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Opinion Readers critique The Post: George H.W. Bush’s death, D.C.’s drug problem and a memorable Yale moment

This week’s “Free for All” letters.

When Yale was fit to be tied

In the wonderful photograph that accompanied Jonathan Yardley’s book review of “The Game” by George Howe Colt, in the middle of a dark background of fans in the stands, and the equally drab foreground of three dark-clad Harvard players, rises one figure in the white uniform of a Yale player, who is clearly out-leaping the Harvard players in a successful attempt to thwart an interception [“How a miraculous game lifted spirits in tragic 1968,” Book World, Nov. 25]. For some inexplicable reason, this dramatic figure, quite literally central to the play and to the photo, was unidentified, while two of the relatively anonymous Harvard players were named. It was as if a photo of the cast of a dramatic theater production left the actor in the lead part unnamed.

This glaring omission was magnified not only by the fact that the unidentified Yale player is the most famous person to have played in that version of “The Game,” but also by the fact that he is a member of this community: Calvin Hill. A resident of Great Falls, Hill was featured in the review, so one would also imagine that his dramatic presence in the middle of the photo could not possibly have been overlooked.

Hill would tell you that it took him several minutes to realize that Yale really had not lost, and that the contest had ended in a tie.

Gerald Weaver, Bethesda

Top-shelf 'Elf'

We take issue with “The best way to spread Christmas cheer? It may not be another ‘Elf’ rendition,” Nelson Pressley’s Grinch-like Nov. 19 Style review of “Elf the Musical” at the Olney Theatre Center. Pressley offered no actual criticism other than distaste for the show itself. What expectations did Pressley have going in? We assumed we would see something light, silly and sweet. And that’s exactly what “Elf” delivered. We found the performance energetic and uplifting. The audience of all ages gave it a standing ovation. Perhaps the fault lies more with Pressley’s lack of holiday spirit.

Susan Azrin and Jed Corman, Olney

Attacked, not neglected

While reading the interesting Nov. 25 front-page article “A vandal’s war of words blights little library near the White House,” a number of words stood out. First, the word “dilapidated” to describe the Little Free Library was incorrect. It has been vandalized a number of times. It is not in a state of disrepair from age or neglect. Second, the handyman who built the library was described as an immigrant. Why is that relevant to the story?

Joan L. Witorsch, Rockville

Temple plot of doom

I was disappointed that the Nov. 27 Metro article “Underground resistance in D.C.” did not mention that the Scottish Rite-owned land behind the temple and abutting 15th Street NW was, for more than two decades (from 1990 to 2011), the site of a community garden. According to an April 8, 2011, Borderstan story, Ronald Seale, president of the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, said the land, which was paved over, was needed “in connection with certain conservation efforts” and would be used “as a staging, parking and storage area.” It was unclear at the time if the garden would be restored after completion of that work. Of course, it was not, and the plot has been an eyesore all this time. 

So I hope it is understandable that many of us who live near the temple — including me for more than 30 years — are disconcerted to learn that the plot will be used for yet another large luxury apartment building, joining the many others that have gobbled up much open space or replaced lower-rise buildings.

Ronnie J. Kweller, Washington

Focus on 41

George H.W. Bush was my favorite modern president, as he restored faith in the United States’ power after decades of the Vietnam War’s hangover, shepherded a new world order without rancor against our Cold War enemies and impressed all those around him — from his Cabinet, his supporters and detractors to the Secret Service agents who shadowed him daily — as a decent and honorable man. Yet, three of the first four paragraphs of the Dec. 1 front-page obituary, “George H.W. Bush dies; he led U.S. out of Cold War,” which might have honored this great man and his legacy, focused instead on President Trump.

There were many reasons that Trump was elected in 2016. Among them was the near-constant, albeit negative, attention given to him by the press, confirming the politician’s adage “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.”  The Post’s obsession with Trump should not affect its writing of history and define how America mourns its fallen heroes. Please give it a rest and let George H.W. Bush rest in peace with our fond memories of him. 

Mike Davitt, Silver Spring

As a decades-long subscriber to The Post, I am very much aware that this paper is not a fan of our current president. So it was no surprise to me that the Dec. 1 front-page obituary reminded readers that former president George H.W. Bush considered our current president a “blowhard.”

My interest was in the life of our former president, an extraordinary man, who was the oldest living president and the last World War II veteran to serve as president. There was no need to insert the “blowhard” reference. Skip the reminder of our current political environment and give the insult about our current president, deserving or not, a rest.

Diane Drinkard, Springfield

Burrito hero? Baloney sandwich.

The first two paragraphs of the Nov. 25 Business article “How Zinke’s No. 2 keeps on top of his conflicts of interest” related Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s personal anecdote of choking on a McDonald’s burrito while careering down a four-lane state highway, losing control of his car, striking a BMW in the next lane, swerving across two lanes of traffic and crashing into an apartment building. All this to set the stage for his personal heroism: He got a lift home to clean up and go straight back to work.

I don’t need a reporter to tell that me Bernhardt’s supporters admire his story. I had figured that bit out all by myself. I would rather the reporter had obtained witness reports, including the driver (and perhaps passengers) of the BMW and the apartment building’s residents.

