This week’s “Free for All” letters.
In her Sept. 7 Style column, “Gutless? It depends. Weird? Absolutely.,” Margaret Sullivan implied that the New York Times would not honor the separation between the editorial staff and reporters when she wrote, “By rights, they ought to — after all, they do have the best potential tipsters on this story, and, handily, right in their own building.”
She also impugned the integrity of the Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, when she implied he and the Times lied in saying that Mr. Baquet didn’t know the name of the author of the anonymous op-ed: “It does strain credulity just a bit to think that he [Baquet] really doesn’t know at this point.” What would The Post say if the Times, a newspaper of proven integrity, asserted that The Post lacked ethics?
Donald A. Tracy, Bethesda
The Sept. 6 World Digest item “Iran’s currency falls to new low” reported on a “staggering 140 percent drop” in the value of Iran’s currency. Because a 100 percent drop would result in that currency having no value at all, the 140 percent drop is truly staggering.
Carl E. Nash, Washington
I object to the word “tough” to describe the Trump administration’s attempts to deport Vietnamese residents, many of whom are children of former U.S. service members, in the otherwise excellent Sept. 2 news article “Under Trump, thousands of Vietnamese face deportation.”
This word, which also figures in many of President Trump’s and his spokespeople’s descriptions of his actions, connotes strength and courage.
I don’t think there is anything particularly tough about setting armed law enforcement agents after peaceful longtime residents.
In fact, this word has been applied many times to the administration’s anti-immigrant initiatives, which would be more accurately described as “cruel,” “needless” or “harmful.”
I understand that The Post may wish to stay away from such loaded terms. However, “tough” is also a loaded term and one that plays into the administration’s desired narrative: that immigrants are an existential threat requiring “toughness,” rather than the very foundation of our country.
Nadia Kalman, New York
In his Sept. 1 Free for All letter, “Public ridicule? Sad. ,” Steven J. Fenves deplored a Style Invitational challenge to explain passages from the Constitution to President Trump, illustrated by a proverb, slogan, poem, parody or graphic.
Fenves concluded his complaint by posing the following query: “Have we ever had a president who has invited such a public demonstration of ridicule and disrespect for the office and for the Constitution?” The answer, of course, is no — because none of Trump’s predecessors has shown the kind of consistent contempt for his office and the Constitution that he has.
Steven Alan Honley, Washington
The Sept. 2 centerfold photograph of the late senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) funeral service in Washington National Cathedral was spectacular [“Last hurrah for all that’s lost”].
Not only did it capture the funeral party clearly, but also it showed the immense, grand Gothic context that spoke volumes about the American icon who was being honored. Moreover, of the 50 state flags hanging in the cathedral nave, Arizona’s was visible through an arch. Perfect.
Dick Foster, Springfield
I was disappointed in the Sept. 1 Retropolis column, “Eulogies by 2 presidents distinguish McCain” [Metro]. The reference to former president Bill Clinton as a “loquacious commander in chief” who “went on a two-term coffin fit” demeaned Clinton and, more generally, the honor and sincerity involved in presidential eulogies. It left a jaded or sarcastic impression that eulogies and perhaps the whole funeral process have no real meaning.
Spencer Ward, Potomac
As a former avid Pac-Man player, I appreciated Tom Toles’s use of the video-game motif to make a point in his Aug 29 editorial cartoon about gerrymandering. However, his failure to incorporate one of Maryland’s own, Democrat-gerrymandered “ghost-ly” districts (see Congressional Districts 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8) suggested, by impugning only one party, that he is biased or ill-informed.
Paul Foldi, Bethesda
The Post is having a moment. And another. And another. In fact, the word, “moment,” appeared more than 30 times in the Sept. 2 edition, a third of them in the Arts & Style section alone.
Critic Philip Kennicott declared we’re “at a moment when something new is stirring in the art world” and noted “the ‘Mona Lisa’ moment” [“No crowds and no Instagram, please”]. Briana Younger wrote about “The rap-gospel moment.”
Over in the Outlook section, critic Kwame Anthony Appiah said a photograph from a Trump campaign rally “spoke to our moment” [“People don’t vote on the issues. They vote on their identities.”].
Enough with the moments. Please rein in the rampant use of this annoying cliche.
David Dishneau, Hagerstown, Md.
The Aug. 31 Metro article “Claim: Work at historic site might’ve gone too far” noted that the Franklin School was the first high school in the District. It is important to clarify that it was the first white high school. The Preparatory High School for Colored Youth opened in 1870 at Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church (an earlier building than the one that stands today). A year later, this albeit-rudimentary high school moved to Stevens School on 21st Street NW, making Stevens the first public high school building in the District. It also was the earliest surviving grammar school for African Americans and the first one built roughly on par with the white schools at the time.
