After the Uprising
I read Abigail Hauslohner's article on the Egyptian revolution with great interest ["Democracy, Egyptian Style," April 18]. However, I disagree with her rather harsh view of the Egyptian armed forces. As a surgical resident who took part in the protests and treated countless victims during the days of rioting, I feel personally insulted that their integrity is being questioned. In the chaos that followed the revolution, the military was the only institution functioning near full capacity. At this critical point in Egypt's history, they stepped in to shoulder responsibility and did a marvelous job.
Democracy as understood by the Egyptians (or, for that matter, by the rest of the non-Western world) may not jibe with the Western concept; it has its local flavor. In the end, autocracy will likely re-emerge. Egypt has been ruled by leaders with a powerful military background for decades, and chances are the generals in charge of the interim government will want to continue having a strong say in national politics. And that could be the cause of a power struggle.
Lessons from the Civil War
Thank you for David Von Drehle's insightful article ["The Way We Weren't" April 18]. I was disappointed, though, by his failure to draw a more explicit connection to the contemporary Tea Party, birther and antigovernment movements. The dotted line from the Lost Cause apologists for the Confederacy to the "take my country back" fanatics of today is direct and insidious.
Gary R. Howard,
There probably will never be acknowledgment of the role slavery played, because it would stain the hands of some iconic figures, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and, yes, Ulysses S. Grant, whose defenders simply can't accept that such paragons could breed, work or trade human beings as if they were cattle. As a descendant of the bred, worked and traded, I have learned to compartmentalize American history. I therefore say to those who would deny slavery's importance: The historic flaw of slavery does not diminish but accentuates the greatness of our relatively young country. In 235 years, we have gone from slaveholding President George Washington to African-American President Barack Obama, who incidentally carried the former Confederate states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
David L. Evans,
Cambridge, Mass., U.S.
If this magnanimous cause to free a race of people from bondage was so important to the U.S. government that it threatened the existence of our young country, why was the government still making a concerted effort to eliminate outright an entire race of people Native Americans for generations after the end of the Civil War? Even today it can be argued that through neglect, there is some legacy remaining of this policy.
Jacksonville, Fla., U.S.
Of course slavery is immoral and despicable, and of course preserving slavery motivated Southern states to secede from the Union. Yet there also can be no doubt that Southern states believed the Constitution conferred the right of secession. Abundant constitutional scholarship supports the reasonableness of such a view at that time. But Von Drehle comes no closer than a dismissive mention of "states' rights" to the question of the legality of secession and the illegality of a war to stop it. Surely Von Drehle cannot be surprised that so many doubt the nobility of the motives of the Northern states and the legality and morality of their armed and economic devastation of the South.
John D. Wells,
Chassell, Mich., U.S.
I was dismayed to see no mention of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is unimaginable to think of any serious article on slavery and the Civil War without any reference to the small book that started the big war.
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., U.S.
While reading Von Drehle's article, it struck me that the melancholy pictures of former battle sites accompanying the piece suggest one aspect of the Civil War that should unite the most fanatical advocates of both sides today. The pathetic images of war re-enactors posing amid modern development illustrate a disgraceful failure of the U.S. to protect this part of its national heritage.
Von Drehle's report on Civil War revisionism was eye-opening and well written. Especially smart was the focus on Northern collusion in supporting and profiting from slavery. The time-bending photos were terrific! One omission: W.E.B. DuBois wrote an important corrective to the Lost Cause view, titled Black Reconstruction in America, in 1935 two decades before C. Vann Woodward published The Strange Career of Jim Crow but as a black scholar, he was ignored.
Blacksburg, Va., U.S.
The truth of Von Drehle's thesis about Civil War amnesia is fully borne out by John Cloud's adulatory Essay on Gone with the Wind ["Inherit the Wind," April 18]. Not once in the latter does the word slave, or any of its derivatives, appear. Didn't Cloud notice something was missing when he reread his sentence, "The planter class no longer had pigs or cotton or pretty French dresses, but it still had land"?
Von Drehle's analysis of the Civil War was excellent. It is important to consider a parallel between the decisions made in a pre Civil War U.S. and contemporarily in Libya, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The question of whether governments should fire upon their own people is as fresh as today's news. For those of us who believe that the U.S. was right in waging war in order to do away with slavery, and in doing so fired upon its own people where does that leave us with respect to these more modern issues? I have no answer, just a certain level of discomfort.
Robert L. Glass,
On the Closeup page, a large group of men in Afghanistan protest Florida preacher Terry Jones' immolation of the Koran [April 18]. Yet the image taped onto the head of the body burning in effigy is that of famed Monty Python comedian Terry Jones. Why take things out on the hilarious Welshman?
The Budget Battle
Re "Ryan's Hope" and "How Will Obama Handle Ryancare?" [April 18]: For many decades, the Republican Party has cherished three sacred principles: Crucify the weak, decimate the middle class, and worship the wealthy. Congressman Paul Ryan's "daring plan" inserts itself perfectly into this unholy trinity. It would slash top corporate and individual taxes from 35% to 25% (for the wealthy), doesn't dare tinker with the Pentagon (the powerful) and will punish the old and the poor with much higher health costs. That used to be called bullying.
The only way to save our nation from going broke is to embrace the Ryan plan, which Fareed Zakaria has applauded in his article. As Zakaria states, it is a serious effort to tackle entitlement programs. The Obama Administration, however, is more concerned about votes than it is about keeping our nation from going broke, as are the left-wing liberals who support it both in Congress and in the media.
Middletown, N.J., U.S.
Where in Ryan's budget plan is there a clause for cutting the salaries of Congressmen and -women?
Loretta E. Kaczorowski,
Alexandria, Va., U.S.
Instead of adopting Ryan's plan, which drives a bigger wedge between the haves and the have-nots, let's shut down the wars, eliminate the Bush tax, increase the income level for the payroll tax to $250,000 and raise the age for full Social Security to 68. Now we just have to worry about the details.
Eden Prairie, Minn., U.S.
I noticed a striking accord between Von Drehle's Civil War piece and the articles on Ryan's plan. The Civil War was fought over the South's contention that slave labor was required for economic prosperity. Now Ryan suggests the way for America to return to economic prosperity is to reduce taxes for the wealthy to boost employment and reduce health care for the poor. The economic crisis in the U.S. was in part caused by greed unchecked by any social conscience. The U.S. didn't collapse when slaves were freed and earned a wage 150 years ago. If America wants to return to its former position on the international stage, it must be a land of opportunity for all, not just for some.
It was rather shocking to find your interesting article comparing Finnish and Asian schools in your Business section ["Finnishing School," April 11]. Therein lies one of the problems of education: seeing it as a business instead of an investment. The best way to get the best students is to give them the best teachers.