Letters — From the July 2019 issue

Letters

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Back to the Future

I found Kevin Baker’s piece on the historical antecedents of the Green New Deal [“Where Our New World Begins,” Essay, May] perhaps the best essay I’ve read on the subject. It is a bracing reminder that we’re not the first generation to face what seem like insurmountable obstacles. The transition we require in this case is similar to that required during the Great Depression: from laissez-faire market worship to actual human solidarity. That’s what will once again be necessary if we are to build a future that can truly sustain us. Baker’s piece left me ready to get back to work.

Bill McKibben
Ripton, Vt.

Unpaid Debts

Reading Daniel Castro’s account of the doomed gang truce in El Salvador [“The Truce,” Letter from San Salvador, May] took me back to the early 1980s, when I followed that country’s situation closely.

What I most remember from those days was the hypocrisy of such political actors as Elliott Abrams, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Alexander Haig, and Ronald Reagan, who loudly decried the violence of left-wing rebels while excusing atrocities committed by the Salva­doran government.

After the 1980 murder of four Catholic nuns by members of the Salva­doran military, Kirkpatrick suggested the victims had been more than “just nuns,” implying that the nuns had deserved their ugly fates.

After U.S.-trained Salvadoran soldiers massacred nearly one thousand men, women, and children in El Mozote and surrounding villages, the Reagan Administration denied reports as guerrilla propaganda, a charge that was later disproved.

To read that American influence in El Salvador continues to contribute to a level of violence, pain, and fear that is beyond most Americans’ understanding fills me with rage and sadness. Elliott Abrams, who should have been convicted of war crimes for his direction of Reagan’s Central American policy, now serves in the Trump Administration, further confirmation of our perennial refusal to hold our leaders accountable for human rights abuses.

Having been complicit in the violence in El Salvador and neighboring nations for generations, we have a moral obligation to Central America and to its refugees at our southern border. We owe an enormous debt. Shelter from the current storm is the least we can offer.

Lorraine Berry
Ormond Beach, Fla.

Peace Dividends

I agree with Christopher Beha’s premise [“Winning the Peace,” Easy Chair, May] that we have become over-obsessed with the prosaically political to the detriment of our search for “knowledge and beauty.” The day after the 2016 election, I announced often and loudly to my family and friends that I was not going to spend the next four years in a state of constant agitated anxiety, which would be neither healthy nor efficacious.

My siblings and I were then caring for our mother, whose seemingly indefatigable vigor had begun to decline. Even during those months I lived with her, exposed to her CNN addiction, I ignored all the hoopla and focused mostly on editing a novel, surfing, and her care. By the time she passed away in the summer of 2017, I had mostly lost my preoccupation with daily political scandal, and, in any case, was soon required to take on the duties of trustee, which required a great deal of my attention.

Today, I am out of the habit entirely and am happier for it. Thanks to Beha, I have been able to relinquish what remained of my guilt.

Terry Dressler
Goleta, Calif.

Shore Leave

Joe Kloc’s story about the anchor-outs of Sausalito [“Lost at Sea,” Letter from California, May] brought back good memories of my own life on the water years ago. I moved out to the Bay Area from Florida with no experience on boats, but was soon talked into buying and living aboard one. At the time, it was the only way I could avoid going into debt. I was a bit more fortunate than some of the folks we meet in Kloc’s story; to me, it felt like living in a cramped studio.

Having so recently “lived on land,” as my new friends in the marina would say, I was moved by how quickly the live-aboards took me in. The sense of community was not so dissimilar to what I’d experienced during my Midwestern upbringing.

I found the area that appears in the story my first year on the water, and it was perfect. I was thirty-four and single, with no kids or responsibilities. Around three or four in the afternoon, I would sit on the bow and crack open a beer. A few hours later, I would fire up the grill. After the sun set, I would go down below and watch a movie before passing out, usually waking up a few times in the night to make sure I didn’t drift into someone’s yard. It felt like a different world from the one only a few miles away in San Francisco.

I’m still local now, down in San Bruno near the airport, where I work. I met a great girl and she already had a house here, so I sold the boat. We have a kid. It’s a different way of living and of viewing the world. The article makes me miss my friends in the marina, their kindness and quirks. Life is good now, but life was good then, too.

Nick Markham
San Bruno, Calif.

Correction

The Military-Industrial Virus” [Letter from Washington, June], by Andrew Cockburn, incorrectly stated the number of MH-53E and CH-53E accidents that have resulted in 132 deaths since the 1980s. There have been 59 serious accidents, not 58 crashes. We regret the error.

Editor’s Note

Marilynne Robinson’s essay “Is Poverty Necessary?” [June] should have included the following attribution: “This material was presented as part of the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lectures on American Civilization and Government at the New York Public Library in February. Made possible by a gift from the estate of Eric F. Goldman, the lectures are intended to stimulate discussion of contemporary issues that have a long-term significance for American democracy.”

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