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Dear World
Hello, It's Me Again

March 13, 2002
By Patricia Heartland

Dear World,

Hello, it's me again. Did you enjoy the Winter Olympics? I didn't see much of it, as our television networks spend more time airing advertisements and "human interest" stories about various (mostly American) athletes than showing the events. It gets kind of old so I don't watch as much of it as I'd really like. How about those Skeleton sledders, though, huh? How crazy would you have to be to do that? Anyway, congratulations to all of you and your athletes, I thought everyone (except a couple of judges) made a really fine effort. And I appreciate your coming all the way to Utah, I hope they made you comfortable.

Remember I told you last time about my brother losing his job at Ford? Well, he's got two new jobs now. He's selling ads for a local "shopper" newspaper - he can do that by phone, so it's handy and he can adjust his schedule for the other job working part-time with a landscape contractor. They mostly do maintenance work for commercial landlords. He's too old to be heaving around sixty-pound bags of mulch, and I worry that he's going to throw his back out again, but at least they're making their mortgage payments for now.

I know you all have really mixed feelings about how we Americans dominate the world entertainment market with overproduced big-budget films, and a lot of times I agree with you that it's hard to imagine getting so little worthwhile result for so much money spent. But I have to admit that sometimes Hollywood does the right thing - as in, giving all that money to Peter Jackson to make "Lord of the Rings" in New Zealand. Great movie, see it if you can. I was a little skeptical about all the elfey stuff, but it works.

I was really amazed to see how beautiful New Zealand is. I mean, I knew it was gorgeous, we hear about it from time to time and see pictures in National Geographic, but it's not the same. Wow. Thanks for taking care of it, Kiwis. I'd like to visit someday. You guys impressed me back in the eighties with your gutsy stand on nuclear disarmament, and I'm still impressed. I went and looked up more about you on the Internet (you've got some great websites!) I have to say I wish my government could learn a little from you, especially about preserving indigenous peoples' rights and participation in government.

Speaking of indigenous peoples, one of my friends told me of a very wise saying her grandmother used to tell her: "Don't go looking in other peoples' kitchen windows when you've got dirty dishes in your own sink." I think there's a lot in that, don't you? We Americans are awfully anxious to criticize how some of you treat ethnic and political minorities, while our own record on dealing with the indigenous nations is pretty pathetic. I don't know that there's that much to choose between how many Ojibwe or Navajo or Inupiat live, for instance, and how various minorities in some of your countries are treated.

A lot of us are trying, though. One problem we have is how little attention our media pay to the people suffering from poverty and injustice right here at home. If you want that kind of news, you have to go look for it, it won't be zapped into your living room by Fox or CNN. On the other hand, the sad-looking processions on their way from one refugee camp to another in some far-away place show up every time our government wants us to get all riled about one of you.

I shouldn't say that, really. It's not completely fair. There are some journalists and news organizations who really do cover those stories because they care about injustice and suffering. A lot of us do, you know. In fact, I'd have to say that most of us care about it. Please don't blame us too much for what looks like irrational, judgemental criticism. Feel free to criticize right back. Maybe if our government starts getting a lot of flak from you about the injustices and suffering of many of our own people, they'll start doing something about it. Lord knows, they don't listen to me.

That doesn't mean you're off the hook, though. What's up with Abdullah Ocalan, Turkey? Don't you know that you're giving the War on Terror a bad name, with your "State Security Courts" and your "Anti-Terror Law" so loosely defined that someone can be arrested and detained incommunicado for looking sideways at the wrong time? Cut it out! I don't want you giving Mr. Bush and his happy henchmen any more ideas, okay? You'll make much faster progress in carving out an influential niche in the world community if you start walking more of the walk.

It's not that I don't appreciate your friendship, I do. And you've done a lot to show that it's possible to be Muslim and yet not have a government run by fundamentalist nutjobs or dictators-for-life of one sort or other. That's pretty important. I know you're making progress, and I know sometimes our expectations are a little unrealistic. But a little more action on human rights for the Kurds would make me way more comfortable about our relationship. Take it under advisement, anyway.

Okay, I'm off. We've got company (in-laws) coming for dinner tonight, so I suppose I better go look up some vegan recipes, and then go to the store. My sister-in-law won't eat anything that's not certified organic, non-irradiated, non-genetically-altered, non-hormonally-enhanced. It makes shopping a little difficult, but that's another letter. Take care of yourself and don't forget to stay in touch!

Your friend,
Patricia Hartland
American Citizen

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