1. Letters to the Editor

Wednesday's letters: Let us prove our tolerance as Americans

Synagogue suspect appears in court | Oct. 30

Let us prove our tolerance

While crime is at or near a 50-year low in most of America, it doesn't feel that way. During a 72-hour period starting last Wednesday, a madman slayed two African-American senior citizens at a Kentucky grocery store, a deranged South Florida man sent bombs to 14 former public officials and notable Democratic supporters, and an assassin murdered 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Race, political belief, and religion were the targets of hate.

What's happening in America? Anger in our politics is palpable. Civility in our discourse is at a low. Economic pain caused by the Great Recession and job loss caused by the blistering speed of technological change are part of it. The reinforcing and polarizing silos of cable news and social media contribute too. Politicians who campaign to the extremes to win ideologically drawn legislative districts are also partly to blame.

How do we break the cycle? How do we return to a more civil, more decent, less violent America. Some say it's about guns. Too many guns, or not enough in the hands of those who could shoot back. An America with no guns or one holstered on every hip is not a place where I want to raise my four children. Our problems go beyond guns. It is about anger and disillusion. It is about hopelessness and resentment. It is about the failure to prioritize the treatment of mental illness, too.

I will offer a few suggestions. For our leaders, be better. Stop the name calling. Stop demonizing your opponents as if they were your enemies. When the other side goes low, don't go lower or worse, kick back. Remember when John McCain in the midst of his campaign for the presidency would not let a supporter of his cast Barack Obama as an "Arab" we cannot trust? How did he respond? "No ma'am," McCain said. "He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." Our leaders need to strive to unite us with their words and deeds. They need to remind us that even on our worst day we are blessed beyond compare to be Americans.

For the rest of us, let's work on being kind and sympathetic to those who have different views. Change your news feed to get opinions from all sides. If someone is spreading hate on social media, unfollow them. When you see a person with whom you disagree on politics sharing dinner with their spouse in a restaurant, give them a pleasant smile instead of protesting their dinner table. And most importantly, don't give up. We survived the Civil War, Jim Crow, the riots and violence of the 1960s, and the terror of 9/11. We are better than this. It's up to all of us to prove it.

George S. LeMieux, Miami

The author served as a Republican U.S. senator, governor's chief of staff and deputy attorney general.

Bubba says | Oct. 28

An error of judgment

You seriously erred on Sunday's front page. Giving Bubba the Love Sponge the lead headline instead of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre downplayed the hate, racism and anti-Semitism that is going on in our country, was offensive and in poor taste. This tragedy occurred at the end of a week marked by politically inspired bombing attempts and murders by a white supremacist. Does this type of event happen so often now that the Times does not feel it's newsworthy enough for a prominent headline?

Rita and Alan Tiller, Lithia

Major news underplayed

On Saturday, gunfire killed 11 people who gathered to worship peacefully at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. We mourn with the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh and the nation. When I opened the front page of the Sunday Tampa Bay Times, I was shocked to see the lead story was about Bubba and the attack was a small side story. Where is the decency, compassion and support of the Times?

Bonnie Berman, Clearwater

Amendment 4 | Oct. 28

Restore the right to vote

Amendment 4 could restore the right to vote to 1.5 million people who are currently and permanently disenfranchised because of a felony conviction. If passed, it would be a triumph for democracy. One in 10 citizens in Florida can't vote, including one in five black Floridians, an injustice wrought and rooted in Jim Crow-era law. In 1868, Florida adopted a constitution disenfranchising those convicted of felonies, while also enacting Black Codes, levying draconian penalties for minor crimes like vagrancy and petty theft. It's still part and parcel of Florida penal code. Trace drug possession, for example, is a felony in the state. Sleeping on public property is a crime too. Only Iowa and Kentucky also permanently disenfranchise those convicted of felonies. It's the ugliest of politics — of racism and vindictiveness, for votes counted and culled. Today's political landscape looks promising for the referendum, which excludes those convicted of murder or a sex offense.

Its backing is bipartisan, with conservative evangelical groups, Democrats and the Kochs' political network behind it. Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is in support. But a win is far from certain. To your Republican or Democratic friends, please explain Amendment 4 gives the right to vote to more people than any one measure since women's suffrage. It's historic, transformative and common sense. Permanent exclusion from this part of civic life serves no one.

Scott Greenberg, Miami

The author is the executive director of the Freedom Fund, a non-governmental organization that works to eliminate the mass jailing of people, particularly LGBTQ individuals.