This week’s “Free for All” letters.


Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Hallowed ground

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I was thankful for Steve Hendrix’s moving Retropolis article on the last journey of the soldier enshrined in the Tomb of the Unknowns [“The Unknown Soldier’s celebrated journey to a tomb in Arlington,” Metro, Nov. 11]. This article brought tears to my eyes as I thought about the selection process for the soldier to be entombed and what that soldier means for all Americans. As I read the article, I remembered Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.” The Tomb of the Unknowns is hallowed ground.

Frank Maddox, Falls Church

Thanks for Michael E. Ruane’s Nov. 11 front-page Retropolis article about the history of the end of World War I, “The day the guns fell silent.” It helped me understand why this day should not be celebrated with parades and displays of military might. World War I was senseless human slaughter that resolved nothing, exemplified by the absurd death of Pvt. Henry N. Gunther, charging German machine guns at 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. Nov. 11 should be for somber reflection on the tragedy and futility of war.

Dan Thompson, Wheaton

Michael E. Ruane’s Nov. 11 Retropolis article repeated a long-running inaccuracy — that World War I ended on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” While the armistice indeed came into effect on the 11th day and 11th month, the 11 a.m. start time is the beginning of the 12th hour. The hour before 1 a.m. is the first hour; 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. is the second hour; etc. For the same reason — beginning the count at zero, not one — the 1800s were the 19th century, the 1900s were the 20th century, and so on. This “11th hour” business has long bothered me — and I’m in my 68th year.

Rex Springston, Richmond

Full disclosure

It is relevant and interesting that the review of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” was written by the spouse of a senator who is rumored to be thinking about running for president [“Michelle Obama was polite and measured. In her memoir, she’s done with all that,” Outlook, Nov. 11]. Connie Schultz’s role as a political spouse is relevant to anything she publishes and, for the sake of transparency, should be noted.

Ron Phillips, Herndon


Chief Keef performs at the Fillmore Silver Spring. (Kyle Gustafson/for The Washington Post)

Kodak Black performs onstage during the 4th Annual TIDAL X: Brooklyn at the Barclays Center in New York. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images For Tidal)
The comparable Chief Keef

In his Nov. 2 Style article, “In Chief Keef’s orbit, things move fast,” Chris Richards argued that Chief Keef is “his own rogue planet — that kind of rare artist who can really be compared to only himself.” Although Keef is indeed able to use “express lack of dynamism — in tone, lyricism, mood and mien — [to make] even the slightest delivery feel like wild swerves,” this does not make him incomparable to other names in the rap industry.

Take, for example, Kodak Black, a rapper from Florida. He uses a droning, mumbling style of rapping but drastically changes its intended effect through minute differences in delivery. In “Tunnel Vision,” the wail of the instrumental over the beat invokes a feeling of sorrow and fear, while in “Transportin,” the slightly faster flow and the buoyant instrumental give the music a positive, singsong mood. Like Keef, Black slightly manipulates forces other than his voice to change the tone and intended effect of the song.

Daniel Hong, Ashburn

Bad words

Headlines on the Nov. 8 front page used the words “battle lines,” “trenches,” “retaliate” and “heartbreak” in the reporting on the midterm election results. Perhaps The Post could examine the possible impact of its language on the “them vs. us” mentality that is exacerbating differences among us, poisoning reasoned debate — and alienating some readers.

A little soul-searching would be good for all of us.

Ellen Mansueto, Silver Spring

Good words

I applaud the use of “churlish” in the second paragraph of the Nov. 14 front-page article “Allies, staff take brunt as Trump seethes,” not because I agree or disagree with the content. I just like the word. Then I read “splenetic” in the third paragraph. That was a new one to me. I would have read more to see if the piece had other word gems, but I was on my way to give a spelling test to high school students!

Joanne Richcreek, Fairfax

The best words

Regarding Dana Milbank’s Nov. 13 Tuesday Opinion column, “Donald Trump, in flounders field.” 

There should be a Pulitzer Prize for headlines. This one would win it, hands down.

Karen Galeano, Ashburn


The painting of Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Courtesy of John Rigby)
Keep it off the wall

I read with dismay George E. Mattingly’s Nov. 10 Free for All letter, “Don’t run Forrest down,” advocating the return of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s portrait to the Department of Veterans Affairs offices. Forrest may make for a fascinating character but definitely not an aspirational one, especially for our military.

Among VA’s core values are integrity, advocacy and respect. There are many who better exemplify these traits than Forrest. One article acknowledged that Forrest’s “violent temper was perfected in the theater of war. . . . He always suffered from a wild temper, bullied his subordinates and even his commanding officers, and was extremely violent.” Is this the type of leader we want our veterans to learn from?

Forrest fought to preserve the dehumanization of others. As Forrest himself said, “I am not an enemy of the negro. We want him here among us; he is the only laboring class we have.”

As grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Forrest focused on black voter intimidation and vote suppression, tactics that unfortunately are still in the headlines today with Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. In fact, Forrest visited Georgia several times in 1868 to solidify a strong Klan presence.

It’s undeniable that Forrest is an intriguing figure, but portraits serve to commemorate. We cannot pick and choose which parts of Forrest’s legacy we are highlighting, but we can determine where best to display his image. His portrait is a symbol of all of his values and decisions, including his concerted efforts to marginalize and dehumanize people of color. We can do better, especially for our veterans.

