This week’s “Free for All” letters.


The Northwest Missouri State Bearcats celebrate their NCAA Division II men's basketball national championship on March 30 in Evansville, Ind. (Macabe Brown/AP)
Mad about college hoops coverage

The March 30 Sports section failed to include in the Television and Radio column the CBS broadcast of the Division II basketball finals. Then, to compound the insult, the March 31 paper did not mention the perfect season achieved by the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. No men’s or women’s Division I team went undefeated. Give my alma mater, NWMSU, some deserved coverage.

Thomas L. Schwarz, Burke

I commend the team that puts together The Post’s March Madness special issue every year. The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is one of the few sporting events I enthusiastically follow, and I always rely on The Post’s experts to guide my bracket selections. I am an administrative worker in a company of data analysts, so brackets are taken very seriously here. Thanks to The Post’s writers, I consistently come out in the top 10 in my company. After the first four rounds this year, I was again on top of the company standings and had an overall Yahoo rank in the 99th percentile.

In the end, I did not win my company’s pool as I picked against the hometown team for the championship, but I did finish eighth.

Debbie Owen, Charlottesville

Don't perpetuate a bad stereotype

The April 7 Washington Post Magazine article “Case closed” said, “Incest was notorious in the families of the hollers of Appalachia, where isolation and privation eroded social taboos.” 

I live in Appalachia and have learned the bitter lesson that the writer of this article is not the only person who feels free to express this kind of libelous claptrap. Indeed, the people of this region appear to be the last permissible target for unfettered bigotry, and it comes from all points on the political spectrum. 

The fact that the writer was comfortable writing that reminds me that many who have never been here are nonetheless delighted to perpetuate this vile stereotype. The fact that The Post — and in 2019 — thought it was acceptable to print it convinces me this nightmare will never end.

Lynn M. Sutter, Norton, Va.

I was shocked to see that the Washington Post Magazine article on the Lyon sisters perpetuated harmful stereotypes about people who live in Appalachia, seeming to connect the murder of two children to “mountain-hollow ways” imported to civilized suburbia. Not only did this present Appalachian residents as naturally violent rapists, but it also repeated the ignorant story that people in that region are especially prone to incest.

As someone with family in the region, I know this kind of prejudice is one of the things that holds people back. When people in positions of power, such as newspaper editors, dismiss an entire area of the country as an ignorant, violent backwater, it negatively impacts people’s willingness to invest there, and it hurts those of us who have roots there.

Please commit to more reporting in the future that treats people from Appalachia with the same respect as people from Kensington.

Elizabeth Waibel, Rockville


At left, Leandra Williams, with Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot (D) in Chicago on April 2. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)
Interpreting history in real time

In the photograph of Lori Lightfoot (D), mayor-elect of Chicago, that accompanied the April 3 Politics & the Nation article “Chicago voters elect city’s first black female mayor,” the person to Lightfoot’s right was not identified. She is Leandra Williams, a sign-language interpreter and 2018 PhD graduate of the Department of Interpretation and Translation at Gallaudet University.

Ceil Lucas, Elkridge, Md.

Women and culture on canvas

The March 28 The World article “French show renames art to put focus on black subjects ” considered the figure in a painting at the Louvre in Paris. The artwork sheds light on culture in history. The article stated truth about slavery in France, which was abolished during the French Revolution, reestablished and abolished again in 1848. It introduced one to art that portrays life in the world, which consists of a diversity of people.

The unique composition of a painting gives insight into the past. “The Black Model: From Géricault to Matisse” exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay creates an image that reminds the beholder not only to respect the subject on the canvas but also to respect everyone.

I studied Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” in an art history class. The painting depicts a servant bearing flowers in stark contrast to a pale woman on a bed. The women’s mannerisms are fascinating. The woman gently giving the bouquet seems engaged in a kind gesture toward a woman with confidence in her body. The woman on the bed wears a flower in her hair, which does not seem humble. I wonder why the painting has been in art history textbooks for ages.

Samantha Seto, Washington

Mary Burrill's legacy

Regarding the March 30 Retropolis article, “Pioneering woman of 1930s academia left another legacy”:

Although she died the year before I was born, Mary Burrill was an influence in my formative years. My father, Bernard Ruffin Jr., a 1932 graduate of Dunbar High School, adored “Missss” Burrill (as she would identify herself to anyone so vulgar as to call her “Miz”). “If only Miss Burrill were alive, she would teach you to speak properly!” he would frequently fuss.

Burrill would make her students go through vocal drills, articulating “Bah! Bee! Bye! Bo! Boo!,” so they would learn to enunciate clearly and distinctly. Under her tutelage, my father learned to recite from memory long passages from Shakespeare and the Bible.

Despite her stern, strict manner, my father said Burrill could be immensely kind, giving out free tickets to concerts and plays.

During the Christmas season, my parents and their friends and associates would go to hear Burrill recite from memory Henry Van Dyke’s novella “The Other Wise Man.”

My father mentioned that Burrill and Lucy Diggs Slowe lived together, and did so without the slightest hint of disapproval, even though the homosexual lifestyle was abhorrent to him. Mary Gibson Hundley, a colleague of Burrill at Dunbar, told me in conversation that she believed Slowe and Burrill were just good friends.

Bernard Ruffin III, Reston

Recent 'history' in the church

The March 31 Metro article “Leaks cloud report on new D.C. cardinal” noted that critics said the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002, “didn’t address oversight for bishops — an omission that many activists in the church blame for today’s problems.”

