Letters for the week of September 1-7, 2004

Two different readings of our cover story about diabetes, and more discussion of Air America and Le Chateau.

“Good Kids, Bad Blood,” Feature, 8/11

I was moved
Thank you for a superbly sensitive reading of a young child’s trials with a disease that is not easy even when contracted at a much later age. I hope it is widely read to stimulate research, especially the stem-cell research which is apparently quite promising for both types 1 and 2.

Congratulations for an achievement in writing a personal account with such insight and delicacy and such respect for the subject interviewed and the subject of diabetes itself. As one who contracted the disease much later in life, it was a particularly moving account. I hope this is a beginning of work to bring this to a wider public attention.
Hubert Flesher, Leeds, Massachusetts

Good topic, bad title
There were many serious problems with your article on the looming epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among children, but I felt compelled to write about what disturbed me most: the title, “Good Kids, Bad Blood.”

This perpetuates the outdated notion that there is a separation of the mind (i.e. “good kids”) and the body (i.e. “bad blood”), and implies that the body and one’s diabetes are “bad.” Because children with diabetes inevitably come to think of their diabetes as a part of their sense of self, promoting the idea that their diabetes and bodies are “bad” teaches children to view a part of them self as “bad” and as an enemy to be attacked or controlled.

Perhaps the more crucial looming epidemic that should have been discussed by the article is the sense of alienation from their bodies that so many people with chronic illnesses and disabilities experience due to the way that Western medicine teaches them to view their conditions. I was thrilled to see this topic covered by your paper, but to avoid future insensitivities like the article’s title, you should consider having your reporter consult with someone familiar with disability or chronic illness studies — particularly someone within the field who has the condition.
Jessica Bernstein, Psy.D, Oakland

Carpe diem
I read your article on the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in children with interest, since I also have had it since I was fifteen. I’m 56 now, and I think that having diabetes for 41 years has helped me to live a healthier and happier life. Knowing that I could be cut down by any of its terrible complications in the future, like my late uncle who went blind, has always made me want to experience life to the fullest now. So I did a lot of things I might not have done if I didn’t have diabetes, such as traveling and living all over Europe and Africa in the ’70s.

Over the years, I also learned what it takes for me to stay healthy. I learned to eat well, that I love physical activity, and that I need to do something creative in my life. All of this took time; many years, in fact. Fortunately I found that in spite of having diabetes, my body was tough and resilient, and so far I’ve managed to avoid major problems, had a healthy baby, and still take the same oral medication I started when I was fifteen. So I hope the young people who are recently diagnosed take heart and don’t despair. It doesn’t have to be all bad. Having diabetes can teach you how to live a good life.
Naomi Rosenthal, Berkeley

stop counting Doritos!
I found “Good Kids, Bad Blood” by Lauren Gard to be not only tactless, but offensive as well. First, Gard mentions that Latinos and African Americans have higher rates of diabetes than whites, but then goes on to detail — with some seriously racist undertones — just how many fathers these siblings have. In an article about the looming epidemic of Type 2 diabetes — which will soon affect one out of three American kids — who cares how many fathers there are in this family?

Then the author goes on in painstaking detail, counting every Doritos chip LaJaya eats in a day. Is this supposed to be informative? Rather than actually addressing the societal problems that are converging to create this major epidemic, Gard chooses instead to pick on a ten-year-old girl by counting how many chips she’s eaten.
Jana Schustack, Berkeley

“Groovin’ in the Grove,” Billboard, 7/21

His grove is our nightmare
Yes, supporting jazz is great, donating to a good cause is wonderful too, but let’s get the facts straight when you report on the grove.

Mr. Scher bought a house that came with a wood deck used rarely as a stage, no formal amphitheater. No events were held there. He then bulldozed, terraced, installed a sound system, and built at a considerable sum an amphitheater for events that hold 250 to 300 people.

He bamboozled the county and thumbs his nose at the neighbors and pulls in Senator Perata to fight his battles. He called it “garden renovations” on his permit, from what I was told. This, in the middle of a residential area, winding streets, no sidewalks, no parking, where the sound of amplified speeches and music carries and disturbs neighbors, where the sound of caterers and trucks can be heard long after the show ends.

It is for a good cause, it is a lovely venue, but it is in the wrong area. It is a good example of what money, politics, and pull can get you — bend the laws and screw the people.
Marilyn Stollon, Kensington

“Where’s Al?” Bottom Feeder, 8/11

Rush listeners prefer Al
Considering how Al Franken and the rest of the liberally oriented Air America lineup have taken off in cities like Portland, Oregon (where it was reported that in six months the station carrying it ZOOMED to Number One in that market!), it indeed IS a mystery that the Bay Area still is without their input.

In Portland it was reported that ALL the right-wing talkers (O’Reilly, Hannity, and even Rush!) have seen their numbers falling steadily to the Air America onslaught!

Incidentally, computerized listeners here CAN access the programs online from either Air America itself or — even easier — Portland’s KPOJ radio, at 620KNews.com. Their actual call letters aren’t in that address, but if Googled as KPOJ, it can easily be found.
Dick Williams, Berkeley

“Maison des Animaux,” Bottom Feeder, 7/14

Co-ops have a place
I was nineteen years old when I came up to Berkeley to enter UC in 1949. The only reason I was able to do that was the student co-op: It was cheap.

I got into Oxford Hall, a student co-op. It cost $42 per month and you had to do five hours of work weekly, usually washing dishes or helping out in the kitchen. I was without money and registered at the bureau of occupations on campus and worked part-time to pay the monthly fee.

Oxford Hall, I discovered, had the highest grade point average of any living group on campus, but no one at Oxford Hall seemed to care or revel in it. Mostly they were young men who had come out of the armed forces determined to catch up and realize the “American dream,” and I’m sure most of them did. The student co-op movement came out of the realization that during the Depression there were students actually close to starving and the university, in its wisdom, set up the wherewithal for the co-op movement to establish itself based on the Rochdale principles of the co-op movement.

I remember those years fondly, and I’m sure that all those guys who lived at Oxford Hall then, if they’re not dead, would give the student co-op movement a resounding, screaming huzzah!!!!
Robert Blau, Berkeley

In last week’s cover story (“A Long Way to Fall”), Scott Cory’s thirteen-hour ascent of the Nose of El Capitan made him the youngest person to do it in one day, but not among the fastest. That record is held by Yuji Hirayama and Hans Florine, who accomplished it in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 30 seconds in September 2002, according to the Web site SpeedClimbing.com

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