Into his poignant Nov. 22 Washington Sketch column about his daughter’s bat mitzvah against the backdrop of a gathering in Washington of white supremacists celebrating Donald Trump’s election, “Trump needs to disown his neo-Nazi hangers-on,” Dana Milbank wove the rabbi’s recitation of George Washington’s timeless injunction in a letter to members of an early community of Jews in Newport, R.I., that the new republic of which they were part “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
This first principle of our common civic life was elaborated shortly thereafter in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, making plain the fact that Muslims as well as Jews were to enjoy the blessings of religious liberty. That document, signed by John Adams, declared that “ the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion [and] has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims].”
That Christians, Jews and Muslims — along with atheists and agnostics — coexisted peacefully in Rhode Island and elsewhere even before the Revolutionary War is evidence of the vitality of Roger Williams’s noble experiment of religious freedom for all. That this priceless principle is once more under attack speaks to the dreadful and dangerous ignorance of a new breed of know-nothings whose rantings have found renewed resonance in the land.
Stan Hastey, Alexandria
After reading about the incredibly disturbing meeting at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Northwest Washington described in the Nov. 23 front-page article “Richard Spencer’s vision: Apartheid in America,” I suggest that the meeting attendees visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Meaningful exposure to the horrors of the Holocaust and a history lesson would be far more significant than Brinker International, the company that owns the Maggiano’s chain, writing a check to the Anti-Defamation League.
And by the way, those publicly proclaiming a “Sieg Heil” should be identified. I would personally drive them to the museum.
Edward R. Lipsit, Bethesda
Speaking before an adoring audience of nearly 275 people at the Ronald Reagan Building, a zealot named Richard Spencer gave a toxic, rancid speech full of hateful white-supremacist propaganda that ended with a rabble-rousing flourish: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” A camera panned the audience during the applause to reveal many people standing with a stiff-armed Nazi salute.
One could dismiss this horrific display as a fringe group of neo-Nazi extremists, except that they branded themselves as “alt-right,” a neo-fascist movement whose chief public spokesman and propagandist is Stephen K. Bannon, a racist and anti-Semitic journalist whom President-elect Donald Trump has appointed as his right-hand man, his “chief strategist.” To add insult to injury, Mr. Trump has also chosen as his attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is contemptuous of civil rights. Some of Mr. Trump’s other picks display a paranoid fear of Muslims.
The writing is clearly on the wall. The parallels with Germany in 1933 could scarcely be more evident. I urge the Republican members of the electoral college throughout the nation to examine their consciences and reconsider: They alone have the power to prevent our nation from spiraling into a nightmare of fascism and violence. Thirty-eight electoral votes is all it takes to prevent this catastrophe. Do they have the courage to put loyalty to our nation and its founding ideals before party loyalty?
Thomas I. Ellis, Hampton, Va.