We Were Immigrants Once
Lizzy Ratner’s Feb. 20 article, “The Last Time We Closed the Gates,” struck a chord with me. My late father William Seligman, a Jew from Poland like Ratner’s grandfather, traveled to the United States on the RMS Aquitania in the early 1920s. He, too, entered the country through Ellis Island. Although I’m quite sure that they never met, my father and Ratner’s grandfather had comparable experiences in adjusting to the United States and becoming citizens. At rare moments, such as those occasioned by reading this article, I wonder whether I would ever have been born had my father not been able to flee Poland for the “promised land,” and had this country not been willing (perhaps reluctantly) to accept him and provide a “path to citizenship.”
In the midst of all that is going on with our government, it is important to remember the values and attitudes that contributed to the greatness that is America. I hope that Jared Kushner will remember his family history and that he will use this knowledge to help influence the decisions of the new administration.
We are a better society when we learn from our history, both personal and national. The fear of the other has always been used to unite groups that feel threatened and want to remain insular. History shows us that hatred of difference does not build a supportive or healthy society. I value the biblical exhortation to love the stranger as you love yourself. I hope we can all fight these recent attacks on immigration. Immigrants come here with an enthusiasm and work ethic that has always benefited the United States. What a dull and lifeless place we would be without their energy and perseverance.
Truly Democratic, Truly National
As a nonpartisan voter since 1950, I agree with your Feb. 20 editorial [“For Keith Ellison”]: Ellison is an ideal candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee. Whoever is elected to this post must recognize that the Democratic Party long ago lost touch with its natural constituency: those who sweat, strain, and labor hard to make a decent living. The party must also sincerely embrace another of its natural bases: progressives. Most important, our democracy is not a spectator sport. Every vote counts! US presidents—but also mayors, city-council members, county commissioners, and a host of other officials—are elected at polling stations throughout the nation, not just within the DC Beltway, at fund-raisers for big-ticket donors, or in the offices of idealistic but well-paid professionals. Keith Ellison’s record exemplifies this reality.
James L. Appleton
mountain ranch, calif.
Trump’s Uncivil Acts
I cannot thank Patricia J. Williams enough for her wonderful piece “You’re Fired!” [Feb. 6/13], although I did feel quite distressed after reading it. As a member of the military, I was initially excited by the opportunity to continue serving my country after I transitioned back to civilian life. The last few months, however, have done so much grave harm to the ideal of the federal civil service that I no longer find the thought of working for the government appealing. In addition to the hiring freeze ordered by Donald Trump, the news that the House of Representatives has reinstated the Holman Rule, as described in Williams’s column, finalized my decision to look only in the private sector for employment.
The thought of politicians deciding to alter a federal worker’s salary based on politics is chilling. I was already worried about the potential brain drain as people become fed up and quit the civil service. Now I am worried that this Holman Rule may cause an even bigger exodus, with many years of valuable expertise being lost along with the civil servants themselves. As Williams notes, “the long continuity of government throughout multiple administrations” is profoundly at risk.
Still, I haven’t completely despaired, as I’ve become more active in politics—and, who knows, maybe I’ll throw my own hat into the ring and run for office in the future.
colorado springs, colo.
Sleuths With Pens
Investigative reporting is, if anything, even more important than Anya Schiffrin says in her review of James T. Hamilton’s book Democracy’s Detectives [“But Who Will Cover the Swill Milk?,” Feb. 20]. Yet despite the need, the resources aren’t there to support this essential work, as Schiffrin points out. Investigative reporting takes time, but time is money—and in today’s newsrooms, money is scarce. That’s why it was a treat to read about Drew Sullivan and David E. Kaplan’s proposed solution—namely, creating an investigative-reporting trust out of some of the billions of dollars recovered by governments after investigative reporters have exposed criminal activity.
Along those lines, I suggest a related solution: Earmark 10 percent of the fines and penalties levied on these nabbed ne’er-do-wells as a reward for investigative journalists’ successful work. It would be easier to keep track of, and it would be a huge incentive to both budding reporters and jaded newspaper editors to get on the investigative trail.
At the risk of dating myself, I suggest a new motto for these fearless journalists, borrowed from the old TV series Have Gun, Will Travel: “Have Pen, Will Protect.”
Gary A. Schlueter
Re Mark Hertsgaard’s “A Roar of Resistance” [Feb. 20]: We must work together to keep this momentum going. Democracy has just become a full-time job. If there is any lull in our efforts, the regime will roll back any progress we’ve made and become more emboldened. Fight hard, and fight every day. Fight for your families, your brothers and sisters, your friends and neighbors, your community, and the world.
I am hopeful that, unlike previous short-lived movements, opposition to the Trump administration’s indefensible pronouncements will continue to grow and produce some unexpectedly good results. And then we’ll do it again and again.
We’ve Got You Covered
I wish I knew how to get the address sticker off the cover of the “Trump Family Values” issue [Feb. 20] without damage. Congrats on a classic, although the “Jeez, what now?” expression on the Donald’s face is too kind—unless he’s really thinking, “Well, you asked for it.”
st. louis, mo.