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UrbanArt Debate

To the Editor:

Chris Davis' smug and arrogant treatment of anyone who would deign to have respect for Christianity and the American founding in last week's cover story ("Legacy," January 24th issue) is a spectacular illustration of the fact that he and all those associated with this disaster just don't get it. The people responsible for this mess don't have the right to use public dollars to attack the American founding and Christianity in my name (as a tax-paying Shelby County citizen). Quotations like those at the library represent the government's version of the truth, whether intended or not. Therefore, the quotations infringe on my rights and the rights of the majority of citizens in this community who are Christian anti-communists.

There has been no serious offer of compromise, contrary to what Davis wrote. The UrbanArt Commission (UAC) has characterized anyone who might have the courage to express a different point of view as provincial, ignorant, or worse. The proposal to dedicate 2 percent of the budget for any public building project to art under the control of the UAC must be resisted at all costs. You consistently refuse to acknowledge perhaps the most egregious insult in the scroll at the library: "When the Missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."

There are no other quotes that attack a religion other than this attack on the work of Christian missionaries. Do you really think that the people of Shelby County find this slander appropriate? Do you really think that the First Amendment allows government, as represented by an inscription on a public monument, to attack Christianity?

Finally, how is it possible that the defenders of the UrbanArt Commission and the library administration have forgotten that more than a billion people suffer under communist rule today? It is sad that you are so misinformed and insensitive to the First Amendment rights of others. At least you spelled my name correctly.

William W. (Bill) Wood

Shelby County Coalition to Save

the Memphis Library

To the Editor:

Carissa Hussong is a professional. As executive director of the UAC, she has graciously avoided a potential political slugfest over the phrase "Workers of the world, unite!" by turning the matter into a call for involvement and understanding. If everyone knew how much work and forethought went into that project, it would be easy to see how others might not be so graceful in the face of such criticism.

The phrase in question takes up about two square feet in a massive piece of art which poignantly points toward the past while serving as an entrance to a building built for the future. Surely we can all find something in the kaleidoscope of ideas to appreciate. As for offensiveness, the Communist Manifesto phrase is no more anti-American than "One if by land, two if by sea" is anti-British. The very fact that we have public art that celebrates our right to free expression is as American as it gets.

I am glad the Flyer gave its readers a look at some of the many public art projects brought about by the UAC. And many thanks to the UAC's awesome leadership.

J.R. Devin


A Good Liberal

To the Editor:

Like any good liberal, Rebekah Gleaves (Viewpoint, January 24th issue) blames failing schools, crime, and poverty on racist attitudes, when in fact just the opposite is true. If you check those three categories you'll find all are overwhelmingly black. Yet anyone who moves to the county, where the crime and poverty rates are considerably lower and the schools considerably better, is labeled as the problem.

This is not a question of the chicken or the egg. Until Gleaves and her ilk quit making excuses and start accepting responsibility, those racist attitudes she abhors will continue. Putting the blame on people for doing what is best for themselves and their families is not helping.

Gary Shelly


To the Editor:

Thanks to Rebekah Gleaves for her Viewpoint article. As a Memphis native who lived in Nashville for six years before returning here, I always heard references to Memphis' "race problems." Mayor Herenton's proposed consolidation is an important first step in abolishing Shelby County's "separate but equal" political systems. I once viewed consolidation as a dilution of the African-American voice. However, with one of the most evenly balanced black and white populations in the country, Memphis and Shelby County could be an example for the entire nation.

Martavius Jones


The Memphis Flyer encourages reader response. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, POB 1738, Memphis, TN 38101. Or call Back Talk at 575-9405. Or send us e-mail at letters@memphisflyer.com. All responses must include name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 250 words.

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