Letters From the November 16, 2015, Issue

Letters From the November 16, 2015, Issue

Letters From the November 16, 2015, Issue

For the love of Bernie… when loco parentis is loco… in defense of the pope… fetal distraction…


For the Love of Bernie

I will preface this by saying that I admire Bernie Sanders and his clearly progressive views, as well as his strongly articulated ideas. However, reading D.D. Guttenplan’s “The Secret to Sanders’s Success” [Oct. 26] reminds me why he’s not a viable choice for me.

The article’s lead (uncaptioned) photo could have been taken in lily-white Vermont, so I’ll give it a pass for its resemblance to a diversity-free Republican rally. But consider Guttenplan’s choice of Bernie volunteers: 16-year-old Australian Torin Peel and 24-year-old digital whiz kid Aidan King. Do you really believe these representatives, so evocative of Sanders’s campaign, will appeal to the majority of lower-income, nonwhite, and immigrant Democrats whose votes would be essential for presidential victory? Unfortunately, Sanders’s policies, so much more populist than his rivals, are lost in his campaign’s image.

Chandru Murthi
new york city

Here we go again. Without doubt, the words uttered by Bernie San­ders are sweeter to a progressive than those of Hillary Clinton, except to those of us who are actually concerned about whom we elect as president. Ralph Nader is back, and The Nation is thrilled.

What is it about progressives that makes them unconcerned with the actual outcome of an election? I love what Sanders says, but he is not going to be elected president—either Hillary or a Republican will be. I can’t look.

Bob Burket
santa monica, calif.

When Loco Parentis Is Loco

Michelle Goldberg’s article “Whose Kids Is Big Brother Watching?”[Oct. 19] is both comprehensive and important. I have had personal and unpleasant experiences with Child Protective Services (CPS) as an advocate for children and as an academic who taught child-welfare policy in a graduate social-work program.

Having observed CPS for a period of over 40 years, I’ve seen the pendulum shifts that Goldberg discusses, with various efforts to reform the system failing. The agencies generally err in both directions: over- and under-intervention. I fear that the pendulum is now swinging again in the direction of over-intervention, with the result that way too many children will be placed in foster care. And this “solution” is anything but: The conditions (often overcrowded) and circumstances in too many foster homes are dismal—points that Goldberg didn’t discuss.

The public’s ideas about foster care are that the placements are warm and fuzzy. The truth is that there are many instances of abuse and neglect in these homes; we’ve witnessed two situations in Massachusetts in the recent past where children died in foster care. I recommend reading my colleague Leroy H. Pelton’s oeuvre on foster care and “child welfare” for solid research findings on these problems.

Marguerite Rosenthal

CPS bureaucracies are no doubt underfunded and make mistakes, but most of us would take overzealousness over those frightful cases where a child is neglected and abused and we find out about it after a tragedy has occurred. I find it extremely unhelpful to cast this problem in terms of race and that new standby (becoming increasingly old), “white privilege.” If there is a concentration of social workers and police (whom the author disparages) in minority neighborhoods, it is because that’s where crime is most concentrated.

Martin Guggenheim, a professor at New York University and co-director of the school’s Family Defense Clinic, in discussing his daughter’s respectful treatment at a hospital after she broke her collarbone, bemoans the fact that were he a single parent in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and had some joints been found on his nightstand, his child would have been taken away from him. He then boasts that joints definitely would have been found on his night table. The solution is not to decry what would have happened if he were black and living in a black neighborhood; the solution is to advocate that his child be taken away from him as well. No parent should be using recreational drugs.

Alexander Goldstein
new york city

In Defense of the Pope

The letter from Carol Mukhopadhyay (Oct. 26) attacking Pope Francis for institutional problems for which he is not responsible is not only shortsighted but ultimately counterproductive. One pope cannot change a 2,000-year-old institution overnight, especially when his two immediate predecessors stacked the Roman Curia with conservative cardinals and appointed the thousands of bishops who were and are mostly happy in their paternalistic kingdoms. Mukhopadhyay says that “the pope decries poverty, but ignores the connection between poverty and fertility rates, fertility rates and over-population, overpopulation and climate change.” Had she bothered to read this pope’s encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” she might have realized that she was attacking a man trying to change many of the very things she decries. The Nation’s consistently rigid secular stance seems to mean publishing in full anything that attacks the Catholic institution, no matter how inaccurate its claims.
Lawrence Barmann
st. louis, mo.

Fetal Distraction

In “Fetal Subtraction” [Oct. 26], Katha Pollitt writes: “This isn’t about fetal tissue. It’s about abortion. It’s about showing those bloody pictures and making providers look greedy and heartless.” Yes, and the bloody pictures play upon the unfortunate tendency to confuse squeamishness with compassion. Many medical procedures have a high “ick” factor, and showing them can make a strong emotional appeal. The donation of fetal tissue for research is true compassion: a good that can come out of what is often a series of events that are far from good, leading to the least-bad choice of abortion.
R d Erlich


William Greider’s “The GOP Crack-Up” [Nov. 9] quoted Scott Lilly as saying Republicans have held “the White House for 27 of the past 47 years.” While Lily did say that, Republicans have been in power for 28 of the last 47 years.

Susan Howe’s “Vagrancy in the Park” [Nov. 2] incorrectly stated that the “R” of modern standard English retains its consonantal value only when it proceeds a vowel; it should have read “precedes.” The piece also stated that in American English, in all words spelled with “R,” the sound occurs simultaneously with the vowel before it; it should have read “with the vowel after it.”

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