This guest blog from the author Bruce Stutz.
Last night, before I read this blog, I attended a showing of documentary films by young people--high school kids--and the common theme in all of them was their concern that amidst all the politician's focus on terror, the war in Iraq, gay marriage, illegal immigrants (some of these kids are the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants), they and their futures have been forgotten. One film told the story of a teenage boy who couldn't get enough work to support his ill mom and so had no choice but to enlist in the army despite the fact that would leave her alone. Another was of a young high school graduate, a girl, who had good grades all through school but since her mom had brought her here from Trinidad she had no social security number, no legal status, and so had no choice but to take babysitting and maid jobs that paid her 3.50 an hour.
Back at home I heard that the senate was trying to define how we are an "English speaking" country. Earlier in the day the senate moved to the floor a resolution for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Yet earlier in the day Bush asked for nearly 2 billion dollars to build a fortified wall between ourselves and Mexico. And earlier in the day the nominee for head of the CIA refused to say he would not eavesdrop on the the phone calls of citizens. One day's news was enough to make it clear how much fear has been instilled into this country and just how much democratic energy this state of fear and xenophobia is draining from us, and worse, from our youth. In a state of fear no person, or nation, can function as it should. Our school systems are a wreck, our health care system fails all but the wealthiest--the data speaks for itself on this. New Orleans and Biloxi still lie in ruin. The real concern for climate change is ignored and the effects will be our children's to deal with.
And then this morning I hear of more soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed for a war that, meaningless to begin with, has deteriorated into the black absurd. And then I get on the subway and see all the cops with heavy duty gear stationed along the platforms and realize that the country that gained its strength from hope and ideals, has been weakened and sissified by fear. Here in New York City one sees that life that immigration gives and has given to this country. On the subway people are reading papers in Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Italian, Spanish and every other language. There are students, workers, homeless, suits, transvestites, complexions of every shade, people of every stature, and all heading together to work. Maybe, I think, if Bush and Frist and the rest took the subway to work they'd learn something about the country they purport to lead.
Mr. Derr: This is not intended for posting, but I do not know how to otherwise get in touch with you. I am an American studying at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and a Florida semi-native hoping to start a PhD in Florida history this Fall. I have a copy of SOME KIND OF PARADISE at home in Florida, but not here in Germany at the moment.
My proposed PhD topic, which is due May 31st (upon application under the German system) concerns the "selling" of Florida in the 1950s, both from a marketing standpoint and a "selling down the river" standpoint, which you do so well in the book. What I can't remember is HOW much of your book is devoted to the 1950s in particular. Since a PhD dissertation by definition must cover new ground, I would like the opportunity at some point to correspond and/or meet with you on the subject, to discuss sources and ideas, and of course, to avoid any conflict with your own research . In the meantime I am trying to locate a copy of the book here in Germany. I will be in Florida for six days next month, but it will be whirlwind. I would appreciate hearing from you.
Ray Eberling, MA Candidate, 2006
Heidelberg Center for American Studies
University of Heidelberg, Germany
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