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Letters: Return to New Orleans, Iraq, Happy Holidays

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Scott Simon dives into the Weekend Edition Saturday e-mail bag. Topics include Gwen Thompkins' return to New Orleans; training Iraqi police; the White House Christmas card; and the Bee Gees.


Time now for your letters.

(Soundbite of typewriter, music)

SIMON: Two weeks ago we heard the second of three stories by our editor Gwendolyn Tompkins(ph) from New Orleans. She talked about her childhood home and neighborhood in Pontchartrain Park. Many of you responded, including Frances McBean(ph), a Katrina evacuee and former resident of Pontchartrain Park, who wrote, `I also remember those days growing up in the park as well as being proud of all of the milestones that were made by our neighbors. We are fighting to keep what is ours and we need more stories like this to let others know. There are talks in Congress about not rebuilding our neighborhoods. If it were the Garden District, there would be no thought to this, but it's not the Garden District, it's Pontchartrain Park.'

About three weeks ago, Mike Hidingsfield, the top American civilian trainer of Iraqi police, talked about the feasibility of pulling US forces out of Iraq sooner rather than later. Mr. Hidingsfield agreed with much of Congressman John Murtha's proposal to reconfigure a US presence in and around that country but Mr. Hidingsfield warned against a precipitous withdrawal. Sandy Farnsworth(ph) of Northampton, Massachusetts, wrote in to say, `Should we be there? That's not a question to waste time answering now. Our thoughts must be on what we can do to complete the job and most importantly what can be done to honor the memories of those we've lost.'

My essay last week defended this year's White House Christmas card, which has been loudly criticized for saying, `Happy holidays,' and not `Merry Christmas.' The `happy holidays' controversy caused Carl Vas(ph) of Kirkland, Washington, to write `Let's just be all-inclusive and greet each other with "Happy winter." Haven't these PCish attempts at trying to please everyone gone a bit too far? I seem to recall a phrase along "If you attempt to please everyone, you won't please anyone."'

And we played the Bee Gees song. I started to joke at the end of one of my essays a few weeks ago. I said, `The Bee Gees, if we don't play 'em, who else will?' Well, that prompted Julia Kallman(ph) to write `I listen every Saturday morning from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, and had to laugh this morning when you said, "If we don't play the Bee Gees, who will?" 'cause the Bee Gees are alive and well in the Yucatan. One can purchase any of the Bee Gees' tapes, pirate copies, of course, on the street or in the market and they are always played in restaurants and on the radio. Just another one of those cultural adjustments one makes here.' Did someone say `cultural adjustment'? We live for that.

(Soundbite of "Jive Talkin'")

BEE GEES: (Singing) It's just your jive talkin', you're telling me lies, yeah. Jive talkin' talkin' ...(unintelligible).

SIMON: Write early, write often. Come to, find the link that says `contact us.' Please, tell us where you live and how to pronounce your name, and a happy winter to all, although we recognize and respect the fact that for our listeners in Australia, South America and some parts of Asia and Africa, it's happy summer.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Summertime, and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high.

SIMON: Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

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