Belafonte Right On Time
I am always a fan of Joan Walsh’s work, whether she is on television or writing. I was shedding tears the whole time I read her article about Harry Belafonte and The Tonight Show [“When Harry Met Late Night,” March 6]. As an 81-year-old Quaker who has spent 50 years working on peace and civil-rights issues, I need some cheering up now. Those final lines help: “Those of us who have lived almost a century have no right to cynicism…. There is always something in motion…always people out there making a difference.”
new york city
It is a rare and guilty pleasure when one gets to correct the editors of such an esteemed publication as The Nation. Nevertheless, in “J.Lo Name-Checks T.Mo in The Nation” [March 6], there is a reference to “George W. Bush’s reelection.” To set the record straight, George W. Bush was selected by the Supreme Court in 2000, and elected (not reelected) in 2004.
Allen W. Batteau
ann arbor, mich.
What Are We For?
Thank you for Robert L. Borosage’s “Beyond Resistance” [March 6]. Even during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s decision to run chiefly on faint echoes of FDR, the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, and the Obamas, but without their apparent vision and moral determination, concerned me. I believe this would have resulted in an ineffective and uninspired presidency had she won the election—especially with the obstructionist, right-wing Congress she would likely have confronted.
As Borosage notes, the Democrats continue to struggle today, unable to draw a coherent picture of the party’s once readily identifiable ethos and purpose. The problem with the resistance, at this point, is that it is only resistance. What we need from the left is a reliable vision and message—a battle cry—that asserts essential truths alongside the decency of the Obamas that we long for now. In the absence of such an appeal to what we experience as the best of ourselves, I am concerned that the void of moral clarity and consistency will ultimately spawn a vigorous and youthful third party that may well satisfy the mass in the center who now find themselves fatigued by the aimless Trumpists as well as the left and progressives.
Defining ourselves solely through what we are against lacks nourishment. At our national core, we badly need something to be for again.
We need to quit playing defense like we have been since 1981, by constantly defending the accomplishments of the ’30s and ’60s instead of going on the offense with bold new progressive ideas. We also need to quit compromising away those ideas before we even propose them. The Republicans have been proposing crazy ideas for years, and they are always shot down at first. But each time they propose them, they gain yards and change the terms of the debate. Democrats cut and run at the first indication of any opposition to their proposals. They have put themselves on the edge of extinction because of their caution and timidity. We need some audacity or the future belongs to Trump.
The Fire Last Time
Peter E. Gordon’s sensibility regarding Saul Friedländer’s many scholarly and heartbreaking books is extraordinary [“After the Inferno,” March 6]. I was genuinely moved by his profound connection to that historian’s incomparable writing.
I have never before made public what I write now, and it feels somewhat crazy for me to comment so late in life on books about the devastation of Jews during World War II. Gordon writes: “What the historian Annette Wieviorka has called the ‘era of the witness’ is now coming to an end.” This is something that I have deeply internalized, for I know it too well. Gordon continues: “How this shift might reshape historical understanding remains unknown.”
In September 1939, my mother, father, brother, and I emigrated to the United States from Holland. I was 6 years old. As we boarded the Nieuw Amsterdam, I waved goodbye to my beloved grandparents, who were supposed to come on the next boat. There was no next boat, and they were killed at Auschwitz in 1944.
I want to shout, “I am of that generation, and at age 84, I recognize that this child witness, albeit saved in another country, becomes part of that era’s end.” What is in my heart will never be fully spoken.
Thank you, Peter E. Gordon—and, of course, the honorable Saul Friedländer.
Yvonne R. de Miranda
Brilliant essay. One line in particular should be part of the catechism of every schoolchild: “But the idea of evil doesn’t enhance responsibility; it evades it, lifting the crimes away from the human plane where they belong.”
Re Sue Halpern’s review of Edward Jay Epstein’s How America Lost Its Secrets [“Alternative Facts,” March 6]: Epstein’s inability to distinguish between a real education and mere credentials casts some doubt on the quality of his own education. Certainly no one who has read or listened to Edward Snowden could doubt that he is both well-read and thoughtful, the surest signs of being well educated, and many technically sophisticated specialists have praised his professional skills. Under the circumstances, Epstein’s criticisms sound almost embarrassing. I am curious to know why Knopf, which used to be a highly reputable publisher, accepted a work that ought not to have met its standards, or indeed those the author himself may have attained in his earlier work.
Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Zoë Carpenter’s “Black Births Matter” [March 6] referred to cortisone as the hormone that can trigger labor. In fact, that hormone is cortisol.
Matthew Stoller’s “After the Fumble” [March 20] stated that Bill Clinton signed the bill that instituted the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for those convicted of using crack versus powder cocaine. This assertion came from the book under review, Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal, but it is incorrect. While Clinton did sign a bill to preserve the sentencing disparity, it was originally instituted as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, signed by Ronald Reagan.