This week’s “Free for All” letters.

Worth remembering

One of my earliest memories is watching “Victory at Sea” with my parents on our little black-and-white TV, hearing that stirring score as the images of thunderous broadsides flashed on the screen. One of my more recent memories is standing at attention, facing the statue “The Spirit of American Youth Rising From the Waves” at the American Cemetery in Normandy as the bells rang out our national anthem, followed by taps, last month. Those “living faces of young soldiers in small landing craft trying to appear brave and resolute” so well symbolize that generation and its global war, which was, despite the attendant horror, carnage and folly, truly “a struggle between good and evil,” as the May 27 editorial “A day for remembering” put it.


There were other pictures from the Philippines at that time not shown in the “Victory at Sea” episode “Return of the Allies,” and that went unmentioned in the editorial, that may help explain why we now live in an “Age of Irony.” Daniel Immerwahr’s “How to Hide an Empire” reveals the faces of some 20,000 of those same GIs marching on Manila in September 1945, demanding to be sent home, with one of the speakers stating, “Let us leave the Chinese and Filipinos to take care of their own internal affairs.” Would that this nation had heeded that advice and avoided entanglements in the civil conflicts that erupted in the post-colonial parts of the globe as the exhausted European powers packed up their imperial hubris and returned to their war-ravaged homelands, leaving the one un-ravaged power to lose so many of its own young in what the editorial termed the “harrowing warfare since then.”


The faces of our young soldiers have remained the same in the many conflicts since the end of World War II: brave and resolute. What is gone is the black-and-white certainty of “Victory at Sea” and the conflict it immortalized.

Ralph Camilli, Annandale


John Kelly’s May 27 Metro column, “In the city where Memorial Day started, D.C. honors World War II-era veteran,” was well researched, but it omitted an important earlier observance of Memorial Day. In Appalachia, the winter snows would isolate the mountain people. But there were still deaths and births and even marriages. In spring, the itinerant preachers would visit. There would be gatherings in cemeteries to honor all who died that year. Each community had its own Memorial Day, always in spring. This began in the early 1800s, long before the Civil War, and was common throughout the Appalachian South. Perhaps that is what gave the Confederate widows the idea, but Memorial Day is older than the Civil War and is an important Appalachian tradition.


Karen Vuranch, Fayetteville, W.Va.

Worth forgetting

The decision to glamorize George Papadopoulos and his wife with a cover and feature in The Washington Post Magazine was repellent [“An American tale,” May 26]. The subject was jailed for lying to obstruct an investigation into attacks on our elections and the possible conspiracy by this president in those attacks. With cheerful cynicism, The Post has helped him cash in on crime and advance a career in Republican politics.


Democracy dies in darkness, sure, but also in the lurid light of celebrity, as Papadopoulos’s former boss already attests.

Brendan Martin, Arlington

I am extremely disappointed with the choice of subjects for the May 26 Washington Post Magazine. George Papadopoulos and his wife do not need to be the cover story of any magazine. He served a meager sentence for his crimes, and now he should disappear. A crass need for attention and relevance should not make someone worth interviewing.


And on Memorial Day weekend? Did The Post run out of story ideas about veterans and others who have served and sacrificed for their country?

I expect better. Perhaps that’s naive, but I do.


Carolyn Lawson, Fredericksburg, Va.

Andrew Johnson shouldn't have been impeached

Regarding the Senate trial of Andrew Johnson, I dispute that Thaddeus Stevens and other radical Republicans are heroes, as Brenda Wineapple’s book “The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation,” suggests, according to John Fabian Witt’s May 26 Book World review, “A national debate over politics, principles and impeachment — in 1868.” Even if it’s true that Johnson was “vain, vulgar, and vindictive,” and that his policies were unwise and unpopular, these are not grounds to remove a president from office. Nor should firing a member of the Cabinet be an impeachable offense, which was the central issue of his Senate trial.


The real heroes were the seven Republican senators, including Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas — featured in John Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” — who sacrificed their political fortunes for the good of the Constitution. Policy differences should be settled at the ballot box rather than Senate trials.

James M. Newberry, McLean

Can 'guys' be gals?

I have two dictionaries, one Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1953, which defines “guy” (colloquially) as “a person.” The other is a Webster’s New World Dictionary, copyright 1988, which defines “guy” as (slang) “any person.” Jason Basa Nemec’s May 28 On Parenting column, “What you’re really saying to girls when you call a group of children ‘guys’  ” [Style], said, “The English language lacks a standard gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun” but excoriated the use of “guys” to address a group that includes males and females. Why allow that, when two standard dictionaries accept such usage?


Max Pieper, Burke

Thanks to Jason Basa Nemec for expressing displeasure when girls are referred to as “guys.” I hate it, too.

I haven’t been a girl for many years now, but being called a guy has always offended me. Some time ago, I decided to voice my negative reaction to waiters and, alas, waitresses who used the term “you guys.” Whenever I heard it, I said (usually politely but sometimes with the slightest tinge of sarcasm), “You may have noticed that I’m not a guy.” The response was invariably the same: an insincere apology and no change in behavior.

What surprised me was the reaction of my table companions (female as well as male): eye-rolling, impatient sighs, pleas to “get over it” and exhortations not to make such a big deal over something that doesn’t mean anything.  


But it does mean something. It’s rude; it’s linguistically lazy; it denigrates women; it disregards the specific wishes of a customer; and it sounds asinine. But eventually, I stopped saying anything because it annoyed my friends. I wish I had the nerve to either stiff the server or at least reduce his or her tip by a significant percentage (poor service can be manifest in many ways), but I don’t. So I was particularly grateful to see that Nemec shares my views.