This black high school, the first in the nation and precursor of the illustrious Dunbar High School, was later housed in Sumner School, several blocks from Stevens, then at Miner Building at Howard University, and finally got its own building in 1891: M Street High School, just off New York Avenue. It is now the Perry School Community Services Center and deserves a historical marker denoting its significance.
For white students, a high school of sorts, with just a few classes beyond seventh grade at Franklin School, started for girls in 1876 and for boys a year later. In 1882, the old Central High School (then called Washington High, at Seventh & O streets NW) opened for white students, nine years before M Street High. Nonetheless, among the rich history of the District is the remarkable fact that the first high school was for African Americans — hardly the case anywhere else in the days of school segregation.
Ralph Buglass, Rockville
“Who will be held accountable” for Puerto Rico’s recent disaster response? Really. In his Sept. 4 Tuesday Opinion essay, “Who will help Puerto Rico?,” Irwin Redlener did not address what local officials did or did not do to protect the welfare and safety of residents ahead of a likely disaster. Years of infrastructure neglect compounded the problems.
The fault-finding and finger-pointing for a lack of realistic planning should start with the local elected government officials. That is where all accountability starts for failed readiness and initial response. Who will help Puerto Rico now? Good question, and always one asked after a tragic event. With the exodus of skilled labor, especially medical workers, there seems to be a lack of confidence in local government and a viable future.
Joe Angsten, Manassas
Two articles in the Aug. 21 Metro section demonstrated the failure of Post editors to catch simple factual errors. In “Reclaiming the love of his life,” a charming essay about Mike Rainsberger, a musician who had lived on the streets of the District without his beloved bass, Ruth Ann, Petula Dvorak described Rainsberger as “among the 6,000 homeless people in the nation’s capital.” Printed directly below that, the article “For homeless children, school means challenges” characterized Lakia Mines as “one of about 6,000 homeless District children.” Both of these statements cannot be true.
The annual Point-in-Time count, conducted this year on Jan. 24, showed that 6,904 individuals were experiencing homelessness on that date, of whom 1,933 were children. Still too many kids without homes, but not the appalling number published — and fewer than in 2017.
Barbara B. Franklin, Chevy Chase
I retired from Arlington Public Schools in 2010, after 40 years of teaching. Seeing Marvin Joseph’s delightful and perfect “back to school” photograph in the Sept. 5 Metro section so poignantly reminded me of my days in the classroom and made me miss them even more. The three first-graders were showing us all the value of following rules. Hats off to their teacher for impressing on them the importance of respect for the learning environment by staying in line and being quiet in the hallways — and such A-plus behavior on only the first day of school!
Now, if these budding scholars can demonstrate appropriate behavior and proper decorum in their job as students, maybe there is hope that more adults/politicians these days will follow their example and learn to work and play nicely together.
Eleanor W. Dasenbrook, McLean
Regarding Ask Amy’s response to “Lonely in the ‘Burbs” in her Aug. 28 Style column, “Humor might help in telling dates that you’re living at your parents’ house”:
I am a dog-walker who walks more than 10 miles in this D.C. weather every day. Ask Amy told Lonely in the ‘Burbs she might want to consider getting a pet. Please allow me to give some advice of my own: Getting a pet is a huge commitment that no one should undertake if they are not in a good emotional place. Sure, animals can “provide an ever-flowing source of amusement and affection.” Everyone has this dream of a fantasy dog, which they don’t understand will take an enormous amount of work, training and patience. I would be out of business if every dog was the way its owners dreamed it would be.
It is unfair to burden an animal with one’s own emotional needs (unless, of course, the animal is specifically trained to handle this). But regular dogs can’t be expected or counted on to do this, and it almost always results in disappointment, frustration and worse.
If you have any work to do on yourself, please do it before you decide to make a commitment to an animal — or a housemate (Amy’s other “obvious solution”).
I love all of my dogs and work really hard with my clients and their humans on communication and compromise. It’s not always easy. I am lucky that my (human) clients are invested and committed to living in harmony with their dogs. I have volunteered in animal shelters and have seen what happens to animals when their owners throw in the towel. It would break your heart. It broke mine.
Elisabeth Field, Washington
The Sept. 4 Sports article “As Ashe is honored, his legacy stays strong” reminded readers that Arthur Ashe was more than a tennis champion.
His tennis fame became an instrument to inspire children, emphasizing the importance of education, as well as the development of character. He founded a number of programs to mentor children that continue to this day. Jim Crow laws in his hometown of Richmond barred the young Ashe from playing tennis on most playgrounds. As a bold step into a more inclusive future, a 1996 statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond honors Ashe, showing him surrounded by children and holding a set of books in one hand and a racket in the other, with the books held higher than the racket, as Ashe requested just before he died.
Reflecting his legacy, several schools around the country and one in Richmond now honor Ashe. I suggest another: the renaming of Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School to Arthur Ashe High School.
Connie Sorrentino, Arlington