Opinion: Readers take a sober, sad look at America after the pro-Trump coup attempt
The question I am most often asked about editing this page is one that I have the hardest time answering: Lately, what letter has been your favorite?
This query often defies a simple answer because there is seldom a straightforward reply. There are letters I enjoy reading but may not necessarily deem suitable for printing in a family newspaper — several funny, irreverent one-liners come to mind — and then there are the letters that, for some reason, just stick with me. These are the poignant reader stories and opinions that make me (and I hope you as well) pause and contemplate.
The last 10 months have seen a disproportionate share of such letters, including moving and, at times, enraging reader experiences with suffering, death, economic hardship and racism. Now, in a week that saw this country’s 224-year streak of peaceful transfers of presidential power almost come to an end, it feels as if every other letter received since Jan. 6 “sticks” in some way.
One such letter was published Thursday; it likened the anger many of us felt watching violent insurrectionists rush past U.S. Capitol Police officers to the horror inflicted on Black Americans by white lynch mobs for more than a century. The letter closed with a stirring appeal to white Americans: “Close your eyes and try” to imagine living under such terror and trauma for a lifetime.
On this page there are similarly moving or even just plain jarring letters. One that stands out is the first, which by merely reciting a seemingly incongruous set of facts about Jan. 6 in a single sentence presents an unsettling take on the state of our union. The letter after that weaves poetry, theology and politics into both an indictment of inequality and incivility, and a rousing call for enlightenment and moral leadership.
The letters we’ve published over the last few days have provided a sobering and, yes, depressing view of our democracy — some focus on the events of the last few days or the last four years, others on the conflict and inequality that have always been present but are plainly obvious to all now. In some ways, it is this unrelenting rush of anguish and pessimism since Jan. 6 that has “stuck” with me.
As this country deals with the most significant threat to its democracy since the Civil War — and in the process further examines the racism endemic to it since its inception — expect the next several letters pages to contain unsettling and thought-provoking reading.
To the editor: Let it be recorded that on Jan. 6, 2021, the United States was the subject of an attempted insurrection during which five people died and more than 50 were hurt; another 3,800 Americans died from COVID-19; there were about 253,000 new infections recorded; and the Dow Jones Industrial Average thought there was sufficient cause that day to add another 437 points to its morbid obesity.
There are those who ask what’s wrong with this country. I ask, what’s right with it?
Michael E. White, Burbank
To the editor: Robert Frost’s poem “Choose Something Like A Star” ends with this wisdom:
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
A radiant star figures in the Christmas Epiphany story. On the 12th day after Christmas, we commemorate Epiphany (meaning “revelation”), when the wise men are said to have arrived in Bethlehem to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. They followed a brilliant star, which revealed Jesus to the world beyond Israel.
Jan. 6, 2021, was our modern epiphany, a clear revelation to our country and the world that mobs have been swayed — not just the mob in the Capitol, but the mobs of privilege, the mobs of power, the mobs of the marginalized. Jan. 6 revealed the magnitude of long-festering injustice, hypocrisy, division and incivility.
Wake up, Congress. Wake up, President-elect Joe Biden. Wake up, America. The wise are still needed. We the people must choose a different path and stay our minds on a more noble, more stellar way.
N’Yisrela Watts-Afriyie, Inglewood
To the editor: Reading The Times, I have been struck by how many letter writers, analysts and politicians stressed the idea that this shouldn’t be happening “in America.”
The ugly truth is that Trump, while despicable, is no aberration: The United States’ commitment to democracy has always been a lie.
Since its inception this country has supported assaults on others’ self-governance, from wiping out this continent’s Indigenous inhabitants to launching coups and invasions in Latin America and the Middle East. Today, the entire Republican Party has given up on winning majority support, instead relying on voter suppression, gerrymandering and undemocratic institutions such as the electoral college and the Senate to maintain power.
The Democrats aren’t innocent; look at President Obama’s unaccountable drone wars and prosecution of whistleblowers, hardly the actions of someone who desires a free and open society.
This is who America is and has long been, and hopefully, our experience with instability can give us greater empathy for those abroad destabilized by our bombs, our greenhouse gas emissions, our economic policies and our hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines.
Dayton Martindale, Oak Park
To the editor: The focus has been on the Trump-incited mob that stormed the Capitol, but let’s not forget that after the insurrectionists were cleared out, Congress finished certifying the states’ electoral votes.
The terrorists did not stop our government from doing what it needed to do.
Many are calling Jan. 6 one of the worst days in U.S. history. Indeed it was, but it can also be considered one of the best days because the terrorists didn’t win. The United States of America stood strong.
