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Letters to the Editor, Aug. 12, 2020

Letters to the Editor, Aug. 12, 2020

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Proposed police reforms would impede protection

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Gov. Ralph Northam has called a special session of the Virginia General Assembly for Aug. 18. The reason for this is to vote on the budget as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19. However, it seems that restrictions on law enforcement also will be brought up.

In the state Senate, a committee on police reform has been formed and there is considerable support for defunding law enforcement agencies and reducing the charge for an assault on a law enforcement officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

On the House of Delegates side, the Courts of Justice and Public Safety committees jointly met late last month and discussed priorities regarding police reform for the upcoming special session. Some of their reform recommendations include:

  • Defunding of operational budgets;
  • Removal of School Resource Officers;
  • Dismantling and defunding Special Weapons and Tactics teams across the state;
  • Prohibiting the use of “kinetic energy projectiles,” which could include bullets and rubber bullets;
  • Prohibiting the use of tear gas and other nonlethal deterrents;
  • Expanding the means to decertify officers; and
  • Removing qualified immunity statutes from the Virginia Code for law enforcement agents.

Citizens should contact their elected representatives to urge them to oppose any proposed legislation that would hamper law enforcement officers from the ability to protect us.

Robert Davis.


Seismic change needed, not different monuments

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

“The kids just got engaged, dear, so let’s pick out baby names.”

That’s what it sounds like, this parlor-game pastime of selecting replacements for Monument Avenue’s deposed Confederate anti-heroes. A little too soon, implausible, tone-deaf. White.

Do we have a shared vision as a city? Do we have agreement on who or what we are honoring? Is anyone in this conversation Black and/or younger than age 50 and/or female? Who decides?

Monument Avenue never, ever will be that place again, that elegant stretch of stately homes guarded by beloved bronze warriors. It forever will be where Black lives rose up and dethroned not just their oppressors, but all the attendant myths and stories and heroes that long have defined and maligned this city.

If you somehow missed the message, it wasn’t that they want new monuments. They want seismic, systemic change on numerous critical matters, from housing to poverty to justice to police.

I’ve been away for a while and return to a city that feels fiercely divided, hurt, angry, resigned. Five minutes on Facebook illustrates how deep, complex and emotional these past few months have been. We have a lot of work to do to address the pressing issues that face all of us who share this geography, and we are slipping into fall with great trepidation about what lies ahead. It’s probably not the time to be musing over monuments.

Here’s an inexpensive fix: Let’s plant beautiful Virginia gardens with native plants that attract bees and butterflies, and create ecosystems to demonstrate best environmental practices. Use churches, garden clubs, students and seniors to maintain true community spaces. Build out from there. Let’s let it all go, get rid of the remains, bury the past and allow the Earth time to regenerate.

Lorna Wyckoff.


View decisions of war through lens of ethics

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Victor Davis Hanson’s recent op-ed gives us the standard rationalization for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. I believed these until recently, when I reread my old Annapolis text, “Sea Power: A Naval History,” edited by E.B. Potter and Chester W. Nimitz.

Japan was ready to surrender with one condition: Its emperor would remain in place. The Japanese sent out peace feelers through the Russians. The Russians sat on this information because they wanted to get a piece of Japan or China for themselves. But President Harry S. Truman knew about the peace feelers because we had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code. He turned a blind eye on this and ordered the bombings.

Another Naval Academy text sheds more light on this. In “A Diplomatic History of the American People,” Thomas A. Bailey wrote: “But when postwar observers discovered that Japan would have collapsed within a short time without this horrible slaughter, consciences became increasingly troubled.”

We had agreed to “unconditional surrender” with our allies and made it very public. This made Japan fear the worst, and the hardliners in Japan kept insisting on fighting to the end. But the surrender turned out not be unconditional. After the second atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945, the United States agreed that the emperor could stay. “One of the saddest might-have-beens in history is that these terms could have been accepted two weeks or so earlier, thereby forestalling the dropping of the atomic bombs,” Bailey wrote.

No doubt this was a terribly difficult decision for Truman. After all, he hadn’t known about the Manhattan Project until President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. But we didn’t need to drop the bomb.

Even now, we need to consider our decisions through the lens of ethics. From Vietnam (58,000 Americans dead; how many Vietnamese?) to Iraq, we still walk a fine line.

Bill Butler,

U.S. Naval Academy, 1968.Mechanicsville.


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