- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Eminem critics misunderstand function of art

I found Kenneth Corbin's Aug. 10 Op-Ed piece "Learning From Lolita," contrasting the critical and popular responses to Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" and Eminem's "Marshall Mathers LP" to be both accurate and thought-provoking. It's a comparison that I hadn't previously considered, despite having focused my master's thesis on Lolita and being a fan of Eminem especially for his use of complex rhyme schemes and multiple personas, which add texture to his form of statement.
However, the similarity in the outcries against both works for their purported "immorality" is, in fact, rather evident and goes to show how very little we've progressed in the last 50 years in understanding art as having an aesthetic, and not pedagogic, function in our society.
As Mr. Corbin points out, the confusion between art and artist and even worse art as education for morality, is as illogical as it is dangerous: by attributing this false standard to art, there exists an all-too convenient excuse for censorship.
Humbert Humbert, the "protagonist" in Lolita, and Mr. Mathers' Eminem and Slim Shady are what are described in literary studies as "unreliable narrators." To suppose that these characters were invented to influence the behavior of Mr. Nabokov's readers or Mr. Mathers' listeners is simply unreasonable.

Los Angeles

Critics of defense cuts isolated from new military reality

Commentary columnist William Hawkins' argument against reducing the size of the armed forces would have been more persuasive if he had taken an even-handed perspective ("Defense cuts and isolationism," Aug. 17). The decision by the Bush administration to abandon the two-war standard is nothing more than an acknowledgement of a reality created by its predecessor. Two years ago, senior defense officials and military officers were admitting that they did not have enough forces to do the job. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is right to recognize this fact and to look for ways of enhancing the U.S. military capabilities through transformation. Rather than raising the false argument of impending isolationism, Mr. Hawkins should commend the administration for telling the truth regarding our unsustainable two-war strategy.
Mr. Hawkins also demonstrates a lack of balance in his singular focus on the Army. This perspective seems misplaced in an era of jointness. His concern that force structure reductions will unfairly target the U.S. Army is not born out by the history of the post-Cold War demobilization. Yes, it is important that the United States maintain a strong and viable Army. Certainly, ground forces have been a central element in every military campaign. True, hindsight shows that we have at times in our history not fielded enough ground forces of the right type. But, it is equally true that ground forces alone cannot win wars. No less a figure than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was willing to acknowledge that without the pre-D-Day air campaign, he would never have been able to fight his way onto the European continent.
If the United States is to remain a world power, engaged around the globe, U.S. military forces must be able to meet the full range of demands and threats of the 21st century. This means more than having a large military. It means, among other things, deploying missile defenses to dissuade would-be proliferators from acquiring (and then using) theater or intercontinental ballistic missiles. It means acquiring a new generation of space-based and unnamed aerial surveillance systems with which to view the globe and anticipate crises. And it means acquiring enough F-22s to ensure that U.S. ground forces continue to enjoy the immunity from enemy air attack in the future as they have for the past 50 years. Without these and other similarly transformational new capabilities, the "boots" Mr. Hawkins refers to may never get "on the ground." That truly would be the beginning of isolationism.

Senior Fellow
Lexington Institute

Chief Ramsey's misplaced priorities

For his Aug. 17 letter to the editor "Traffic camera editorial offends police chief," D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey pulled out his thesaurus and complained that The Washington Times "should be embarrassed by its hyperbolic rhetoric and should apologize publicly for this over-the-top transgression," in response to the Aug. 9 editorial attacking the D.C. police's new photo radar scheme ("For-profit photo radar"). Let me suggest that it is Chief Ramsey who should be embarrassed and who should apologize for presiding over a police force in a city that in 1999 had 241 homicides, 248 rapes, 3,344 robberies, 4,615 aggravated assaults, 5,067 burglaries and 6,652 motor vehicle thefts. The chief claims that the "safety and well-being of our residents are our top priorities." Yet, in the face of these statistics, he focuses efforts on reducing the 41 traffic fatalities in the District.
Let me also suggest to Chief Ramsey that while no one wants to die in a traffic accident, it isn't speeders that scare the residents and visitors of his city it's the murderers, rapists, robbers, thugs, thieves and various other violent offenders. Perhaps Lockheed Martin is developing new technology for "photo murder" or "photo rape" or "photo aggravated assault." If not, my final suggestion for Chief Ramsey is to take the police department resources being drained by the photo radar scheme and direct them back to the streets, where the violent crimes are occurring. One has the sense, though, that when weighing the merits of the $11 million windfall expected from the photo radar against the prospect of preventing some of the more than 20,000 crimes committed in the city, that money is more valuable for both Chief Ramsey and the D.C. government.

Millersville, Md.

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