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Respect those who make a difference

Dennis Barrett | Monday, April 26, 2004

Bill Rinner’s Apr. 23 Viewpoint column was callous and cowardly. After mocking the actions of the hunger strikers by describing his own hunger strike for his beloved Crystal Pepsi, Rinner notes, “Call it the plight of an upper middle class white male.” Thanks for the biographical information, Bill, because after your insensitive article on labor issues, I had you pegged for a Mexican migrant worker who put yourself through school by picking tomatoes.You refer to the strike as offensive and ask that “legitimate hunger strikes be reserved for massive social injustices.” Actually, most people might consider paying farm workers slave wages while refusing them the right to organize a “massive social injustice.” In June 2002, three of the employers that you might claim were giving workers the “market value” of their efforts were sentenced to 25 years in jail, found guilty of conspiracy to hold workers in indentured servitude and extortion. Your article is filled with too many erroneous claims and false generalizations to respond to in a single letter, but allow me to address one of the most ridiculous assertions you make. You claimed Europeans are in awe of the efficiency and compassion of the American health care system. While in Ireland last year, I found most Europeans disgusted with the lack of compassion in America’s health care system, rather than in awe of it. Access to medical care might not be a part of your “plight” as “an upper middle class white male,” but there are 41 million Americans – including all of the Immokalee workers – without regular access to health care. That is why the United States finished in 37th place – between superpowers Costa Rica and Slovenia and far behind most of the Western European countries that you ridicule in your article – in a World Health Organization report ranking the effectiveness of the world’s health care systems. I guess the WHO neglected to consult you and your “EU friends.” The European healthcare systems are far from perfect, but take the blinders off – the American system remains seriously flawed. The majority of Europeans like the American health care system even less than the rest of us like Crystal Pepsi. The most unsettling thing about the article is the cowardice shown in the condemnation of a group of over 100 Notre Dame students (not just the “few lovable members of PSA” that were described) that have continually worked to create a more just world. Nearly a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who spends himself in a worthy cause.” Step into the arena, and have the courage to fight for something worthwhile before mocking the actions of dedicated students embodying the spirit of justice supposedly espoused at Notre Dame.

Dennis Barrett senioroff-campusApril 26