This week’s “Free for All letters.”

Mulling the middle class

I was tickled to read the March 14 front-page article “To Schultz’s Brooklyn peers, streets weren’t so mean,” about Howard Schultz growing up in the Bayview projects in Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood, where I used to visit my cousins when we all lived in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s. I am about the same age as Schultz, and he could well have been in the gaggle of unruly kids we played ringolevio with on the Bayview playgrounds. The article pondered the question of whether Bayview was “poor” or “middle class.” Middle class is an elastic term, but if you’re thinking Donna Reed and “Leave It to Beaver,” dial that back to Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton. (If you are younger than 50, consult Wikipedia.)

The buildings were artfully described as having “terrace space on every floor,” which might give the impression that each apartment had a terrace. My recollection is that those terraces were shared and were unfinished cinder-block spaces with chicken-wire screens. They might have been a refuge on hot days, because most people did not have air conditioning, but the cool breezes were also mixed with odors wafting in from the nearby sewage treatment plant.

Artie Sherman, Bethesda


President John F. Kennedy addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington on May 25, 1961. (Associated Press)
Experience that counts

Regarding Richard Cohen’s March 12 Tuesday Opinion column, “Democrats’ experience deficit”:

Mr. Cohen’s column understated John F. Kennedy’s pre-White House foreign policy experience. 

In the Senate, Kennedy served for nearly four years on the Foreign Relations Committee. Before the Navy, he spent time in London, then the world’s most important capital, as the son of the U.S. ambassador.

Kennedy traveled extensively through Europe, the Middle East and South America. His travels alone gave him more foreign policy experience than most current Democratic candidates and the current president combined.    

William C. Lane, Fairfax

Richard Cohen’s March 12 column on the inexperience of Democratic candidates failed to even mention an announced 2020 Democratic presidential candidate with strong governing experience and great promise: Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.

Inslee has experience in Congress and running a state and brings an overarching commitment to a green economy to the table. For me, he inspires confidence and excitement. Inslee can walk the talk.

Kathleen B. Taylor, Seattle

Stick to news

As a child psychologist, I have worked with a number of 10- to 12-year-olds who were victims of bullies. The method that proved most effective for them to stop the bullying was for them to ignore the bully. While this was a challenge for my young clients, once they understood that the goal of the bully is to get a reaction and be the center of attention, they were able to succeed.

Unfortunately, The Post does not seem up to this challenge.

I did not feel like I was “springing forward” March 10 when I picked up the paper to see a huge headline front-and-center featuring a speech by President Trump that was old news and reiterating what we have known about him for years [“The entertainer fighter victim bully expert auditor braggart fabulist rebel pundit,” front page]. However, that article omitted one obvious characteristic: his ability to keep the media enthralled to the exclusion of information on other political figures, issues and potential solutions to the serious problems our country faces.

I am begging The Post to please stop and think before falling into the bully’s trap and refrain from subjecting readers to tweets and other trivia on this subject. As the 2020 election approaches, please provide us with meaningful information about issues needing attention and candidates’ policies and records, shifting the focus away from personalities, petty grandstanding and name-calling.

Alison L. Weintraub, Chevy Chase

The Post has long been a reasonably fair and objective source of news. Regrettably, however, over the past few years, it has increasingly exhibited a pronounced and self-defeating left-of-center bias.  

The Post’s worrisome decline in objectivity hit a new low with its March 10 front-page dismantlement of the president’s bizarre two-hour screed at the March 2 Conservative Political Action Conference. Yes, the speech was horrifying on many levels. But The Post’s detailed critical dissection was opinion, not news. It should have been labeled as analysis or appeared in the editorial or feature sections of the paper.

To do otherwise diminished The Post’s credibility with people who seek honest, unbiased news reporting.

John Quinn, Springfield

Jolly good idea

My wife and I continue to be puzzled that The Post’s editors and writers use outdated names such as “Britain” for our great ally [“Will Brexit topple the West?,” Friday Opinion, March 15].

Her majesty the queen rules over the United Kingdom, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is how that great country is denoted in all the great international organizations. It is not Britain, not Great Britain, not England — those are only parts of it. Please refer to our great ally as the United Kingdom.

