An Ounce of Prevention

Kudos to Sonia Shah [““How to Define a Plague,” July 27/August 3] for pointing out the need to tell a new story about the coronavirus. As she notes, germ theory doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t address genetic, epigenetic, nutritional, economic, and geographic factors or the influence of medications and other diseases. If the problem is seen only as the presence of a pathogen, then the solution is to kill the germ rather than change other circumstances that enabled it to cause illness.

The medical community would do well to adopt a broader perspective on illness using the model of integrated pest management, in which the first approach to dealing with insects in a building is not to pull out a poisonous spray but to remove food and water sources and seal cracks that allow bugs to enter. Similar to controlling weeds, IPM focuses on creating healthy turf that is better able to exclude weeds.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. May we see the bigger picture of this pandemic and act accordingly.

Ann McCampbell, MD
santa fe, n.m.

Abortion and the Court

Re “Playing the Long Con” [Elie Mystal, July 27/August 3]: When you say, “The other four conservatives on the court are ideologically dedicated to ending abortion by any means necessary,” you ignore that the Supreme Court cannot end abortion; all it can end is safe and legal abortion. Abortions would continue, at great costs to women.

Andy Oram

Color-Blind Reporting

Re “Joe Kennedy III Hired a Cop to Advise Him on Race and Justice” by Maia Hibbett [TheNation.com, July 10]: As Black residents of Massachusetts, we condemn The Nation’s disingenuous and offensive characterization of Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins.

Clearly, Hibbett does not know Tompkins. If she did, she would have mentioned that he has been at the forefront of racial justice longer than she has been alive. She would have mentioned that he is supported by progressive heroes like Representative Ayanna Pressley and that he traveled the country for Senator Elizabeth Warren to help sell her bold criminal justice reform proposal. She would have mentioned that he has used his platform to fight against mandatory minimums, police violence, and mass detention.

She also would have mentioned that Tompkins is Black.

That she did not is the kind of color-blind reporting that continues to allow non-Black voices and faces to define what progressivism is in America today. It was a clumsy effort to drive a narrative about Kennedy at the expense of a Black man’s lived experience and credibility.

Not for nothing, Kennedy is leading incumbent Senator Ed Markey among voters of color by double digits in every public poll. We encourage The Nation to come to Massachusetts and report on why. Perhaps it is because Kennedy understands how deeply impacted Black lives are by erasers in the hands of white allies. As he wrote in The Washington Post, “The reckoning going on in this country today is a reflection of what the Rev. [Martin Luther] King himself warned us of—that it is the silence of friends, not the words of enemies, that ultimately protects American shackles.” The Nation owes its readers better.

Tony Brewer, boston

Beth Chandler, roslindale

Eunice Charles, malden

Jacques “Teddy” Chery, medford

Denella Clark, hyde park

Natacha Clerger, randolph

Lamar Cook, springfield

Claudette Crouse, carlisle

Michel Denis, hyde park

Theresa Gordon, holyoke

Tito Jackson, boston

Jackie Jenkins-Scott, belmont

Sandra King, sudbury

Jean Louis, east boston

Ryan McCollum, longmeadow

Jynai McDonald, springfield

Gianna Mitchell, springfield

J. Keith Motley, stoughton

Kris Perez, brighton

Colette Phillips, brookline

Colleen Richards Powell, newton

Shirley Shillingford, boston

Corey Thomas, newton

Claudia Thompson, malden

Linda Whitlock, newton

Bennie Wiley, chestnut hill

Fletcher Wiley, chestnut hill

Hibbett Responds

Yes, Tompkins is Black, and no, I did not pat the Kennedy campaign on the back for having the basic common sense not to appoint a white police officer as its race-and-​criminal-​justice adviser amid mass protests decrying police brutality and abuse of power. Repeated studies have found that diversifying police forces does not significantly reduce rates of brutality and killing. An officer’s race does not absolve the police of the disproportionate and inherently violent power they have over civilians. I don’t think that there is any cop—brutal or gentle, mean or nice, white or Black—who would be appropriate for Tompkins’s position on the Kennedy campaign.

It is this imbalance of power that makes Tompkins’s role in the July 7 debate between Kennedy and Markey such an egregious offense. Not only does he work for the Kennedy campaign, but he also incarcerates the people who asked the questions. Do I really have to explain how that’s undemocratic?

I didn’t dig into Tompkins’s progressive bona fides because the piece wasn’t actually about him; it was about the campaign. A writer can’t include everything about everyone. You didn’t mention that Warren has endorsed Markey in this race or that Kennedy endorsed then-incumbent Representative Mike Capuano over Pressley in 2018. But I get it; every argument has a limited scope.

I apologize for any offense I caused. I didn’t state the race of any politician mentioned in the piece—and that’s what these people are to me: politicians. They are not my friends, and I would like for our legislators to be chosen based on policy, not personality. I just hope my home state agrees in the September primary.

Maia Hibbett
new york