Exceptionalism as the rule | Nov. 20
Nation has room for improvement
The recent columns on exceptionalism by Stephen Walt and Frank Bruni were a jolt we all needed. From Bill Maxwell to Robyn Blumner, the Times has sounded similar warnings about our smug assessments of our own worth.
As Walt mentioned, when President Barack Obama had the temerity to suggest that "we're no better than anyone else," criticism and anger were heard. We have done good, as many nations have, but this is not an exclusive American trait. We have much to strive for in the global situation and should not sit back on our supposed laurels.
Our stand on global warming, torture and social programs for our own citizens tell us we fall short of being exceptional.
It may be difficult for some of us to get our minds around the idea that we are not "the chosen," but perhaps we can strive not for God being on our side, but as Lincoln said "whether we are on God's side."
Lilyan V. Dayton, New Port Richey
Exceptionalism as the rule | Nov. 20
Leader of the free world
I'm sorry, but I strongly believe the United States is an "empire of liberty," a "shining city on the hill," and "the leader of the free world." This is contrary to most of the comments made by Stephen Walt of Harvard University in the lead article in Sunday's Perspective.
The negativism presented in the article is sad and almost laughable. He believes that the U.S. leadership position in the world is mainly based on luck. I would imagine a student in one of his international affairs classes would have to spout all this blather back on an exam in order to pass. I would hope that some of the students would ask themselves the simple question of why so many people are trying to get into this country rather than leave it.
James Cordea, Largo
This article is typical of those in academia who feel our country is not exceptional.
Of course, our country does have its problems, and many can be attributed to negative thinkers like Stephen Walt. Having traveled to many foreign nations, I happen to feel that our country is by far the greatest and most exceptional country in the world.
I question the ability of Walt being a professor in the Kennedy School of Government as I believe John F. Kennedy would agree with me and not Walt.
Robert K. Reader, Clearwater
Deeds, not words
It is far easier for us as a nation to say we are exceptional than it is for us to act in an exceptional manner.
To the ultra-right wing religious conservatives, I simply say: Reread the Sermon on the Mount.
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
"And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
What might've been and Wonderful repercussions | Nov. 20
A telling contrast
The front page of Sunday's Floridian was shocking, sad and inspiring. Two 12-year-old boys, one in handcuffs, on his way to multiple prison sentences and eventually murdered; the other viewing a grand piano, becoming an exceptional piano technician and creating a new design and sound.
They both lived in the bay area, yet their lives could not have turned out more different if they had lived across the world from each other.
Is this story a reflection on what might have been if we had more opportunity and equality for all, or is it an example of what we are hearing from many politicians and "1 percenters" — that there will always be winners and losers? Do we have to accept and live with this much difference between us? I do not think so.
Terry Hammonds, Dunedin
It would serve us well to read former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's assessment of Newt Gingrich in his book Reason to Believe.
After assessing his own party's failings, Cuomo turned to Gingrich's "Contract With America." He urged us to reject the contract's primitive individualism and to stress instead the fact that "we're all in this together, like a family … and that we cannot afford to revert to a world of 'us against them.' "
"By contrast," Cuomo added, "the apostles of the New Harshness tempt us with isolationism, insularity, and indifference to our opportunities in the wider world and our obligations to one another."
Lou Kiefer, Hernando
Obama presses GOP to extend payroll tax cut Nov. 23
Tax cuts for average earners
The Democrats want to extend the payroll tax cut. For 2011, this was a 2 percent tax cut for wage earners, with a maximum of $2,136 put into a worker's pocket. This 2 percent tax cut applied up to $106,800 of wages. So while the cut for the vast majority of workers was 2 percent, someone with a $1 million wage had a cut of only 0.2 percent — but still pocketed $2,136. According to the Tax Policy Center, this cut put approximately $120 billion in the pockets of approximately 121 million families this year — saving the average family close to $1,000.
Some Republicans do not want to extend this tax cut. Yet they claim that not extending the Bush temporary tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy is a tax increase. So according to their own logic, Republicans want to increase taxes on working American taxpayers in 2012.
How much clearer could the difference between the parties be?
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
How about better parents? | Nov. 23, commentary
Parents are the key
As a parent, grandparent and former teacher, I agree with this article. Teachers can do only so much. Parents are "first responders" for their children and must take the time to enjoy the gift and art of reading daily to their children.
Encourage your children to not only listen in a welcoming environment, but ask them about the story to see if they have comprehended it. Ask them about what they did in school. Don't let them get away with the age-old comment, "Nothing."
Reading and talking to children does not cost parents a thing.
Marilyn Satinoff, Palm Harbor