Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Looking Back at the Trump Years

To the Editor:

Re “What We’ve Lost” (Sunday Review, Nov. 1):

The commentary of the 15 columnists, while incredibly depressing, is a revelatory and powerful resource for the development of guidelines for the nation’s recovery from the past four years. It should be required reading for everyone in government, business, academia, politics and social movements. We must face what we have done and what has happened to us before we can make it better.

Kathleen Atkinson
Nahant, Mass.

To the Editor:

Where is the section titled “What Have We Gained?” Why doesn’t All the News That’s Fit to Print include a section outlining why many conservatives voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and voted for him again this year?

He appointed three textualists to the Supreme Court, oversaw a dramatic rollback in regulations, did not initiate any wars, created peaceful alliances between Israel and two of its Middle East neighbors and pushed through the First Step Act, which led to a falling prison population and more fairness in sentencing.

President Trump’s failings are obvious. They don’t negate his policy decisions; they are to be judged as part of the package. For those who approve of many of these policies, it’s a question of whether or not his failings overwhelm them. For those who disapprove of his policies, they presumably did not vote for him anyway.

Rodney Johnson
League City, Texas

To the Editor:

Re “Our Illusions,” by Jamelle Bouie (Sunday Review, Nov. 1):

After reading this laser beam of an article, I’m reminded of how many times I wince when I hear politicians pushing back against President Trump by saying, “This is not who we are.” Currently, yes it is.

Do yourself a favor, America, and own what is happening right now. See it for what it is and look the ugliness in the eye. You can’t change the past but you can change the future if you own the present. Otherwise forget it.

Gary Jones
Vancouver, British Columbia

To the Editor:

While Jamelle Bouie is absolutely right to point out the many ways President Trump’s depravities are rooted in our national failings, he misses one major Trump flaw that is not typical in our history: blatant shamelessness.

In the face of flaws like cruelty, racism, corruption and lies, we had pre-Trump become more aware of our historical wrongs, and had refrained from boasting about them. Now, political correctness to the winds, Mr. Trump, his Republican enablers and their Republican base seem to revel in gloating over the very sins we would wish to eradicate. That sense of shamelessness is new.

So while we should keep these sins in the front of our awareness moving forward, and not fall back into a blissful-but-ignorant slumber, we need to regain a sense of shame.

James Berkman
Boston

To the Editor:

The point that Donald Trump is the acute stage of a disease that had already sickened the country has been made in eloquent form by a number of writers on The Times’s Opinion pages. And of course getting rid of him will get rid of some of the putrefying effects of his presence in the White House.

But every pandemic has its vector, and I believe that the strongest vector for coarseness of language, dishonesty, conspiracy theories — the list of symptoms is long — is the unedited internet. Words that would never be used in ordinary society have become ordinary, conspiracy theories and rumor that wouldn’t have been uttered openly are now blasted far and wide shamelessly.

Censorship is not really a cure, but a vaccination of sorts is, perhaps, what should be called for. Perhaps more time spent in school on critical thinking and rhetoric may be a start. Perhaps a little more parental guidance would help. I have to leave it to experts to try to find either a preventive or a cure, but to do that, you have to focus on all the vectors.

David Buchsbaum
Wellesley, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “Faith in One Another” (Sunday Review, Nov. 1):

David Brooks’s column reviews what I consider to be President Trump’s most notable legacy: the normalization of rude. More than the judges he appointed to the federal bench, more than the dangerous foreign policy, more than the seemingly suicidal pursuit of environment-damaging agendas, the president’s lasting legacy to the United States has been to make it permissible to be rude.

The president has led that transformation at the federal level, but his actions and the willingness with which so many in the Republican Party have accepted them have brought those new norms to the local level as well. At a local government meeting I regularly attend, residents and neighbors no longer debate ideas on their merits but instead hurl personal and irrelevant insults at each other. The president’s normalization of rude writ small.

A central concept in Jewish teaching is tikkun olam, meaning to repair the world. Now that Joe Biden has prevailed, repairing the world through a restoration of kindness may be his most important mission.

Sam M. Schneider
Westhampton, N.Y.

To the Editor:

David Brooks professes to be shocked that President Trump has repeatedly pushed past what he considers a floor of decency and gotten away with it. Really? This is nothing new. I recall lies used to attack Max Cleland’s and John Kerry’s patriotism. Racist tropes and memes used to attack the Obama family. Lies about phony death panels. A president using talk of “welfare queens” and “young bucks” to gin up anger and resentment among his base.

Republicans have been stomping on this floor of decency for decades.

Peter Whitehouse
Mount Pleasant, S.C.

To the Editor:

David Brooks hits the nail on the head when he writes that “permanent indignation is not a healthy state.” Government should hum in the background of our lives, not cause us to twitch with anxiety every time our phones vibrate with a breaking news alert.

But Mr. Brooks’s suggestion that we back off from “Trump bashing” widely misses the mark. You don’t eliminate indignation by turning a blind eye; you eliminate it at its source.

What would Mr. Brooks have us do? Put our heads in the sand and willfully ignore the abandonment of decency? In speaking out in protest, we are not “playing along” but fighting to protect human decency from taking its last gasp.

Wendy Gardner
Bedford, N.Y.

To the Editor:

We’ve reached a place where most of us cannot bear the things this president utters. My skin crawls every time I hear President Trump declare to a chanting crowd “you have good genes!” How can we accept this racist and dangerous underlying message?

Ever since I was a girl in Iran, I loved the idea of America. I watched American movies and coveted everything it represented: freedom, independence, equality.

I came to America, became a lawyer, had a family and attained my American dream, all along believing that this was the greatest country in the world. I knew this because I had lived in many other places before being lucky enough to immigrate to this one and becoming a proud citizen.

We cannot let one man degrade the dreams of millions of people that believe in the idea of America.

Rebecca Morrison
Arlington, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “A Kind of Innocence” (column, Nov. 1):

What Frank Bruni is pointing out in his fine column is that we have lost our American-ness in the Trump world. This unique quality of ours was pointed out to me during a trip a few years ago to London. My husband and I had a conversation with two constables on a sunny spring day in Hyde Park. We engaged in light humor, comparing New York City to London, when one of them said to us, “You Yanks have such a great spirit.” Yes, that is our American-ness. The thing that defines us.

And now it’s gone. President Trump has taken it away from us in his desire to win at any cost. He was running for re-election since the day he was elected in 2016. And that is all he has done, along with taking away our spirit. I really miss my country, and pray that after the election, we can start to get that quality back.

Jean Miller
Cranford, N.J.

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