Opinion | Readers critique The Post: ‘1776’ is a zero

Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

I was excited to see “1776” at the Kennedy Center after the July 7 Weekend article “A fresh look for the Founding Fathers,” but I left the theater distressed by the way it makes light of slavery and glorifies America’s founders. Though the play is revolutionary in using a cast of female and nonbinary actors, the script itself is of a faulty musical from the 1960s.

The production reduces the slave trade to a mediocre song titled “Molasses to Rum.” Not once do the enslaved people tell their stories. Instead, the politicians do all the singing and the actors portraying the enslaved people merely dance in the middle. There was an utter lack of recognition about the seriousness of what they were depicting. The musical also idealizes the Founding Fathers, inaccurately making John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson out to be radical abolitionists. Jefferson, for instance, is shown promising to free all of his enslaved people, but the musical fails to add that he never did. Sally Hemings, the enslaved girl whom he started raping when she was 14 and he was 44, isn’t mentioned.

The revival of “1776” modernizes the casting of the characters without addressing what was wrong with the original production. It’s unfortunate that such a diverse cast couldn’t have shined a new light on the American Revolution rather than repeating the same, whitewashed tale that has continuously been told. As a female high school student interested in politics, I was hoping to be empowered by the musical but found the production to be far from empowering.

Daisy Maxwell, Arlington

Listen, my children, and you shall hear the truth

Something that makes me sad is our population’s ignorance of our nation’s history. It makes me even sadder when that ignorance is spread nationwide in the “Frazz” comic strip.

On July 4, Caulfield began the strip with “Today we celebrate summer while we also commemorate basically starting a war.” Perhaps as an 8-year-old, he should be forgiven that our educational system is failing, but why does Frazz not correct him?

Simple fact: The small battle that began the Revolutionary War occurred “on the 18th of April in ’75,” or more than a year before July 4, 1776, when a group of brave men chose to add their names to an explanation of why the war — and by then it was a full-scale war — was being fought.

We celebrate that explanation, the courage of the men who signed that truly revolutionary document, and the sacrifices of the thousands of others who fought and suffered and died to separate the 13 Colonies from Britain. Were we to celebrate “basically starting a war,” we would do so on April 18.

Barney Gorin, Gaithersburg

A history of overcoming

The July 18 Retropolis column, “When Black voters were enveloped — overnight” [Metro], reported on Richmond’s 1970 annexation of 23 square miles of suburban Chesterfield County, allegedly to dilute Black voting power in the city. As both a resident and a reporter in the city then, I can confirm the portrait of the city’s White power structure at the time. However, the article omitted the elephant in the room: The annexation failed to prevent Black residents from reelecting to the General Assembly its first Black members since Reconstruction: William Ferguson Reid in the House and L. Douglas Wilder in the Senate. Wilder, pointedly enough, would go on to be elected Virginia’s governor in 1989. At the time, no other African American had been elected governor in United States since Reconstruction.

Also unmentioned was a key reason for Reid’s and Wilder’s victories and for the frustration of the segregationist White people in the Richmond establishment: the extraordinary effectiveness of the Crusade for Voters, Richmond’s primary Black voting organization. The group’s sophisticated persuasion and mobilization efforts at the time far outdistanced any comparable effort in any other city in the nation.

Ken Ringle, Washington

The real reasons drug use spiked in Portugal

As a recent visitor to Portugal and as a longtime criminal legal reform scholar and advocate, I found the July 10 front-page article “Portugal grapples with drug decriminalization doubts” deceptive. It suggested the reason for the spike in more visible drug addiction was Portugal’s decriminalization of possessory drug offenses more than 20 years ago.

The spike in drug use is very recent, coincident with the pandemic, as has been the case elsewhere. It is truly unlikely that decriminalization many years ago is only now causing more drug use. The article did not state the logical connection between the pandemic and an increase in drug use, as has occurred elsewhere.

The article also buried the fact that another very logical reason for the increase in addiction was the cutting of social-service funding in recent years.

The article missed that the real issue for police and those in higher-end neighborhoods is the increase in homelessness. The more visible presence of homeless drug users appears to be the problem, rather than drug use.

The article should have looked broadly at the issue rather than just relying on police and politicians to characterize the problem. For example, throughout the United States, police and politicians have tried to address homelessness and addiction by using the criminal justice system to “fix” the situation, particularly with pretrial bail. This, even though historically, the criminal legal system has never dealt well with either addiction or homelessness. The let’s-lock-’em-up approach has never worked to manage either drug addiction or homelessness.

By contrast, provision of social services, as Portugal has been doing for several years, has worked better in Portugal by all accounts — until the unpredictable effects of the pandemic and the predictable effect of lower funding for social services.

The article started off on the wrong foot with a misleading headline that avoided the nuances and the world-altering pandemic. Portugal is worthy of careful study, specifically analysis that goes beyond police and politicians and the false clichés about drug use.

Albert Scherr, Portsmouth, N.H.

A friendly question

I am not a huge soccer fan, but I read the July 9 Sports article about Megan Rapinoe, “Rapinoe will retire at season’s conclusion.” The article quoted Rapinoe’s teammate Crystal Dunn. Then the article described goals “bunched into a friendly.” Is this soccer jargon, or was there a noun missing?

The penultimate paragraph quoted Rapinoe talking about what she will miss, including “the mediation room.” Perhaps the media room? Not sure why the soccer star would miss that, but perhaps it’s less stressful than “mediation.” Or maybe meditation room?

Rapinoe has had a great career. I read the article three times to try to understand some of the verbiage. And I did not see any reference to “fútbol!”

