Controlling the Enemy—Us?

Are our local police now part of the military? The Nation, in your well-intentioned lead editorial “Why Ferguson Burns” [Dec. 15/22], perpetuates an abuse of language that widens the divide between police and the rest of us: the use of the word “civilian” for people who are not on the police force. Police are public servants, not soldiers—that is, unless they are an occupying force controlling an enemy population. So maybe it is an appropriate word, but it should not be. Every media outlet uses this word for nonpolice, but it perpetuates the notion of police as part of the military. This is not what democracy looks like.
Tom Cuddy
austin, tex.

As a subscriber to The Nation, I was appalled to read “Why Ferguson Burns.” I was a police officer for over thirty years, and I never started my day by wondering how I could violate someone’s rights, use excessive force or kill a member of a minority group. Neither did any of my colleagues. No cop wants to face the internal-affairs gantlet, or be sued or charged with a crime because of their job.

Sure, there were some who overstepped their authority and did things that were inappropriate or illegal, and there were also bad shootings, no question. These acts of misconduct were committed by a tiny minority of police officers, and most of them were either disciplined or fired. I know, because for years I investigated misconduct and disciplined or fired bad cops.

The editorial was the worst generalization I’ve ever read, disparaging all cops for the acts of a few. Cops will shoot you because of a “loose cigarette”? Give me a break! You clearly misunderstand the “broken windows” theory of policing, which works to protect the same citizens you claim police want to harm. You blame the police for societal ills that are created by poverty, not cops. You want the cops to deal with entrenched problems, and you expect them to be infallible, without the frailties of any human being.

It’s a little like making sausage: you don’t want to see how it’s done, but you expect it to taste good. Police work isn’t pretty most of the time, and we have to hold accountable those who willfully violate department policy or the law. Police management must act aggressively to weed out bad characters or they will lose the community’s trust. But ignoring the root causes of crime and poverty and blaming it all on cops will result in police forces that stand by and let it burn.

George Saadeh
mission viejo, calif.

We should all think how we’d react if it was our unarmed son who was shot by a police officer. Wouldn’t we be screaming, “Why did you have to shoot him? He didn’t have a weapon!” Aren’t officers trained to defend themselves without using lethal force? Wouldn’t we be saying, “One shot at an unarmed man wasn’t enough? You couldn’t outmaneuver a person who had several gunshot wounds?” Couldn’t Officer Wilson have just stepped aside and not delivered the fatal shot to the head?

Compare that with the white man in Kalamazoo who walked down the street with a shotgun and was patiently talked to, called “sir” and treated with respect. There are way too many shootings involving African-Americans and scared white people.

Michael Miller Jr.

Hillary Hangover

I am outraged by your Hillary 
Clinton–bashing issue, “Hillary: Not So Fast” [Dec. 15/22]. Your editorial “Hillary Already?” quotes a Democracy for America poll that shows Elizabeth Warren with 42 percent approval, while Hillary gets just 23 percent. DFA is a liberal organization. According to a Quinnipiac poll that sampled Democrats, not just liberals, Hillary polls 57 percent to Warren’s 13 percent. Bernie Sanders gets just 1 percent.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders do not have a prayer in 2016. Americans are not going to vote for Sanders, an elderly Jewish socialist. Warren ran a terrible campaign in 2012 and won only by riding on President Obama’s coattails. Pushing Hillary further to the left would ensure the election of a Republican, because presidential elections are won from the center.

The GOP is terrified of Hillary because she would cut into their older white base. Exit polls in the 2014 election showed Hillary beating every GOP contender, and those polled were mainly Republican. Democrats should be rallying around Hillary. A Hillary candidacy is the best chance Democrats have to win in 2016.

Reba Shimansky
new york city

Anatol Lieven says “A Hawk Named Hillary” [Dec. 15/22] does not understand that intervention in fragile states brings about their collapse, and that “democracy promotion” is not a basis for reconstructing them. Really? Do you believe that the wealthy, the powerful and the educated have done this repeatedly because they don’t know what will happen?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the collapse of fragile states followed by perpetual war is the desired outcome. Think if we did not do this: the profitable military procurement budget would evaporate, and there would be no justification for powerful and isolated political leadership. The wealthy and powerful do very well off the world’s conflicts; they and their children live in profitable safety and sacrifice the impoverished and the well-intentioned.

As Hillary Clinton plans her ascent to greater power, she says what she must. Oh, she’s sorry she voted for the Iraq War. She would like us to ignore that and much more. But like the biblical tree, we shall know her by her fruit.

Marcus Lester
summerville, ore.

The most important line in “Who’s Ready for Hillary?” is Doug Henwood’s: “She’s a women, yes, but so was Margaret Thatcher.” Hillary’s gender should not cloud us to the fact that another Clinton presidency would be disastrous for America.
John Starsiak Jr.
woodbridge, va.

What a waste! A double issue all about Hillary? I read it, but only because I’m a 91-going-on-92-year-old guy with not much else to do.
Bill Simms
columbus, ohio

Keeping Score

Winter Sleep, the subject of Stuart Klawans’s December 15/22 film review, “Imitations of Life,” was not the first film to use the andantino movement of Schubert’s A major Sonata to convey beauty and heartbreak. Max Richter’s original score for the 2008 Israeli film Waltz With Bashir (reviewed by Mr. Klawans in your January 26, 2009, issue) incorporates the opening theme of the movement most movingly to accompany the closing credits, where it is played first on the piano and then hauntingly by solo violin over strings.
David Nawi