Richard Humbert, Bethesda

'Caring capitalists' is catchier

In his March 13 op-ed, “Catch-2020: Who defines socialism?,” David Von Drehle stated that the term “socialism” is misunderstood and should be carefully defined but did not provide the definition. He related what socialism is not — but not what it is. Words have meaning.

When in doubt, there is the dictionary. To quote Merriam-Webster, socialism is: “1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; 2-a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property; 2-b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.”

By these definitions, there are few, if any, socialist Democratic candidates. However, many use the term and hurt themselves politically: Most Americans associate socialism with communism. Democrats should broadcast the message that they are capitalists in the economic sense and believe in free enterprise, private ownership, the stock market, etc.; however, they also believe government has a role in regulating capitalism to operate in a democratic fashion and to protect the public from potential excesses. Some Democrats call themselves “democratic socialists,” but to most Americans, that implies no more capitalism. Perhaps “caring capitalist” would be a better term. Of course, Republicans could claim the same term. That would be good. The campaigns could then focus on what each party meant by its use of the term. We could get back to debating key issues and away from the false-news rhetoric and demonization currently in fashion.

Burt Liebowitz, North Bethesda


Civil rights activist Jean Fairfax, right, and Jack Greenberg, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, at the organization’s Manhattan office. (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund)
Appreciating stories of lives well-lived

My hometown, Carthage, Miss., caught my eye as I scanned the March 5 obituary for Jean Fairfax [“Activist led school-integration efforts”]. My attention captured, I learned about Fairfax’s extraordinary contributions to civil rights, including the role she played in the integration of our small rural school system. When Debra Lewis and I started first grade together, I did not know how important that first day of school was.

Debra, with the help of Fairfax and others, led the way in 1964. Our 1976 senior class of 66 students featured black, white and Native American honor students, athletes, musicians, cheerleaders, beauties and beaus, class clowns and sure successes in a variety of professions. I am thankful for Debra, her family, my family and others who took risks to support our town’s public schools. They transformed our community and created life experiences that set me on my path.

Every day we learn that there is much work yet to be done. Thank you for reminding me of this 55-year-old accomplishment. I pray that we can honor Fairfax, Lewis and many others by following their examples: taking risks, being the change for what is good and right, and making a difference in our own lives and for generations that follow.

Kelli Mansel-Arbuckle, Williamsburg, Va.

The masterful obituary for Birch Bayh, “Senator championed Title IX, ERA” [Metro, March 15], was as fine an explanation of a person’s public life as I have read. 

When I was about 12, I remember sitting with my grandfather (who was then in his 70s) as he read the paper on his sun porch. He told me he liked reading the obituaries first because he found it inspirational to learn from what others did with their lives. About 10 years later, I noticed he wasn’t reading them and mentioned it. He said, “Well, I started to notice all of my contemporaries dying, and that made me a bit sad. Then it got worse, because I didn’t know anyone anymore, meaning everyone I knew was already dead.” He flashed a grin.

I’m 57 now but have been reading obituaries in The Post and other publications (the Economist and the Foreign Service Journal, in particular), and am still in the phase where not only do I draw tremendous inspiration from the lives chronicled, but I also inflict reading of particularly touching obits on my wife and kids at dinner a few times a month. I generally choose the many unknown-to-me but tremendously influential musicians The Post features frequently now that the largest cohort of pop stars is passing on.

David Ballard, Reston

U.S. co­lo­ni­al­ism is alive and well

Adventures in American colonialism that still haunt us,” Adam Hochschild’s March 10 Book World review of Daniel Immerwahr’s book “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States,” focused on the brutal U.S. campaign to suppress Philippine efforts to achieve independence a century ago. A more balanced picture of American colonialism might have stressed the voluntary U.S. grant of full independence to Cuba and a half- century later to the Philippines, territorial status to the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, return of the Canal Zone to Panama and, most recently, the grant of free association status to states of the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

But, most important, in describing our anti-colonial nation’s colonialism, the review might have made the point that Congress still exercises absolute authority over several million inhabitants of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa (which the reviewer described as “a curious collection of other bits”).

