Letters From the December 14, 2015, Issue

Letters From the December 14, 2015, Issue

Letters From the December 14, 2015, Issue

Sanders, Denmark, and Debs… tourists at the end of life… all that jive… food for the mind… one side of the story…


Sanders, Denmark, and Debs

In Eric Foner’s “Letter to Bernie Sanders” [Nov. 16], he suggests that Sanders refer to America’s radical history rather than Denmark’s, mentioning Eugene Debs at length.

When Sanders ran for governor of Vermont in the early 1970s on a third-party ticket, he argued successfully that he should have the same television time that the Democrats and Republicans had. Rather than speaking about his candidacy, Sanders presented a half-hour documentary on Eugene Debs to educate Vermont’s voters about a past that had been buried, as well as to delineate the tradition out of which his candidacy sprung.

I don’t know why Sanders hasn’t mentioned Debs, except to suggest that for most Americans, alas, Denmark is more recognizable.

Bob Buckeye
middlebury, vt.

I agree and disagree with Professor Foner. Placing aspirational democratic socialism within the values and history of our country is valuable, but it’s not enough—we actually lost our fight by fighting only on those grounds. We also need the fresh and pragmatically compelling news that countries at the top of the international charts—Denmark, Norway, Sweden—have a 50-year track record of delivering the goods to their people. Indeed, they have proven by many measures, including economic productivity, that their model works—so well, in fact, that their citizens today have both more equality and more individual freedom than we do. I’d say to Bernie that two arguments for democratic socialism are better than one.
George Lakey

Tourists at the End of Life

I want to try to put down a few agonal comments in response to Roy Scranton’s “Tourists at the End of the World” [Nov. 9]. This attempt is partly because I am one of the “silver-haired” (well, not quite yet) “adventurers,” in “various stages of physical decline,” who were “smiling in confusion” as we waited to board the MS Ocean Endeavour for Out of the Northwest Passage 2015, and that the magnanimous author may have “cheered” on. Further, since I share his kingly first name, I feel equipped to descend from my throne for this task. (Although frankly, Roy, it’s the image of you cheering me on that is mostly my muse.)

But my dear Roy, while you did not—at least in this article—mention biting the hand that fed you, it was rather gauche to twice make a point of stepping on the leads of the dogs pulling your sledge through the Arctic. Fuller disclosure would clearly require your mentioning not only the ship’s fuel consumption, but your own adverse greenhouse-gas contributions while hard at work on your endeavor titled Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, which itself brings us closer to that “apocalypse.” In these terminal days, there is surely more morbidity in such an energy-consuming publication than in the shared joys of a few cruising seniors.

Since you didn’t write about them, perhaps your “uncanny” fellow passengers didn’t include many of the kinds of decreps we sailed with. I hesitate to overstate this, but my wife’s and my own limited sampling on our voyage as we enjoyed the meals (excluding the many more than “half-dozen under 50”) included the orthopod who had been up more peaks and rock formations than I recall—you understand a feeble brain—but seemed to have included at least the Tetons, K2, and Everest; the couple who had spent the last few years living in and travelling in a small boat; the nurses, now retired (one awarded the Order of Canada), who had organized and provided the medical-flight services for the Arctic; and the man who had spent days canoeing down the Coppermine River to our departure site. Oh, you’re probably right, the current carried him all the way, and Inuit appeared at each stop to set up his tent and provide food.

I mustn’t go on too long with my precious minutes. So far, we don’t regret our Northwest Passage sailing. This is so even though we now see we could have gone on a Nation Caribbean cruise instead.

As a final note, Roy Scranton and The Nation, thank you for the delicious bait that fed what may be among my final pleasures. You’ll understand if I don’t feel additionally cheered on to read Learning to Die. But Roy, brace yourself: Really, you are one of us in “various stages of physical decline.” It’s OK.

Roy Lacoursiere
topeka, kan.

All That Jive

Bryce Covert writes, “Lean In’s findings jive with other studies” [Nov. 16]. Snapping their graph axes, no doubt, in lieu of fingers. The word you want is “jibe,” not “jive.” If the writer doesn’t know, the copy editors should.
Katharine Rylaarsdam

Food for the Mind

I rely upon The Nation’s up-to-the-moment political commentaries and consistently excellent arts reviews, but I was happy beyond measure to find in two successive issues the generous, searching essays of Susan Howe [“Vagrancy in the Park,” Nov. 2] and Marilynne Robinson [“Humanism,” Nov. 9], both of which are majestic in scope and penetrating in detail, addressing their readers’ intelligence in ways that go well beyond the immediate moment. Thank you.
Jim Schley
south strafford, vt.

One Side of the Story

The merits of an international protection force aside (I believe it would be doomed to failure, given the number of opposing forces and players in an already overcrowded area), “Palestine Besieged” [Nov. 9] is a deplorably one-sided vehicle to make the case.

The article is the mirror image of what one has come to expect from Commentary and similar publications. Palestinians, it seems to argue, have done no wrong, while Israel and its supporters (e.g., AIPAC) have done nothing right.

The authors, to take but one example, point to UN Security Council Resolution 242 calling for the “inadmissibility of acquiring territory through war,” but they fail to mention that 242 also calls for Israel to have secure borders, a status that the Palestinians and their “friends” in the surrounding Arab nations have persistently refused to permit, whether it be through wars, rocket attacks, intifadas, or isolating Israel in the UN.

This reader has long argued that Israel’s policy in the West Bank is self-defeating, and that the Israelis should seriously pursue a two-state solution before there is little left on which to establish a Palestinian state. The chances that this will happen will only be delayed by such prejudiced and distorted views.

Samuel Cohen
forest hills, n.y.

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