- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

Chief Wahoo, meet Holy Moses

Those who characterize the American Indian mascot controversy as ridiculous, silly or just "politically correct" would change their tune if they were confronted with a public high school that used a biblical character as its mascot in a manner they found offensive. Imagine a boy clothed as Moses stalking the sidelines carrying plastic-foam cutouts shaped like the tablets of the Ten Commandments while fans in the stands made motions with their arms as if they were pounding Bibles. Though I'm sure some people would be delighted to see religious themes of any kind injected into public sporting events, the majority of Jews and Christians would be disgusted at the trivialization of their heritage. Is it so much different when a boy in war paint sporting a feather headdress struts in front of a stand of "tomahawk-chopping" fans?

Clearly, there is a growing concern among American Indians and even non-Indians that American Indian culture should not be misused as a way to get people excited about touchdowns, baskets, home runs or goals. Those concerns should be regarded as genuine and legitimate.

To be fair, the financial costs of switching mascots probably is the best argument against changing. However, since when is it acceptable to continue knowingly to insult an entire group of people just because it costs too much to stop? Perhaps the costs would be easier to take if schools introduced new mascots and gradually phased out the offensive ones. Double mascots or nicknames are not uncommon. Go to a University of Auburn football game, and you'll find an eagle patrolling the sidelines despite the fact that Auburn's athletic teams are known as the Tigers. At University of North Carolina games, you'll see someone in a ram costume even though that animal has nothing to do with a Tar Heel. Before the start of every Georgia Tech football game, not only will you see a yellow jacket running onto the field, but you also will see an antique car affectionately known as the "Rambling Wreck From Georgia Tech" alongside it.


RICK PELTZ

Baltimore

Columnist's Middle East scenario is fantasy

In Arnold Beichman's Aug. 24 Commentary column, "Israel, modernization and terror," he asks us to imagine a fatalistic scenario of defeated Axis powers attempting a "comeback" 50 years later instead of welcoming an end to war. He then goes on to juxtapose this scenario with the present situation in the Middle East in an absurd attempt to equate an "Axis comeback" with Palestinian resistance to Israel's bellicose military occupation.

Perhaps even more bizarre is his assessment that Israel is a "multicultural democracy," even though Israeli Arabs (Palestinians who survived the original ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948) live in segregated housing in Western-style ghettos, are prohibited from buying or leasing land and face gross discrimination in health care and education.

Interestingly enough, he makes no distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. He does refer to "the Palestinians," though, an at least tacit recognition that they exist (a far cry from the once-much-touted Zionist ethos that, as former Prime Minister Golda Meir put it, "there is no such thing as a Palestinian").

Mr. Beichman would call them "Israeli Arabs" if he believed they fell under Israel's sovereignty. This raises the question: If these Palestinians do not live in Israel, why does the Israeli military still have a presence there?

Moving from Mr. Beichman's fantasy world into reality, the Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem are resisting a ruthless 34-year Israeli military occupation. Apocalyptic scenarios of defeated "Arab governments" making a comeback and using "boy soldiers" cannot hide the fact that Israel is laying siege to 3.2 million Palestinians, imprisoning them in their own towns and villages and surrounding them with tanks and Apache gunships that unleash massive firepower on their neighborhoods, schools and homes. The so-called boy soldier is actually a child who, out of frustration and anger at witnessing his family's daily dehumanization and perhaps murder throws a stone at an Israeli tank and is perhaps shot for doing so.

"Democratic," "multicultural" Israel is in violation of dozens of U.N. resolutions, international law and Geneva conventions and is committing what both Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross have categorized as "war crimes."

Here is a more realistic scenario to ponder: Imagine a once-brutalized and once-defeated people emigrating to Palestine, dispossessing and expelling its indigenous population and then for 50 years committing brutal acts of unbridled barbarism in an attempt to expand their borders and preserve the racial purity of their "Jewish state."


VICTOR LAMA

Thornwood, N.Y.

Firestone settlement is not admission of liability

In your Aug. 27 editorial "Firestone pays up," you state that Firestone previously argued that the Ford Explorer was to blame for the tire-failure-related accidents but that "last Friday's settlement suggests otherwise."

As many major news sources reported, Firestone's trial defense was centered on the Explorer's inherent propensity to roll over after a tire failure an event so foreseeable that every new vehicle leaves the factory with a spare. This defense was supported by testimony from independent experts who have discovered that the Explorer is uncontrollable if the vehicle is traveling at highway speeds when the tire fails. Firestone has argued from the beginning that the large number of claims filed as a result of such cases can be ascribed to the catastrophic nature of the accidents caused by an out-of-control vehicle rather than a stable vehicle that remains in control after tire failure, comes to a stop on the side of the road and awaits the tow truck, with no need to report a claim. Clearly, Firestone does not intend to abandon this sound line of reasoning.

Firestone likely settled this case because the plaintiff's lawyer who was seeking $1 billion came to his senses after the jury failed to respond impulsively to emotional appeals such as the one he made in his closing argument: "I wish the law would allow me to take this axle and beat ." Instead, the jury spent three full days reviewing incontrovertible testimony about the instability of the Explorer.

Jury trials are, by nature, unpredictable. Insert a paralyzed mother as the plaintiff, and all bets are off, regardless of the merits. Firestone's settlement surely is a calculated business decision in light of such risks, not an admission of liability, as your comments suggest.


SCOTT HORTON

Los Angeles

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