Los Angeles Times

Mending a divided country


Re “When America’s public narrative fractures,” Aug. 7

I share David L. Ulin’s despondenc­y over the state of our country, and I ask myself the same question: how to live responsibl­y amid such division and turmoil?

It helped that last month I attended a family reunion in the conservati­ve state of Iowa. Most of my family is liberal, but at those times I ventured outside the family circle — at the grocery store, church or a local diner — I found myself in the company of courteous and helpful people.

It all came together when we were saying the Lord’s Prayer at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spirit

Lake. Since COVID, I haven’t been holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and most of the congregati­on at St. Mary’s wasn’t either. But toward the end, the little boy on my right reached out and put his hand in mine.

Truly I believe that the only way we’re going to come together in this country is to be with each other, letting each other’s innate goodness touch our hearts. The next time I am made angry or fearful by the other side, I’m going to remember my Iowa experience and, as best I can, respond with love.

Mary Bomba Los Angeles

Another powerfully inspiring essay by Ulin. The answer to his pertinent question “Can we still find our truth in books?” when “We shall overcome” has turned into “You will not replace us” is a resounding “Yes!”

As a public school teacher of literature for 35 years, I am reminded of the books by our famous American author Mark Twain. In his classic novel “The Adventures of Huckleberr­y Finn,” he creatively demonstrat­es in his chapters about the con artists known as the King and the Duke that most people will never admit that they have been duped. It’s much too embarrassi­ng. It’s just easier to spread the “Big Lie.”

David William Salvaggio Redlands

As much as society seems a “Mad Max” dystopia and each headline reads worse than the previous days’, Ulin’s essay seemed to miss one major lesson. Sure, crowds of activists storming the Capitol is a far departure from marches on the Lincoln Memorial. But those who study history know that reality is complicate­d.

Ulin bemoans the loss of “We shall overcome” without acknowledg­ing that those who sang that song in marches faced dogs and water hoses. Now Americans chant “Black Lives Matter” through a fog of tear gas and riot shields. The “Know-Nothing” party of the 19th century, America First Committee of the 1940s and many other movements in the U.S. mirrored the most intolerant views of our day.

It is our painfully short memory and rose-colored historical glasses that make this period feel dire. Progress is never linear.

One way we can help create a more cooperativ­e reality is to acknowledg­e the deep roots of our current events and remind ourselves: The sky is not falling today, and no one can predict the future. Dayne Contarsy


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