Close examination of "American Weimar" (by Steve Erickson, Jan. 8) reveals that what the author is really incensed about is that President Clinton and his largely inept staff have exposed the true political left wing in America. Erickson thinks he speaks for this country when he says "America feels at the end of its power, and the result is a hysteria . . . in which democracy appears as a spectacle of impotence and corruption." What nonsense!
The hysteria is within him. He just doesn't understand this country's true spirit and nature. The vehicle that is our society may have its share of dents and scratches, but under the hood is a powerful engine fully capable of continuing the greatest legacy of modern civilization, even if passengers like Erickson would rather wallow in defeat.
Thomas H. Justin
As a 73-year-old white male who's an unreconstructed liberal, I welcome Erickson's outline of what went wrong with the Democratic Party during 12 Republican years and the recent two Clinton years. The party lost its bearings, took up the philosophy of the naysayers and failed to offer a consistent approach for those who believe that government should be a friend to those most in need, that it should do everything possible to ameliorate the circumstances that enmesh the least fortunate among us. That loss of character, I believe, is what contributed to the Democrats' election defeat in November and to the President's dive in the opinion polls.
I hope that the President resumes treating his true constituency responsibly during the next two years, picks up the true Democratic mantle and changes his course from "me-too-ism" back to so-called "do-good-ism."
Lawrence H. Walton
Erickson's article was on target and concise, the clearest expression of political thinking I've read in a long time. It wasn't pro-Republican or pro-Democratic; it was the nitty-gritty truth. It refreshed and energized me, leaving me feeling as though a fog around me had finally lifted and I once again could see which way to go.
America must grow up and face the demons Erickson identified before things can get better. At least now I know I'm not alone in my rage.
Erickson omitted mentioning a profound causal influence on the population: television. It's no coincidence that our malaise parallels the ascendance of TV as the world's most powerful and pervasive medium.
But it's not the supposed bias of the news media or the friction unleashed during the late '60s that is causing our lack of faith in democracy and our seemingly rudderless society. It is the mere existence of television, a constant reminder of our failure. We're never rich, happy, thin, interesting, profound, witty or famous enough to measure up.
Maybe we ought to pull the plug and, in time, regain the altruism, vision and verve to live up to the standards established by our forefathers.
When former President Jimmy Carter said the country suffered from a malaise, he was widely mocked. Yet, when cartoonist Walt Kelly's Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us," it was generally regarded as a clever way of stating a political truth. Both men were right.
From Erickson's point of view, malaise has become a full-fledged plague. Some may find his conclusions too stark, but there is plenty of reason for the foreboding picture he presents, even if the comparison to Weimar is somewhat strained.
Also, Erickson shed a piercing light on a primary paradox of American political life: that Americans really want the social services furnished by government, but they don't want to pay for them.
Allan S. Nanes
If more of those who voted in the last election could read Erickson's article, perhaps they would see themselves as the greedy, irrational fools that they are and redirect their anger and their priorities before they undermine our democracy.
Erickson is wasting his time writing books and magazine articles. He should be in Washington, replacing President Clinton for the remainder of his term.
Gordon L. Froede
A copy of your Jan. 8 issue should be on every governmental desk in the nation's capital and with every VIP in private business as well. A capable writer like Steve Erickson has finally described the country's mounting rage and the total destruction that may be lying ahead--and it isn't just an American problem, it's worldwide.
That was a classic issue of a magazine, a masterpiece that should be saved and referred to in the future.
George R. Morris