Margot J. Fromer, Silver Spring

Apples to orange jumpsuits

John Pfaff’s May 19 Outlook essay, “Five Myths: Prisons,” brought to mind the adage that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. According to Pfaff, private prisons hold about 8 percent of all state and federal prisoners in the United States. Next, Pfaff noted that wages and benefits for public-prison employees make up two-thirds of all spending on prisons. This isn’t totally surprising, because public prisons house 92 percent of prisoners. Finally, according to Pfaff, profits for private prisons amount to “just 1 percent of the public-sector wage bill.” Because this tells us nothing about private-sector wages, it is an apple-to-oranges comparison aimed to minimize the significance of spending at private prisons. If public and private prisons spend the same per prisoner, then the bill for private prisons is $4 billion, and private operators’ $300 million profit generates a margin of 7.5 percent. This is squarely in line with all private-sector companies. If private prisons spend less per inmate, then the profit margin is even greater. Notably absent from the discussion is whether prisons should be privatized at all.


William C. Yue, Arlington

All hail New York taxis

I take issue with an image used for the May 26 Travel article “Prepare for rip-off.” While the article was informative, warning global travelers of scams perpetrated on tourists around the world, its visuals were off the mark. In particular, the visual of a New York City cab to accompany a section on “corrupt cabbies” was completely misleading. The author’s suggestion for avoiding scams by cabdrivers? “Never hail a cab from the street. Ask a reputable establishment to call you a cab, or hire a licensed taxi through an official outpost.” While the advice may be sound for Mexico, India or Egypt, as the article noted, it is ridiculous for New York. The real way you catch a cab in New York is by hailing it from the street. Additionally, the image could lead readers to believe NYC cabbies are corrupt, which again is inaccurate.


Sean Neary, Kensington

Old Hickory or a new twenty?

In his May 24 The Daily 202 column, “Spurning Harriet Tubman opens a new front in the nation’s monument wars,” James Hohmann described the seventh president as “Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who championed Indian removal and orchestrated the Trail of Tears.”

Oh, is that why they put him on the $20 bill? Jackson was flawed (as we all are), yet it would be more historically accurate to call him “a general who won several important military battles and invented democratic populism.” (I have my doubts about the utility of democratic populism, but I’m told it’s all the rage on the left.)

I recommend that, from now on, The Post should refer to the namesake of the famous Interstate 495 bridge thusly: “Woodrow Wilson was a resegregationist who failed to deliver his promised ‘peace with honor’ after leading the nation into World War I.” If you’re going to be unfair to one former president, be unfair to all of them.

Richard Tucker, Falls Church

In his May 28 paean to Harriet Tubman and her worthiness of numismatic glory on a new $20 bill, “With Tubman, Trump is messing with the wrong woman” [op-ed], Michael Gerson mentioned Tubman’s role in the planning and recruitment for John Brown’s failed insurrection at the Harpers Ferry armory but failed to define that action.

Brown hoped to capture and distribute weapons from the arsenal to arm a slave revolt and start a race war leading to emancipation. Tubman’s intended direct participation was prevented by illness. Sixteen people lost their lives in the insurrection, which was put down by Robert E. Lee, the same man now vilified.

Tubman was, at best, guilty of being an accessory to murder and, at worst, of treason in an armed uprising against the constitutional government. She deserved to be hanged in the 19th century and not honored in the 21st.

Charles Leader, Norfolk, Va.

The nation's best

As a longtime advocate for reform of the title insurance industry, I was saddened to read of the death of Post syndicated real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney [“Post columnist probed ‘The Nation’s Housing,’ ” Obituaries, May 25]. Harney’s coverage of the title business — particularly, of little-known aspects such as the diversion to real estate agents of much of the title premium — was simply the best. He will be missed.

Steve Adkins, Fairfax

Make this description scant

Regarding the May 30 news article “In Russia, rape case prompts a rare #MeToo awakening” (and anywhere else this applies):

Please stop describing women as “scantily clad.” It’s an implicit negative judgment about a woman’s clothing choices. Simply describe what someone is wearing, if it’s relevant. And what someone is wearing is never relevant with respect to sexual harassment and assault. Rather, pointing out an assault victim’s clothing choices is an insidious form of victim-blaming. What someone is wearing is never an excuse for nor protection against sexual harassment or assault. If the point is to show that a woman is being demonized for her dress choices, then discuss those who are pushing that agenda and why a culture might tolerate it. But journalists, please don’t add to that culture by using objectifying terms such as “scantily clad.”

Angela H. Dale, Ellicott City

Dancers at a tennis ball

A fervent thank-you to Sarah L. Kaufman, whose May 26 dance column, “On the court, grace and poetry in motion” [Arts & Style], perfectly captured what I have been thinking about Roger Federer for almost 20 years. The only other player who might come close to Federer in grace was Stefan Edberg from Sweden. He was dominant in the 1980s and early 1990s, winning six Grand Slam singles titles. I would love to see side-by-side videos of Edberg and Federer in a “dance” duet.

Laraine M. Glidden, Tall Timbers

This joke bombed

In the May 27 “Dustin” comic strip, Dustin’s employment counselor finds him a job in “senior management,” only for it to be that of a bingo caller at a senior center. Dustin reads the game-winning ball’s number as “B-17.” While some of the bingo players depicted in the cartoon appear old enough to remember the World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, there is no bingo ball labeled B-17. The squares under the “B” of a bingo card go only from 1 through 15.

Bill Cowdrey, Alexandria

It's just Ukraine

I always enjoy the movie reviews. But on May 24, there were two Weekend reviews referencing “the Ukraine”: “Catcher documentary’s swing is kind of a miss” and “A warm portrait of a man who helped bring Cold War to an end.” In today’s Ukraine, the “the” is considered a vestige of the Soviet past. The country calls itself Ukraine.

Russell Pittman, Takoma Park

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