The charter could not have included oversight of bishops among its provisions because only the pope can exercise this oversight. However, the bishops did address this situation. At the same time the charter received final approval in November 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a Statement of Episcopal Commitment in which they pledged to apply the charter to themselves. This is exactly what the Archdiocese of New York did with Theodore McCarrick’s abuse of a minor. This statement has always been published along with the charter.

As for then-Bishop Wilton Gregory’s presentation at a news conference in 2004, his comment that the John Jay Study and the National Review Board report, which were being released, were “history” referred solely to the nature of the two studies, which was indeed largely historical. Gregory made very clear the responsibility of the church for continued vigilance in implementing the charter to make sure this history was not being repeated.

Francis J. Maniscalco, West Hempstead, N.Y.

The writer, a pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, was secretary for communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1994 to 2006.




Scott Adams’s “Dilbert” comics, from top to bottom, of April 1, April 2 and April 3. (2019 Scott Adams, Inc./Dist. by Andrews McMeel)
'Dilbert' speaks truth on power

Congratulations to The Post for its insightful series explaining why the United States is not aggressively pursuing nuclear power as the nation’s attainable, affordable and environmentally sound baseline electrical power alternative to polluting fossil fuels. It was a brilliant decision to protect this important message from the partisan heat of its opinion pages by publishing it as the April 1 to April 3 “Dilbert” strips in the comics section. Thanks to The Post and Scott Adams.

John Kohout, Alexandria

Seeking asylum is not illegal

Michael Gerson made a compelling argument in his April 2 op-ed, “When ignorance has consequences,” relating to President Trump’s alarming ignorance about the U.S. assistance he has threatened to cut off to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Indeed, Gerson identified one of the root causes of the current surge of amnesty seekers as “the collapse of criminal-justice systems in Central America,” which Trump ignorantly would exacerbate by cutting off U.S. assistance programs designed to promote the rule of law. My objection is to Gerson’s statement that “we need more of these efforts to reduce the supply side of illegal migration.”

Women and children fleeing gang violence have a legal right to seek amnesty under international and U.S. law. One option to do this is to present themselves at border crossings and ask for amnesty, but the Trump policy has drastically limited the number who can request amnesty each day by “metering” them. This has created a logjam of amnesty seekers who must wait for months in dangerous places for the opportunity to seek asylum. Many take the alternative of crossing the border elsewhere and then promptly turning themselves in to the nearest U.S. agent and requesting amnesty. While this does not happen at border-crossing points, it is also a legally accepted method of applying for amnesty.

Using the term “illegal migration” for these asylum seekers vilified them as criminals and lent unintended support for Trump’s ignorant policy.

Michael Dziedzic, Washington

This gave her a headache

The April 4 front-page article “Biden says he’ll adjust his behavior” said, “The Democratic mayor of Atlanta . . . tweeted a photo of she and [Joe] Biden standing forehead to forehead.”  

What has happened to basic grammar? Surely, the editors should have caught this egregious misuse of “she” instead of “her.”

Marguerite Church, Springfield


U.S. Marines raise the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, at Iwo Jima, Japan, on Feb. 23, 1945. (Joe Rosenthal/AP)
A Native American hero

Omitted from the April 1 Metro article “Little-known stories of 6 Native Americans who served in the U.S. military” was the name of Ira Hayes, a Pima Native American and U.S. Marine who was one of the six flag raisers immortalized in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II. Hayes died at age 32 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 1955.

Gerald Leedom, Springfield

The game never stopped

In his March 30 Free for All letter, “Chad cheers chap. Chap cheers Chad.,” Donald M. Mayhew congratulated Norman Chad on his Couch Slouch column about the recent revelation that the world’s No. 1 bridge player had been caught using performance-enhancing drugs [“In this cutthroat card game, performance-enhancing drugs are a bridge too far,” Sports, March 18].

But, thankfully, contract bridge is alive and well. (And without PEDs.)

When my (now late) mum and dad, a physician and a government administrator, were stationed in remote parts, they would gather with three friends to play bridge around the clock on weekends. Of course, they had no need for performance-enhancing drugs; with the five of them, one would take turns sleeping or cooking while the other four played nonstop. 

Today, there are many active and popular bridge clubs and societies, as well as informal groups, all over the United States, including in Maryland. My siblings and I gather to play a hand or 10 every chance we get, inspired by our parents.

Every so often, one of us ends up bidding a little or a grand slam, and the tension runs high on both sides. (Nothing, of course, like the seven-club contract that Chad referred to from Ian Fleming’s “Moonraker,” or its earlier origins, perhaps, with the great Ely Culbertson, whose bidding conventions our parents shared with us.) More often, we are just slogging through a simple contract for a part-game or trying to recall the prior discards in a spirited effort to play defense. 

Regardless, it is always a joy for us to play bridge. Especially in these otherwise-mad times, I might add, when we are occasionally fortunate enough to end up playing a hand in “no trump.”

Kamil Ismail, Ellicott City

In his March 30 Free for All letter, Donald M. Mayhew referred to a column by Norman Chad in the March 28 Sports section describing satirically a drug connection to the card game bridge. Chad had written that bridge “has been rocked by a drug scandal of Cansecoian proportions.” Mayhew stated, “I may be the last living person who knows what Chad was writing about.” Methinks Mayhew flattered himself too much; the reference was to Jose Canseco , a baseball player for the Oakland A’s in the 1980s who was caught up in drugs (as were many others in that era).

Joel Kawer, Gaithersburg