This recent op-ed—"A Woman’s Plea: Let’s Raise Our Voices!”—about the dearth of women’s letters in the Opinion pages of the Times (and everywhere) succeeded with me. It inspired/shamed me into action. Its author, Kimberly Probolus, wrote:
So while I would like to see more institutional changes, in the short term I want to encourage women to write more letters to the editor. The poet Audre Lorde described writing as a political act, the way “we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change.”
Similarly, submitting a letter to the editor says that in a society that refuses to acknowledge your full humanity, you insist on it. It is asserting that your ideas and words deserve an audience in a world that has historically devalued them. It is accepting that you most likely will never receive external validation for your efforts save for an automated email thanking you for your letter.
And this is an awful lot like blogging:
You will never know if your letter wasn’t published because you were Kimberly and not Karl, or if your letter was boring, or if it had absolutely nothing to do with the merits of what you wrote. As Ta-Nehisi Coates reflected in “We Were Eight Years in Power”: “My reasons for writing had to be my own, divorced from expectation. There would be no reward.”
So, I grabbed another section of the Times, and flattened it out, looking again at a piece which had particularly troubled me. And I wrote my letter. Since I only received the form reply—and in which I realized that I hadn’t provided enough contact information and the realistic window of time had passed—I am publishing it here myself. Ah, the internet! No, it’s more than access or visibility. It’s accountability, and hopefully paying the inspiration/shame/nudge forward.
To the Editor:
I was frustrated and disappointed by Paul Sullivan's recent column, "Taxing the Rich Sounds Easy. But It's Not" (Saturday, February 2). I read his letter with great interest, since it had always seemed to me that we have always successfully taxed the middle and working class.
What I took from his column was that the great challenge of taxing the rich is ... doing math? He cites the risks of loopholes, complexity, and unintended consequences. Of course, as Mr. Sullivan says, "the devil is in the details"! This is tax policy after all. But solutions seem screamingly obvious: Create more intermediary tax brackets (between $50 million and $1 billion) and index tax rates to inflation. What's so hard about that?
And is it journalism's job to discourage the nation from tackling important questions? In this one piece, Sullivan lobs complaints and shows little interest in solutions. And with this framing, his hand tips the scale toward failure. Biased obstructionists, please step aside. We've got too much work to do.