Virginia Friedman, Philadelphia

George E. Mattingly’s letter defending Nathan Bedford Forrest’s war record complained that Lisa Rein’s Oct. 24 PowerPost article, “Veterans Affairs official removes painting of KKK figure,” “left out many historical facts about Forrest that prove he was not the racial villain” many think he was.

But Mattingly left out another important fact of Forrest’s leadership during the Civil War: the Fort Pillow Massacre, in which about 300 African American Union soldiers were slaughtered by Confederate troops under the command of Forrest.

Forrest apologists continue to deny many facts of this massacre, but the facts are hard to deny. Forrest was responsible, and history should clearly show it.

Bill Byrd, North Beach, Md.


The Nov. 3 “Mike du Jour.” (Mike Lester)
It's probably not the soap

I don’t normally read  the “Mike du Jour” cartoon, so I don’t know who “Lava” is supposed to be, but “Got any virgins?” [Nov. 3]. Wow. That’s just sick. What were Mike Lester and The Post thinking?

Lisa Szymanski, Vienna

Women's war

How disappointing to find that, according to Lorraine Berry’s Nov. 11 Book World article “Perspectives on a world deranged by slaughter,” truth is confined to men’s experiences and, moreover, is not also contained in works of the period by women. At the very least, Berry’s list of books on World War I should have included Rebecca West’s 1918 novel, “The Return of the Soldier,” which is still in print. It not only provides the first fictional portrait of a shellshocked British soldier home from battle but also depicts the wartime home front, where women, too, suffered greatly.

Margaret D. Stetz, Wilmington, Del.

The writer is the Mae & Robert Carter professor of women’s studies at the University of Delaware.

What a miss

I am sure 99 percent of Nationals fans know what Trea Turner looks like, so why show only him and not his new bride with the Nov. 12 Reliable Source item “What a catch: Nationals player marries in Washington”?

Eliot Stacy, Haymarket

No spoilers

We and many of our friends like to read Date Lab aloud to each other, then guess how the people rated their date and what happened afterward. Recently The Post has been spoiling our fun. It’s easier to get Date Lab right than to mess it up. Use a simple narrative style, omit extraneous asides and don’t spoil the suspense with tell-all captions.

Bruce Pirnie and Sheila Manes, Chevy Chase

Don't call racist things 'racial'

The Nov. 2 front-page headline “Trump dials up racial rhetoric” and the Nov. 5 front-page headline “Strategy of racial attacks spreads” grossly misrepresented racist rhetoric as “racial.” Racial dialogue is important and could help lead our country toward a bright future for all. Racist rhetoric and racist attacks are heinous and do just the opposite. Get it right. Don’t give bigotry a pass on the front page.

Michele Claeys, Washington


Danny DeVito, left, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Twins.” (Courtsey of Universal Pictures)
Fred and Ginger, Danny and Arnold

I much enjoyed the awesome article on “the top 31 dance scenes that make movie magic” [“What a glorious feeling,” Arts & Style, Nov. 11]. But I think it overlooked two contenders, and they both ran in the same year, 1988. If you’d told me that January that the year’s most memorable dance scenes would showcase Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in “Twins,” and Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” I’d have said you were out of your mind. 

William H. Hooke, Alexandria

The list of memorable dances did not mention Maria and the Captain dancing the Laendler in “The Sound of Music.”

It might not have been glitzy, fancy or technically challenging, but it sure was unforgettable.

June Schmitz, Hyattsville

Clothes don't make the man

The Nov. 11 Washington Post Magazine article “The hate patrol” described Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as “dressed in a polo shirt, khakis and running shoes.”

How does this totally irrelevant detail improve my understanding of the overall story?

I’ve been reading top-quality writing for many years. My experience as a reader has been that when a writer includes such irrelevant, distracting details, that almost always means the writer has overlooked other details that could add more to a reader’s understanding of a story. 

Is there empirical data that shows that readers appreciate the inclusion of this kind of detail?

Howard Karten, Randolph, Mass.

George Will's fuzzy math

George F. Will blithely asserted in his Nov. 8 op-ed, “A shot of amicability in our political system?,” that 157 million Americans are content with their employer-provided health insurance.

This figure seems to arise from a survey performed by Luntz Global Partners, a Republican polling organization, for America’s Health Insurance Plans. Luntz surveyed 1,000 Americans whose employers provided insurance. Of these, 71 percent registered some degree of satisfaction with their plans. More cryptically, AHIP reports that they “indicated their employers and insurance providers working together to improve health and lower costs improves their favorability of both (83 percent and 87 percent respectively).”

Will seemingly selected 87 percent as the relevant statistic, multiplied it by 180 million people covered by employer plans and obtained 157 million satisfied customers.

There are a variety of reasons to doubt this:

The Census Bureau reports that 178,455,000 were covered by employer-based plans in 2016. This includes both employees and family members. Luntz surveyed only employees. It is invalid to draw any conclusions about the satisfaction of family members.

Luntz reveals very little about the methodology of the survey. It does state that the survey was performed online. It suffers from the obvious bias of ignoring subjects without computer access.

Neither Luntz nor AHIP is an unbiased observer. Both have an overriding interest in promoting private insurance and denigrating Obamacare.

Will here showed that he can have fun with numbers.

Steve Dutky, Takoma Park