David Deutsch, Ocean Pines, Md.

An information failure

The Post repeatedly fails informationally in articles regarding upcoming movies and television events. In the July 19 Style article about the movie “Joy Ride,” “Ethnic identity is a relatable topic for ‘Joy Ride’ star,” no hint whatsoever was given whether the movie would be a theater release, a streaming release or available to the reader in some other form or when. A similar omission occurred in “Inside the race to make ‘Oppenheimer,’ ” an article on the same page that discussed the movie “Oppenheimer.” It omitted any further information on the movie, such as whether it is scheduled to be shown in theaters, on TV or through streaming.

The Post’s media informational omissions do not limit themselves to just entertainment. Repeatedly, past Post articles about upcoming presidential speeches and congressional hearings have been bereft of scheduled times or media availability for the events referenced, requiring the reader to turn to other information sources.

The Post can and should do better in our multifaceted media world. An article about an upcoming media event should give the reader time and availability information.

John Garziglia, Reston

Annoying omissions

I am increasingly annoyed by articles such as the July 16 Department of Data column, “Do blue-state taxes really subsidize red-state benefits?” [Business], that ignore D.C. when analyzing “state” economic data. It is particularly galling when the item omitted is that D.C.’s residents — those of us who live, work and pay taxes here — pay more in federal taxes per person than residents of any of the states do.

D.C. residents, despite this heavy federal tax burden, do not have voting representation in Congress. The failure to include us in the analysis, as as though D.C. residents do not exist, is totally unacceptable.

Nancy Stanley, Washington

Identify everyone in every photo

Unless there’s an insider conceit known only to a select few, why run a pertinent photo with a conspicuously incomplete caption?

Case in point: the July 5 Style article “Fashioning a new generation.” An accompanying photograph depicted two women: well-known actress Sarah Jessica Parker, clearly identified, and another woman, in the foreground and thus more noticeable, yet completely overlooked in the caption.

Is it too much to expect that captions, as a best practice, aim to identify key lesser-known figures, as well as the better-known, particularly when the lesser-known are material to the accompanying article?

Steve Horwitz, Odenton

Even Barbie’s Dreamhouse has a glass ceiling

The July 20 Local Living article featuring “top” interior designers asked to reimagine Barbie’s Dreamhouse, “A reimagined style for Barbie’s house,” was very un-Barbie. The article almost exclusively highlighted designs by men, one, ironically, named Ken.

Roughly 80 percent of interior designers in the United States are women. And, unfortunately, among those designers, only a tiny fraction are women of color. Yet, the article featured the ideas of only a single woman of color and only two female designers in total. Shockingly, one of them was asked to reimagine a single room — the bathroom — rather than a whole Dreamhouse!

Barbie, we are told, celebrates girls and their unlimited potential. Barbie teaches girls that they can be astronauts, doctors, pilots and even presidents (to name just a few of Barbie’s professions), all while also being their true selves. Can’t more than two women be “top” interior designers?

The Barbie movie, according to all accounts, explores issues of femininity, feminism and a woman’s place in the real world. That world, as this article illustrated, is one where gender discrimination is still rampant and women’s artistry is not amplified by the media — even in puff pieces about plastic dolls.

Penny M. Venetis, Newark

Clarifying what NATO membership means

Max Boot almost beat me to the punch in his July 10 op-ed, “Ukraine in NATO? My heart says yes. But my head says no.”

He addressed Article 5 of the NATO Treaty but focused on the part that says if a NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the alliance will consider it an attack against all members. Boot went a bit further, stating that the treaty “does not mandate a specific response by member states” but did not explain why.

Readers would have been better informed if the sentence that dealt with an attack against one or more NATO members had included more details: “They agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

This would provide clarification to Boot’s statement that there is no mandate to respond with armed force. NATO’s Article 5 was specifically written that way because the U.S. Senate did not want to commit the United States to an automatic military response, thereby usurping the role of Congress to declare war.

Sheldon Goldberg, Silver Spring

I was struck by the uncanny resemblance of a photograph by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades to a number of Norman Rockwell’s paintings of evocatively similar town-hall community gatherings in the 1940s in rural New England. Andrade-Rhoades’s photograph accompanied the July 16 front-page article “A dispute between businesses shakes a small town,” about the Front Porch restaurant conflict.

Other than the clothes and hairstyles, the mannerisms and dispositions of those pictured classically mirror the passion of those long-ago community gatherings captured so well in those paintings. Paintbrush, anyone?

Mike Smith, Ellicott City

More than a deep breath

The July 4 Health & Science article “Feeling tired? These tips should help.” rightly included stress, an under-recognized factor in shortening our lives. In addition to belly breathing, it would have been helpful to include recommendations for meditation and to consider psychotherapy.

Sheila Cohen, Chevy Chase

What AI does need

Kathleen Parker’s July 4 op-ed, “AI doesn’t care about diversity — yet,” was a delightful and thoughtful read. I have one quibble: Parker’s statement that “AI needs nothing” was not quite correct. Artificial intelligence will need maintenance. Serious maintenance. I mean, will there be anything less valuable than last year’s AI? Any reason to believe there will ever be a “classic” AI, still in use unchanged for many years, like, say, my three-decade-old coffee maker?

For those thinking of investing in AI, better to think of it as a subscription service, with more updates, security patches and bug fixes than the latest version of Windows.

William Darter, Woodbridge

Give it a second chance

The Post is a great paper, but I have one concern. Second Glance in The Washington Post Magazine was one of my favorite things to look forward to. Would The Post consider bringing it back? The Sunday paper is just not the same.

Donna Bucella, Alexandria

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