Letters From the February 27, 2017, Issue

Letters From the February 27, 2017, Issue

Letters From the February 27, 2017, Issue

The power of the peacemakers… Language matters… Christianity, facing left… Logic for puzzling times…


The Power of the Peacemakers

The walls of the “Hanoi Hilton” are lined with pictures of American students protesting the war. The clear message conveyed is that the good people of the United States were against the belligerent, unjust actions of their government. In “The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement” [Jan. 30], Tom Hayden insightfully makes the case that the antiwar movement made a valuable contribution to the molding of public opinion against the war. It is also clear that this movement greatly contributed to the positive, constructive postwar relationship between Vietnam and the United States. Contrary to President Richard Nixon’s denigration of the protesters as anti-American and disloyal, the broad-based antiwar movement led by Hayden and others fostered American interests in the postwar period. It would be a well-deserved tribute if our government recognized these leaders and their valuable contributions.
Daniel Silverman

Language Matters

The Serfdom of the Press” [Jan. 30] has all the hallmarks of Eric Alterman’s typically incisive, erudite, and plainspoken critical punch. As usual, I found myself both disquieted and entertained by the dangerous absurdities that he diagnoses with such acumen. (The reference to Charlie Brown elicited an uncomfortable chuckle.)

I was surprised, however, by one turn of phrase that seems wholly unnecessary. In a column that calls to task the spurious demonizing of American Muslims after 9/11 by Donald Trump, why rely on the misapplied reference to an “anti-journalist jihad” launched by Trump and his cable-news lackeys? Turning the term “jihad” back on those who themselves use it to castigate an entire religious community may make for a pithy rhetorical strategy, but it also reinforces the association between Muslims and fanatical rampage, however ironically intended. A related cost is the neglect of the prominent Islamic interpretation of “jihad” as primarily an inward-directed effort aimed at cultivating personal integrity within a reasoned field of ethics—which is to say, the kind of behavior that Alterman rightly enjoins upon journalists in these troubled times. Contributors to The Nation might consider avoiding the term “jihad” as a moral takedown.

Oren Kosansky
portland, ore.

Eric Alterman Replies

Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful note. I appreciate the advice and will do my best to incorporate it in the future.
Eric Alterman
new york city

Christianity, Facing Left

Confronting the increased need for “A Moral Bulwark” [Jan. 30], Elizabeth Bruenig laments that “there is no obvious political program or donor base for an incipient generation of left Christian activists and intellectuals.” Yet it’s not a liberal Christianity that needs to be revealed and rediscovered, but the public face of that Christianity.

Over the course of a dozen years since I began my career as a “young Christian committed to social and economic justice,” there have been more opportunities than I could commit to. In my congregation as well as in my Lutheran cohort, ecumenical Christian groups, and interfaith coalitions, I’ve been part of the work for fair housing, racial equity, the peace movement, climate action, Palestinian rights, post-9/11 reconciliation, LGBTQ inclusiveness, criminal-justice reform, access to health care, minimum-wage increases, education, and more. The goals, priorities, and ways to engage have been readily apparent.

On the other hand, in my lifetime the public face of Christianity has almost always been conservative, defined by the religious right, the Moral Majority, and presumptions that “if you’re a Christian, you’ll vote this way.” I believe that recent history does show that tide to be turning. One example is that, in my time as a subscriber, The Nation has generally defined itself against Christianity, but the openness to Harvey Cox (and Marilynne Robinson and the Rev. William Barber, etc.) indicates a broader, better understanding and potential.

After this election, I perceive an opening to redefine public Christianity. While the old voting bloc could be rallied solely by superficial antiabortion appeals, this is a moment for redefining and reengaging with our identity as followers of Jesus—a faith that can never be limited to an isolated value or single priority but is the heart and wholeness of how we live our lives.

Rev. Nick Utphall
madison, wis.

Logic for Puzzling Times

Like a lot of Americans, on November 8, I came down with a whopping case of EDS: Election Depression Syndrome—or is it Evil Donald Syndrome?

So after returning from a trip to try to escape the horror, what joy to find in my mail The Nation with a Trump-themed puzzle by Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto [Jan. 16/23]. It challenged my mind (as do all J&H puzzles) and made me laugh. I struggled for the answers but was reminded by them that, yes, working together, we do have a plan to combat that horrible disease sweeping the nation.

Thanks, Joshua and Henri. You are the best.

Sandra Miley
sherrill, n.y.


Katha Pollitt’s “The Fight for Choice” [Feb. 6/13] incorrectly referred to Bei Bei Shuai and Jennifer Whalen as women who’d been arrested for attempting to self-abort. Although the charges they faced were related to abortion, neither attempted to self-abort.

Zephyr Teachout’s “In Foreign Pay” [Feb. 6/13] stated that the Trump Tower lease held by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is up for renewal in 201. It is up in 2017.

Amy Wilentz’s “This Particular Daddy’s Girl” [Feb. 20] described Ivana Trump and her parents as Croatian. They are Czech.

For Keith Ellison” [Feb. 20] stated that Ellison backed Hillary Clinton for president last fall. He endorsed her in the summer.

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