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Letters to the Editor

The Memphis Blues

To the Editor:

In "A Time for Strict Measures" (Editorial, June 3rd issue), you wrote, "We're proud of the giant strides Memphis has made in the last decade -- especially downtown -- and we were happy to bring so many influential people here to see how far we have come since 1968, when the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King became the occasion for Time magazine's referring to us as a "backwater river town.'"

You left out the word "decaying." Be that as it may, it should be emphasized, first of all, that Time magazine was not holding the people of Memphis responsible for the assassination. Their point was, rather, that the racial distrust and hostility aroused in the white and black communities by the developments in the sanitation worker strike created an atmosphere in which acts of violence became not only possible but probable.

The drama was being played out in many cities across the country, of course; Memphis was not unique in this respect, for as Time magazine noted, "in causation as well as execution, the murder was both a symbol and a symptom of the nation's racial malaise."

Admittedly, a visitor to Memphis could find many signs of renewal and growth, and Memphians were justifiably proud of the new construction, new industry, and so forth. In using so harsh a word as "decaying," however, Time magazine was considering as well where Memphis stood with respect to the things that went to the heart of the urban crisis in America in 1968. Poverty, human decay, and blight existed to a disturbing degree in Memphis. And they still do! But today, we can add rampant crime and homelessness. We've come a long way, haven't we?

Arthur H. Prince

The Park That Won't Go Away

To the Editor:

I have read many letters in your publication over the past several weeks regarding the Confederate Park controversy. I am no history buff, but I can see some points for both sides of the argument involving Confederate Park.

I used to work in downtown Memphis and occasionally I would walk down to the park and read the historical markers. Then I would stand near the edge of the park overlooking the river and think what it must have been like to draw the line and defend at all costs what I deemed right and precious.

No matter what you read into history (or fail to see in it) you must respect at least the idea of standing up for what you believe is right. Too often today people are willing to defend what is right to a point, and when it is inconvenient or unpopular to defend that stand, they settle for something less because it is politically expedient.

Rather than trying to rewrite history by erasing all evidence and re-teaching history in your views, preserve the history. Make sure that the historical markers never tarnish or disappear, and teach what happened. Then show what you have become and how you have learned. How can you know where you are without knowing where you have been?

Corky Stoddard
e-mail (Lakeview, AR)

To the Editor:

What's all this lunacy about Confederate Park? I am a white Memphian who is weary of all things Confederate. We have parks, monuments, and museums from one end of this state to the other all paying tribute to the Confederacy. Quit beating a dead horse!

I believe Memphis should set a precedent by dedicating a park with a beautiful and dignified statue to those slaves who suffered atrocities we can't even imagine and yet had the courage to survive. Any location will do, but I can't think of a better one than Confederate Park to honor those oppressed people. It overlooks the river where the slaves arrived and were auctioned off. Plus it would be a wonderful downtown tourist attraction.

Of course, if the hardline Confederate junkies are aghast at the idea, they can imagine it as a symbol of what the South fought so hard to preserve -- the enslavement of human beings.

For once Memphis citizens would have something they could and would rally behind. Something they wouldn't mind having their tax dollars used for.

Its time has come.

Marina Foster

Quality Control

To the Editor:

I enjoyed George Shadroui's gentle reminder concerning the 25th anniversary of Robert Pirsig's seminal book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. As owner of several BMW motorcycles over the last 17 years, I have come to take parts of his book to heart, especially concerning his philosophy toward working on motorcycles, while avoiding the high drama of "ghosts, madness, nightmares, and shattered personalities." Of course, motorcycles in his work represent only a specific example of how we deal (or not) with an ever-increasing and bewildering variety of technological inventions. I find no greater delight than in deliberate study of some electromechanical assembly in detail, attempting to ferret out its purpose, usually as a prelude to repairing it. I often fail and invariably find it is because my approach lacked quality. Because technology is becoming such an overwhelming part of our lives, we cannot afford to continue to "depend on technology and condemn it at the same time" (as did John and Sylvia) but must rather learn to "value technology" so that we can appreciate that we ultimately " need it the least" to maintain quality in our lives.

Mark Slovak
e-mail (Memphis)

The Memphis Flyer encourages reader response. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, POB 687, Memphis, TN 38101. Or call Back Talk at 575-9405. Or send us e-mail at All responses must include name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 250 words.

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