Letters — From the April 2013 issue
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In his report [“This Land Is Not Your Land,” February], Ted Genoways indicts a few citizens and politicians in Nebraska as a stand-in for the discrimination perpetrated by the whole country. He devotes just one paragraph to the plight of U.S. workers displaced by low-wage foreigners, choosing instead to focus on immigrants in the town of Fremont. But Raul Vazquez, whose struggles are a major part of the article, is himself an American citizen. The question is who is victimizing him. The hiring of undocumented workers, who are championed by both middle-class liberals and the large corporations that profit from their labor — Cargill, Hormel, Tyson, et al. — quite often cheapens the jobs of other minorities and of legal immigrants. The real story is that importing and exploiting cheap labor is just one facet of the total dismantling of the last vestiges of an industry–labor social compact. It is, as such, a fundamentally un-American activity.
Casus Belli Frigidi
In his review of Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956 [“Red States,” February], Michael Scammell provides further documentation of the brutality and viciousness of Stalin’s Soviet Union, especially to its own, and of the ruling elites in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany who zealously carried out the wishes and policies of their masters. But these facts are less relevant to an analysis of the Cold War than is the question of whether Stalinist policies were prima facie evidence of a Soviet desire for world domination. Did they justify the worldwide presence of the American military and CIA, and U.S. nuclear development as the Soviet nuclear program was just beginning? Despite a lack of evidence, some are determined to view early U.S. nuclear-weapons policy as canny foresight of the Soviet Union’s actions rather than as their proximate cause.
Like Applebaum, Scammell dismisses the idea that the Cold War was caused “not by communist expansion but by the American drive for open international markets.” Evidence for this theory can be found in the events leading up to Hiroshima rather than in the later period on which Applebaum focuses in her book. One example not disputed but simply ignored involves the Polish atomic scientist Joseph Rotblat, who joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 as a member of the British team. Rotblat recalled later that in March of that year, three months before D-Day, General Leslie Groves, director of the project, told him that “the real objective of building the bomb was, of course, to subdue the Soviet Union.” Rotblat resigned from his post at the end of 1944, devoted the rest of his life to nuclear disarmament, and was rewarded for his efforts, in 1995, with the Nobel Peace Prize.
H. Neal Collins
Kabir Chibber ignores an important question implicitly posed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in its decision to tax sculptures and installations as the sums of their materials instead of as artworks [“Blind Appraisal,” Annotation, February]. The judgment presented the art world with an opportunity to discuss the nature and boundaries of art, but the galleries involved instead approached it as a question of money. The tribunal was about more than whether particular materials constitute art. It asked who gets to decide what art is, and the art world failed to make its case to the broader public.
Depth of Field
The recent portfolio of Garry Winogrand’s late work [“An Obsessive Embrace,” February] confirms my opinion that he was the quintessential photographer of the late twentieth century. He was driven by the need to see what the world looked like as a photograph, and as Lyle Rexer suggests in his accompanying essay, Winogrand’s work is a precursor to the continuous narrative of imagery now streaming on social networks. A catalogue of every photograph he ever took would be a handbook for seeing and knowing ourselves. The thousand words a single picture is worth don’t tell us nearly as much as the hundreds of thousands generated by Winogrand’s masterful oeuvre.
Chair, Photography, Video, and Related Media M.F.A., School of Visual Arts
New York City