomes a financial success, he has to face his own people, who feel somehow let down by it. If his success is low-key and within the realms of the business world, he runs the risk of having to apologize to his own people for it. He must drop g’s from words, swig Cristal, and “keep it real,” or else he’s perceived as a “sellout.” I was pleased to see this addressed in the article; I applaud the writer for her honesty and insightfulness.
—Arlene Jograj, Brooklyn

In her profile of Spike Lee, Levy remarks, “It’s better to be a rich person who gives a shit about poor people than it is to be a rich person who only cares about himself.” Her thesis seems to be that Lee’s good life is somehow at odds with his belief that so many black people shouldn’t be living in poverty in 21st-century America. He wants to see more black people as successful as himself. He wants the overall well-being of blacks to improve. Should he live in a mud hut until it does?
—Lara Lawlor, Manhattan

September 4-11, 2006