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The Meaning of the Chaos in the House

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  • Being Jewish, or Not
  • Try Putin in Absentia
  • Eyewitnesses to Miracles
  • Children’s Books That Delight, Not Preach
  • The Penn Station Project: Defining Blight

Credit…Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

To the Editor:

Re “Crisis Last Seen One Century Ago Grips the House” (front page, Jan. 5):

Watching the chaos fomented by hard-right Republicans in the House of Representatives, I have come to these conclusions about some of the causes of congressional political dysfunction:

A small but significant percentage of Americans feels aggrieved, is generically antigovernment and does not worry about, or even favors, instability and failure in our political institutions.

Almost all of those people are more aligned with the Republican Party, and many will vote in primaries, which can result in fringe general-election candidates who have no interest in the compromise and reasoned give and take required for actual governance.

Because gerrymandering and other electoral malfeasance create districts where it is virtually impossible for moderate Democrats to succeed no matter how radical their opposition is, these fringe candidates can be elected to the House, where they will relish their public image of being obstructionists who do not concern themselves with the hard work of legislating.

As long as these circumstances can determine our political outcomes, it is hard to be optimistic about passing legislation that benefits the American people in a timely manner.

Michael Esterowitz
Brooklyn

To the Editor:

Chaos seems a perfect fit for this group. The Republican Party has long courted disaster, electing those who find disruption to be their highest calling. The act of nongoverning is deemed the best and highest form of governing. Obstruction is both the means and the end. And now the chickens have come home to roost.

Kevin McCarthy is floundering because he is confronting an intractable force, one that cannot be either cajoled or threatened into submission.

The Democrats have had their own mutiny to deal with in recent years, as Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have proved to be significant obstacles to passing legislation. But this is a Republican problem multiplied by 10, and Kevin McCarthy is no Chuck Schumer.

This stalemate may well resolve itself soon.But it shall serve as fair warning that there will be difficult days ahead in this chamber.

For this is now a house divided inside a House divided.

Robert S. Nussbaum
Fort Lee, N.J.

Being Jewish, or Not

Credit…Photo illustration by Leslie Dela Vega/The New York Times; photo by Scott Olson, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Why Did George Santos Lie About Being Jewish?,” by Mark Oppenheimer (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, Jan. 4):

A quarter of a century ago, when I revealed the hidden facts of Madeleine Albright’s Jewish ancestry and the deaths of many of her relatives in the Holocaust, I was struck by the phenomenon of Jews “passing” as non-Jews.

Today, it seems, everybody wants to be Jewish, or at least Jew-ish. That’s progress, I guess. Oy vey!

Michael Dobbs
Bethesda, Md.
The writer is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the author of “Madeleine Albright: A Twentieth-Century Odyssey.”

Try Putin in Absentia

A family in Moscow watching President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia address the nation for the new year.Credit…Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “How War in Ukraine Worsens Global Starvation” (front page, Jan. 3):

Vladimir Putin should be charged with crimes against humanity and tried in absentia. To scratch a megalomaniacal itch for glory, he causes untold suffering. He should face the consequences.

Laura Copland
Ivoryton, Conn.

Eyewitnesses to Miracles

Credit…Zak Tebbal

To the Editor:

Re “How Would You Prove That God Performed a Miracle?,” by Molly Worthen (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 25), about a neuroscience professor who studies inexplicable medical recoveries and their ties to Christianity:

Dr. Worthen quotes Craig Keener, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, as saying, “If your epistemology is that eyewitness evidence doesn’t count, then there goes most historiography, journalism, even anthropology and sociology.”

I take it, then, that Mr. Keener gives full credence to sightings of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, accounts of alien abductions in the late 20th century, reports of encounters with ghosts and deaths caused by hexes.

After all, Mr. Keener’s epistemology does not allow him to discount any of these, since all of them are vouched for by numerous eyewitnesses.

Elizabeth Vandiver
Tacoma, Wash.

To the Editor:

There is another side to the questions Molly Worthen asks. Are those who are not healed by prayer made to feel ashamed and inadequate by their apparent failure to receive divine intervention? This has been the experience of many disabled people, who may even be afraid to go to church for fear of the stigma that this “healing” message imposes on them.

Wouldn’t it be a greater miracle if we did everything possible to grant the blind, the deaf and the otherwise disabled full access to life experiences without suggesting that they must first be fixed? A divine healing can change an individual, but understanding of the needs of the disabled can bring grace and wholeness to an entire community.

Robin Wallace
Woodway, Texas
The writer is the author of “Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery.”

Children’s Books That Delight, Not Preach

Credit…Mark Wang

To the Editor:

Re “Kids’ Books Don’t Need to Be Only About Kids,” by Pamela Paul (column, Dec. 23):

William Steig’s insistence that he isn’t “trying to get anything across” in his well-known children’s books because it “ruins writing” is refreshing. He understands that children want a great story with colorful characters and lots happening, and if it’s funny, too, all the better.

Too many children’s stories revolve instead around some “teachable moment,” as if to make them appear worthy in the eyes of the parent, rather than pleasing to the child.

The best children’s books enchant, delight and charm children through the text, often in verse, and beautiful artwork. The dreary ones preach at them. We must be wary of the latter. Our job is to endear children to reading, not drive them from it.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

The Penn Station Project: Defining Blight

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Makeover Around Penn Station Hinges on Meaning of ‘Blighted’” (front page, Dec. 30):

Ever since a group of architects and civic activists picketed the planned demolition of the old great McKim, Mead & White Pennsylvania Station in 1962, the neighborhood started its slow decline, even with the construction of the then new Madison Square Garden on its site.

In most areas of the city, preservation of old, yet elegant buildings acquired a huge following, and the landmarks preservation movement was born.

Yet much of the area to the west of the station, while not historic, is still eminently savable. It is not, as Gov. Kathy Hochul likened it, “a Skid Row neighborhood.” Wholesale demolition of older neighborhoods is no longer advocated by sophisticated architects, city planners and neighborhood activists.

Weaving the worthwhile older buildings together with new construction, instead of wholesale demolition, has worked well in many other areas of New York City and can here as well.

Peter Samton
New York
The writer is an architect.

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