No Real Difference
The problems Cincinnati faces in a post-Charlie Luken world aren't unique to Cincinnati ("Life After Luken ," issue of Aug. 11-17). Since World War II, the states and cities in this country have pretty much been running on autopilot, the result of what gearing up for that war supplied to every aspect of our society.
Sixty years later, the fix World War II supplied to our economy and lifestyle is now unavoidably running out of gas. Sixty years ago is a long enough period of time for most people today to have no idea what life was like before WWII.
Recession, depression, inflation, unemployment and racial tension were everyday topics prior to 1940. When an outside force threatened everyone, everyone made happen what had to happen in order to survive. The fringe benfit of this was an ecomonic structure that, while far from perfect, was good enough to coast along unchanged for decades.
Although most of us might be too young to remember a time before the current version of state and city management in this country, there are plenty of signs that a large number of us are aware that something very fundamental is wearing out. Here we sit as a nation having been attacked by an outside force, currently at war in a foriegn countries, our economy is questionable, the priority we place on education is in question and healthcare costs are skyrocketing.
Any one of these topics should be a legitimate deciding issue in the upcoming presidential election. Yet gaining ground is the growing feeling among citizens from all walks of life that there's no real difference between the candidates running for president and no real change will happen no matter which one is elected.
Transfer this feeling of skepticism/sarcasm to Cincinnati, and it's not hard to imagine no difference in a post-Charlie Cincinnati. If whoever replaces Luken thinks that reciting a bunch of rhetoric will get them elected, they're probably right. But if they think that once they're elected things will take care of themselves, they're wrong.
Those days are over on a national level, and they're most definitely over here in Cincinnati. That's probably the real reason Luken is bowing out.
Fighting the Vietnam War Again
Decades-old rancor seems to be the reason for recent ads attacking presidential hopeful John Kerry. Dissecting the situation, we find Vietnam veterans who served in Kerry's unit currently making statements consistent with Naval findings and medical records of the time; Kerry stating he still has shrapnel in his leg from these missions and those events earned him the Bronze Star, Silver Star, three purple hearts and an honorable discharge from service; and the United States armed services finding all this to be true and the information not being questioned for more than 30 years.
Today, during an impassioned presidential campaign, other veterans appear saying Kerry lied and didn't serve honorably. Their current statements are at odds with Naval records and their own statements from the time. Additionally, these particular veterans have longtime grudges against Kerry for speaking out about events in Vietnam which history has shown, regrettably, to be true.
At the time, President Nixon was worried about Kerry, as a veteran who was there, voicing concerns about the Vietnam War's implementation. So Nixon found a veteran named John O'Neil to undermine Kerry's credibility and message. It didn't work. The same O'Neil now leads the group trying to undermine Kerry's current credibility and message.
O'Neil now says Kerry's awards were based on false reports, despite members of O'Neil's own group receiving awards for the same missions Kerry did and whose records corroborate the incidents related in Kerry's Naval records. O'Neil says Kerry's involvment with veterans groups voicing concerns about Vietnam was calculated to gain Kerry notoriety and entry into Washington, D.C., circles. Yet O'Neil's opposition to Kerry at the time did the same thing for O'Neil, getting him on television, onto Capitol Hill and into the White House as a friend of Richard Nixon.
Leaving aside Nixon Administration ties to Kerry's current political opponents or O'Neil's funding coming from big contributors to that same opponent, it seems obvious that O'Neil's current efforts to undermine not only Kerry's message but Kerry himself, his service and the abilities of the U.S. Navy is rooted more in acrimony over a decades old war than in any legitimate — or provable — concern about Kerry's military service.
No doubt can be cast on Kerry's volunteering for service overseas in what proved to be a very unpopular war nor on the service of the veterans who served alonsgide Kerry who corroborate the Navy's findings nor on the service of O'Neil and his group which question those conclusions. But, decades hence, it's past time to stop fighting that war and concern oneself with the problems facing our nation today.
Chemicals and Homes Don't Mix
When I grew up in Bond Hill, there were five chemical companies within a mile of my home. As innocent children, we simply thought that the air smelled bad at night. Little did we know that rich, uncaring chemical companies were poisoning us.
For years citizens and activists have tried to rid our community of the rogue polluter Queen City Barrel. When I ran the Catholic Worker House, many of our homeless men worked there unprotected. Many were exposed to dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals and would come home with stories of the chronic environmental carelessness and abuse that went on there. Repeated studies have shown lower IQs of nearby children directly related to Queen City Barrel toxic chemical releases.
Almost always, these evildoers are located in low-income and often black areas. BASF chemical company on Dana Avenue in Evanston had similar complaints and a similar fate, an explosion spewing deadly chemicals into the air. Maybe it's not a good idea to have dangerous, toxic, carcinogenic chemicals in our residential neighborhoods. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to have created them at all.
Maybe the former Cincinnati Health Commissioner Arnie Leff was right when he said that Cincinnati's extremely high cancer rate was due to the large concentration of chemical companies in the area. Better living through chemistry? I don't think so.
Maybe citizens and lawmakers could learn a lesson from the Queen City Barrel tragedy. Toxic, dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals and our neighborhoods don't mix. It's not too late to ban chemical companies from doing business in our city. Let's keep ourselves, our environment and our children safe from dangerous chemicals.