God bless America.
Pat Holmes, San Pedro
To the editor: The putsch has failed. Next time it might succeed.
As an immigrant from Latin America, I’m completely shocked by how we as society let this dangerous president run amok in his delusion of remaining in power indefinitely.
He placed sycophants in crucial institutions, and he worked hard to delegitimize those institutions. That is the trademark of an authoritarian regime in any country.
In the meantime, some in the media and academia were discussing whether this was a coup, an autocoup or just a subversion of the democratic process. This was a coup, plain and simple, and if you don’t understand this, you need to go back to school.
Arturo Ramirez, Upland
To the editor: When “The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party” appears in print, its author will probably cite Jan. 6, 2021, as the date of the undoing. But the crucial day should be Feb. 5, 2020, when all but one of the party’s senators voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial.
Had they joined with their Democratic colleagues and convicted him based on the compelling evidence, they would have dodged his subsequent depredations, including the Capitol atrocity, and salvaged the GOP’s tottering reputation.
Now the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan is the bête noire of world politics. Sad.
Richard Jewell, Los Feliz
To the editor: What does betrayal of democracy and the American people look like? It looks like the Republican senators and representatives who challenged the electoral college votes.
Having their own presidential aspirations, they have courted Trump’s supporters for years, and they echoed Trump’s chants of election irregularities and fraud. Before our eyes they were endeavoring to strip away the legally cast votes of the American people.
Does their power grab look good to them now? Are they proud of what they have done to the stability of our nation?
When Trump’s supporters heard the Republicans’ siren call of false promises and empty rhetoric, they came to rally behind them. But those lawmakers did not greet them with open arms, did they? They cowered behind locked doors and feared for their lives.
All the Republican lawmakers who challenged the electoral college votes and tried to overthrow our government should be stripped of their public office and never be allowed to set foot in the hallowed chambers of government again. They are what betrayal looks like.
Donna Sloan, Los Angeles
To the editor: As an educator with 20 years in the classroom, I have witnessed many good and honorable leaders who have positively influenced students in my classrooms.
To the senators and representatives who objected to the electoral college results, I say, you are not among them.
You owe the people you were elected to serve an explanation and an apology. Yet my guess is that you won’t offer either because being called out on Twitter by a fascist, racist leader is scarier to you than not following the Constitution that you promised to uphold.
The United States will outlast your failed coup attempt. Our democracy will survive you, but your contribution to this despicable assault on our nation will not be forgotten. You will be tied to your actions on every anniversary of these events and as part of every election discourse. You will live on as a lesson and a terrible warning to students who learn about and discuss this day. I promise you.
I have one more word for you: Resign.
Yurimi Grigsby, Forest Park, Ill.
To the editor: I believe that comparing the Trumpist insurrection to banana republics and suggesting that the violence is “un-American” demonstrates historical amnesia.
For more than a century, the U.S. government has aided and abetted brutal, despotic and criminal regimes in Central America (the original “banana republics”) and elsewhere around the world in the name of American security and self-interest.
Additionally, efforts to expand voting rights to new groups in this country have been met with violence, intimidation, imprisonment and, occasionally, sedition by Americans who believed such change would threaten their supremacy.
What’s truly exceptional about our democracy is the indefatigable courage of those Americans willing to make incredible sacrifices so this country could be more like what many people believe it has been all along.
Ingrid Fey, Los Angeles
To the editor: The attack on Washington is just the latest shocking event in the erosion of our system.
We are in a nonsense universe where people claiming to be the epitome of law and order are the most likely to ignore the law. While the most corrupt and disturbed president holds kangaroo court with a cult of conspiracy theorists, even Congress has to duck and hide.
When he’s on script, Trump howls about destruction and proclaims love and kindness. But even then, he proclaims that this isn’t over.
Adolf Hitler was slapped down before he finally came to his ultimate throne of destruction. If you think it’s over, think again.
Michael Gross, Woodland Hills
To the editor: The unsung heroes in Wednesday’s horrific event in Washington were the reporters and photographers who risked their safety to bring us in real time the tragedy as it took place.
I hope that perhaps the public will now have a greater appreciation of the often maligned press.
Audree Swanson, Arcadia
To the editor: I can express my historical comparison to Wednesday’s thuggery at the Capitol succinctly: Munich, 1923.
Alan Rosenstein, Santa Monica
To the editor: Perhaps Congress should ask the local school districts how to handle bullies and perform lockdowns.
Edward Stephens, Green Valley, Ariz.
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