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Readers deserved better

The Independent's readers—accustomed as we are to celebrating citizen activists—were let down by your indifferent review of Jean-Christian Rostagni's excellent Life on Mars, Part 1: A Photo-Critique of America, exhibit at Through This Lens gallery ("Freedom art," Nov. 22). The show's lively mix of political awareness, photographic excellence and moral statement is rarely combined in one person's work, yet readers who rely on reviews for accessing the best our community has to offer could miss it.

As a photographer and a supporter of human rights and economic rights, I applaud anyone who—like Rostagni—can deliver the art and the issues together in the gallery. And while the photos stand on their own, I felt that the photographer's brief commentaries posted among the works were themselves worth the trip.

Writer Alice Walker commented on mixing social involvement and art in her recent Democracy Now interview: "I don't know many people who still believe in art for art's sake. You know, we have flowers for that." [See www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/17/1454228.]

While I wouldn't kick decorative art out of the galleries, most media have so trivialized our consciousness that I appreciate best those images that keep us in touch with positive struggle. Rostagni earns our appreciation for his photos and their affirmation of Alice Walker's standards—as does the Independent, where I first saw his work.

Jerry Markatos
Pittsboro

Rostagni did, too

I was very disappointed to read the review by Douglas Vuncannon on the exhibition Life on Mars, Part 1: A Photo-Critique of America by Jean-Christian Rostagni ("Freedom art," Nov. 22). I had just seen the show and felt that its power was in its subtlety. Certainly three guys holding up a sign (actually Hasidic Jews are not supposed to be photographed—any consequences for them?) expressing their sentiment requires no deduction. But what about the fourth musketeer, the Palestinian? And the photo of military families speaking out—how safe would you feel expressing this anti-Bush idea in Fayetteville, if you were in a wheelchair? Vuncannon's line, "the social dance that is the ineffective American anti-war protest," tells us more about him and could explain his reaction.

I thank him for acknowledging that Rostagni has a command of nuance, but I feel like that understatement is hardly an adequate apology for the review that follows. However, the review does underscore the show's title: Life on Mars.

Robert Griffin
Chapel Hill

Wasted words

I've just read Laura Eshelman's "Taking on the justice system with the 'Red 'Ped'" (First Person, Nov. 29). What a self-justifying piece by a spoiled rich young woman! I am disappointed that a mass communication major writes with no better evidence of self-reflection and taking responsibility; I'm disappointed, too, with the Independent for deciding that the piece was worthy of print space.

Hugh Stohler
Raleigh

Keep Dix on the hill

I have more than "Back Talk" when it comes to your article "Imagine Dix" by Bob Geary (cover story, Nov. 29). I'm sure Dorothea Dix herself, after giving her life for the mentally sick, would not appreciate a monument being built for her on Dix grounds being the only thing left of her to take care of the sick. Better for them to run the streets and fill the jails while the rich take the ground from under their beds. Progress? It is ludicrous of us, North Carolina taxpayers, to think that the excuse of telling us that we are having a hospital for our mentally sick built up on the Virginia border and that will actually give refuge and care for our sick. That hospital will not even cover the heads of the sick that are already patients at Butner.

The streets and jails are about all that's left for the sick of Dix. Not only is our core of N.C. mental health gone with this self-serving greed move by corrupt politics fueled by big development, also we will be giving Virginia our jobs. I know I sure don't want to get sick—no walk in the park. This all, of course, is only an excuse for taking Dix ground by corrupt politics fueled by big development. They have sure 'nuf taken care of the problem—on us. I again say shame, shame.

My part of Dix land is not for sale. I and all my forefathers have already paid for Dix land with hard-earned taxes. It is our state hospital, not only Raleigh's nor Wake County's. Where did our vote go on this most important issue for our state? I want my vote. How about you?

Hope S. Turlington
Raleigh

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