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Using people for political puppets is poor politics

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Why didn't somebody at the Empire have the courage and good judgment to refuse to print Mr. Garrison's offensive attempt at social commentary?

Mr. Garrison, do you imply that the two men in your photograph aptly symbolize the way downtown Juneau used to be and would be still were it not for the ``improvements'' tourism has effected? I do not think that this is true. And more importantly, I do not think it is at all fair to use these people as symbols for anything, person or place. I remember Old Henry, like you do, and many other people do, as being a particularly unfortunate alcoholic. He was, in that respect, nothing like most of the other citizens of downtown Juneau, then or now, and therefore not fairly symbolic of how things ever were.

``Old Henry the Wind'' and ``Jo Jo,'' - these people were people. We saw them in their time suffer the weight of their own lives in cold coats, wet with snow and vomit. Now, when they are dead, you use them like drawings in some political cartoon? You do not have to say that they were good people. You do not have to say they were productive citizens. But because they were human and because of their obvious misfortunes, you should somehow marshal the charity to say nothing about them at all. It is wrong and unkind to use them (or anyone else) personally as a symbol for how any place was, much less for how that place might have remained were it not for the tourist (or any other) industry.

Mr. Garrison, do I have this right? Are you saying that I have to think like some intoxicated, demented, destitute shell of a man not to agree with you that Juneau is now a better place because of tourism? I do not agree with you.

I can remember when downtown Juneau was a much more diverse, and in my opinion, a better place. I also know that my opinion does not matter very much. Nor should it. One man, one vote. But I will vote, especially now, to support any attempt to slow the ``progress'' that has so rapidly overtaken us. I hope that your attempt to use the press to influence public opinion works as well on other people as it has on me.

Jay HubbardJuneau



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