Bernhardt’s story, as related here, suggests he sees himself as the unfortunate victim of a dastardly corporate burrito. But I infer that he operated a motor vehicle in a criminally negligent manner, placed innocent lives at risk and caused significant damage to other people’s property. Sadly, we weren’t even told if the BMW’s driver sucked it up as stoically as our hero did and put in a good day’s work as well.

Why did the article not explain why Bernhardt was allowed to simply continue on his way? In similar situations, those of us who are not deputy secretaries of federal agencies might expect a summons, a Breathalyzer test and a visit to the county police station and courthouse. If these happened, why weren’t we told the results? If they did not happen, why not? Readers deserve to know if county and state police and courts have failed in their duties.

The article was appropriately placed in the Business section, as it explored activities that may (or just possibly may not) be ongoing conflicts of interest. And somebody on staff deserves extra credit for proposing the phrase “Zinke’s No. 2” in the headline. Pretty much says it all. 

Allan H. Williams, Arlington

He was no hero, either

The Nov. 22 news article “Remote tribe in India kills American” reported the death of John Allen Chau at North Sentinel Island but glossed over his blatant transgression and racism as fearless missionary work. The truth is that Chau not only illegally approached the island but also used his status and money to push several local fishermen into crime and persistently imposed himself on the Sentinelese people. He was not motivated by faith but by blatant racism, referring in his diaries to the island as “Satan’s last stronghold.” He also did not “try to speak their language” as the article claimed, but yelled something in Xhosa, a South African language. Yes, a South African language, which, by the way, Chau didn’t speak. Some have already rightly condemned Chau for his selfish, reckless and arrogant transgression. Reports should not gloss over his blatant racism and effrontery under the guise of bravery, adventure or — worse yet — faith.

Amin Ebrahimi Afrouzi, Berkeley, Calif.

Deadliest catch

The Nov. 22 special report on “The new Arctic frontier” stated that the Inuit community is allowed to catch 10 bowhead whales per year. “Catch” is such an innocuous term. Is that catch and release or catch and slaughter?

Diane Dorbert, Severna Park

Government of the people

I think the Nov. 28 front-page article “President on climate evidence: ‘I don’t see it’ ” made a fundamental error when it said, “The comments were the president’s most extensive yet on why he disagrees with his own government’s analysis, which found that climate change poses a severe threat.” Perhaps the president disagrees with his own administration’s analysis, but surely our government is not “his own” — despite how he often behaves — and the nation would be well served if The Post were to not reinforce his misunderstanding.

Jon McBride, Chevy Chase

D.C.'s drug problem

Buried in the Nov. 29 front-page article “Life expectancy in the U.S. continues to fall, CDC reports” was the statistic that Washington ranks fourth in the nation in the number of deaths by drug overdose per 100,000. Why do we not hear about this on a regular basis? In what neighborhoods is this occurring? Why? How is this impacting people? Books have been written and documentaries have been produced on the impact of drugs in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the three states that ranked ahead of us. Why has The Post neglected this important story?

Mike Kendellen, Washington

What to call caravan members

Regarding the Dec. 1 news article “Leery caravan migrants moved to new shelter”:

There is a problem with using the wrong noun to describe the people at the U.S.-Mexico border. These people are mistakenly called migrants when it is clear they are refugees seeking asylum. Migrants come for seasonal work, then return to their countries; refugees are escaping slavery, wars and death.

Doug Ross, Rockville

Smokin'! Nobody stop him!

In reference to Tom Arnold’s visit from the Secret Service for challenging President Trump to a body-slamming contest, did Helena Andrews-Dyer and Emily Heil, in their Nov. 27 Reliable Source item “Anti-Trump tweet posted by Arnold earns a visit from Secret Service,” really suggest that Jim Carrey “might want to dial it back”?

Freedom — especially freedom of speech — isn’t free. This president is not going to set the terms of our freedom.

Pamela Harms, Dumfries

She's just getting started

The Nov. 30 Reliable Source item “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The movie!” noted that Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) ousted a 10-term congressman (thereby) “becoming the youngest woman to serve in the House.” Until her term begins in January, she remains the youngest woman elected to serve in the House, but, regardless of how much she’s doing now to learn the ropes or hire staff, she’s a congresswoman-elect and she’s not serving.

Even a casual, breezy column should adhere to the basic standards of accurate journalism that ought to be de rigueur for any Post staffer.

Joan Hartman Moore, Alexandria

After she starts

Soon we will be seeing lots of new faces in Congress; we will need to know whether our elected officials are keeping their campaign promises. I beg of you to reinstate the feature “On the Record,” which gave the number of a bill before Congress, a synopsis of the bill and, most important, how each lawmaker voted on the bill. The Post offers a number of services to the public; none is more important than this feature. Democracy is well served by a well-informed electorate. Please reinstate “On the Record.”

Jean Durham Busboso, Locust Dale, Va.

The co-best part of waking up

Every morning, I pick up my Post from the sidewalk, make a pot of coffee and turn to the back of the A section. The op-ed columnists are what keep me going in a world that seems to have gone mad. I read most of them, even the ones I don’t agree with, but I especially enjoy Eugene Robinson, Michael Gerson, E.J. Dionne Jr. and Colbert I. King. They have a way of articulating thoughts that have been floating around in my head, half-formed.

The hatred, bigotry and fear that are becoming a part of our everyday reality threaten to suck me in, but I am pulled back by the words of wisdom in the newspaper and realize I am not alone. Thanks to them for speaking for me.

Maryanne Kendall, Reston

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