Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

New letter of the week… this one is hard to believe….

By kbender
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 3:12 pm in Uncategorized.

Covering Berkeley for the Oakland Tribune, I get about two dozen emails, letters and phone calls each week about stories I’ve written.

About 80 percent are folks who aren’t pleased with something I’ve written. Understandable. Everyone has the right to their opinion. And sometimes I make a mistake and folks are quick to notice it and point fingers at me for my “agenda.” I don’t know any newspaper reporter who has the time or energy for an “agenda” these days but whatever.

I also get plenty of really nice, thoughtful letters from appreciative readers who are all too happy that there are still four or five of us still covering local news.

But occasionally, I get a letter that is so baffling, neither I nor anyone in the newsroom can make sense of it. So, I’ve decided to start a “letter of the week” item on this blog.
Today, that letter came from Robert in Fremont. I’m not using his last name because he did not include a phone number and I have no way to verify his actual identity. Who knows if he is who he says he is.

Anyway the letter is in regards to the life-threatening injury of former Berkeley tree sitter Tristan Anderson, who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister while protesting on the West Bank on March 13. 
We covered the story that day and today’s story was a follow-up about his current condition and to advance a rally that was being held for him in Oakland.

Anderson, 38, had been involved in a demonstration in the West Bank village of Naalin to support villagers who have been trying to stop Israel from confiscating their farmland to build a separation barrier.  He was struck in the right temple by a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli border police, according to the Northern California International Solidarity Movement.

Anderson has been in the intensive care unit at a hospital near Tel Aviv for nearly three weeks following several surgeries, including one to remove part of his frontal lobe in his brain. He also may lose his right eye.
OK, so on to the letter from Robert in Fremont:

“This guy is a rabble rouser who spends his time traveling the world in order to agitate.  Why don’t you folks in the media do some investigating into how and why these activists do what they do and what it accomplishes? 
“Obviously, Tristan doesn’t have a real job, so where does he get the money to travel the world to protest?  So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad. 
“I’m sure the person who shot the canister was NOT aiming directly at his head.  It was an unfortunate accident that would not have happened had he not been there in the first place. 

“Life is a gamble, and this guy put himself into harm’s way once too often.  You close your article with a quote from (friend Matthew) Taylor which reveals your true objective, to trash Israel for their `continuous violation of Palestinian human rights.’ 
“What about the human rights of all of the innocent Israeli citizens murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers over the years, or doesn’t that concern you and your liberal friends???:
“So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad.”

Wow. I can honestly say that no matter what your politics — and Robert from Fremont don’t try to guess mine because you won’t — that statement is mean, uncaring and shameful. 
Robert from Fremont also included an excerpt from an article in the Jerusalem Post regarding Anderson that I will post here for the sake of complete accuracy:

“We want to know the truth of what happened, and we want justice for our son,” Anderson’s father, Michael, told reporters at a press conference he and his wife (Nancy Anderson) held in Jerusalem.
The “command inquiry” that the IDF has launched is not about finding liability but rather investigating operational flaws, said [Michael Sfard], adding that this type of investigation did not have the same investigatory power to collect evidence as a criminal one and would allow the Border Police to coordinate their testimony.

“(Tristan) has always been interested in how societies in conflict resolve their issues,” said Michael, reading from a handwritten statement.
“He has gone to many dangerous places. He went to Iraq during the Second Gulf War, and spent years in Central America right after the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, advocating for social justice.”

Maybe Anderson needs to spend some time in Fremont. At least one person there has a thing or two to learn about social justice.

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4 Responses to “New letter of the week… this one is hard to believe….”

  1. Dave C. Says:

    The Israel/Palestine issue tends to arouse these sorts of passions, don’t you think? Almost any discussion of the subject will quickly deteriorate into venom and vitriol from one side or the other, and often both. I’ll bet that if you covered issues regarding the middle east on a regular basis, this letter wouldn’t surprise you at all!

  2. OakFan Says:

    Kristin, I agree with you that Robert went too far in appearing to be glad Anderson got hurt. But I also agree with Robert that Anderson put himself in harm’s way once too often. You start to sound like the bleeding-heart liberal you say you aren’t when you focus on how ‘mean’ and ‘shameful’ his comments were, but ignore a key point – how does Anderson manage to travel the world to agitate for his leftist causes? He cost the University of California (meaning all of us) a lot of money by sitting in a tree for the dumbest of reasons. On a personal level, I’m sorry he got hurt, but I can’t summon a great deal of sympathy when it’s clear he made it his business to look for trouble.

  3. James Says:

    Anderson has no respect for his own life, so why should anyone else? Sounds a bit cold but it’s the truth. He put himself in harms way to satisfy his own ego; so he could say, “I was there”. Well, he was there and he got, not what he deserved, but what he wanted.

    There was a line in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart where the father of the soon to be King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, asks his son “..how does it help us to join the side that is slaughtered? “.

    How did it help Anderson or the world? What has changed because of Anderson’s egotistical self-serving self-sacrifice? Absolutely Nothing. He just wasted his life.

  4. James Says:

    Calling someone’s opinion Shameful is a very Bushy (president) way of completely sidestepping the issues raised. There is nothing shameful about saying what you mean to say. We may not agree, but to use a word like ‘Shame’ is to condescend. It communicates that he is thinking in a way that he shouldn’t. Now who are you to decide that? Moral high-grounds are only good for sniping.

    I’m not really into the Right-wing, Left-wing thing.. but I do notice quite a bit of Arrogance in the press. Which is why the masses have turned away from the traditional sources of news and information and have turned to the Internet. Newspapers are dying for a reason. It’s time for the press to stop talking down to their readers and to start respectfully engaging them instead.

    btw: The funny part is: Telling someone their opinion is Not Shameful is equally condescending because it communicates that his thinking is OK; which you can only know if you stand on the same Moral High Grounds as the one who said it was shameful. Now your shameful use of the word shameful has turned me into a hypocrite. ;-)

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