While these insular territories have been granted a measure of self-government by Congress, they possess no standing under Article IV of the Constitution, which states that “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.” Our territories and the District are endowed with limited self-government by legislation that may at any time be altered or terminated by a Congress in which each territory is represented by a single delegate in the House of Representatives lacking the right to vote.

U.S. colonialism, while modified, is alive and well. 

Peter R. Rosenblatt, Chevy Chase

The writer was President Jimmy Carter’s personal representative to the negotiations on the future political status of the Trust Territory
of the Pacific Islands.


THe South Four Corners playground. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
Please, more local news

The photograph of the South Four Corners Park that accompanied John Kelly’s March 14 Metro column, “Hogan says the Beltway needs more lanes but won’t get any wider. Really?,” caught my eye because my kids played on that playground next to the Beltway in Silver Spring. Like Kelly, we who live in South Four Corners do not believe the promises that no one intends to raze existing public and private resources to widen Interstate 495. We are angry that the leaders of the Maryland State Highway Administration, despite their “public workshops,” seem to have already made up their minds to pursue this harmful project. I am troubled by The Post’s diminished coverage of important local issues such as this. 

David West, Silver Spring


From left, Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball freshmen Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins, Serrel Smith Jr., Ricky Lindo Jr. and Eric Ayala. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
The energy shines right through

Kudos to Toni L. Sandys, the photographer who took the photograph of the Maryland Terrapins freshmen men’s basketball players that accompanied the March 14 Sports article “At Maryland, it’s a young man’s game.” What a refreshing picture. The composition was terrific. Their youthful energy, enthusiasm and potential came shining through.

Carol d'Arezzo, Haymarket

Gun 'pornography'

I am appalled, horrified and dismayed that The Post would glamorize gun culture. The image on the cover of the March 10 Washington Post Magazine amounted to gun “pornography.”

To pander to a culture of guns, especially in the current era of extreme violence, is without merit. Just for the record, I was not the least bit interested in reading the article accompanying the photograph, “The Internet of guns,” especially because there were more gun porn images accompanying it.

Ann Rossilli, Bethesda

The Washington Post Magazine’s cover photograph of the sexy woman with a gun was offensive on several counts. First, the skimpy outfit on the model was something out of the 1960s. Has the #MeToo movement not made it to The Post? Then, to have the woman holding a machine gun seemed to promote firearms, when in fact we need fewer guns in our lives.

I had no problem with the magazine running an article about gun usage among young people. It was the image I found sickening.

Kathryn Mohrman, Washington

Memories of a tradition that's melting away

The March 10 Sports article “Last days of the Elfstedentocht” was an unexpected surprise. I was born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, where the ice- skating race starts and finishes.

The article brought back great memories of seeing the race in 1954 and 1956.

I talked to my American wife about the race so often that she asked to see all 11 cities on the route. The last time we were in the Netherlands, we did this by car. Soon, traveling on ice skates between these towns may be impossible. 

Pieter Reenalda, Fredericksburg


The Mavericks, from left, Paul Deakin, Raul Malo, Jerry Dale McFadden and Eddie Perez. (David McClister)
Skip the ageist asides

Dave McKenna’s March 11 Style review of the Mavericks’ performance at the Lincoln Theatre was unworthy of The Post and the Mavericks [“At 30, these Mavericks are pure fun”]. The smug “Oh, look, the olds are having fun listening to live music” tone was condescending and ageist.

Fans of the band know that Jerry Dale McFadden often dresses like a color wheel, but I’m not sure what a rundown of his clothing and dance style added to understanding the phenomenon of a genre-bending band that has won Grammys and been nominated several additional times over its 30-year history. Yes, accordionist Michael Guerra has “great hair,” but I would like to hear more about his solo during “Come Unto Me.” Were there not multiple scorching horn players adding to the overall fatness of the sound? Did Paul Deakin’s drumming not play a role in getting some of the “AARP” crowd out of their chairs and onto the floor?

Cari Bernstein, Austin