Readers write: Need for non-gender pronouns, more needed for Congress, hate speech

Letters to the editor for the Nov. 14, 2016 weekly magazine.

Larry Downing/Reuters
Audience members pray at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington on Feb. 2, 2012.

Need for non-gender pronouns

Regarding the Aug. 1 Verbal Energy column, “Desire lines, in our cities and our language”: Teachers and professional users of English should do something long overdue: develop and then promote new singular non-gender pronouns. We need new pronouns that relate to one person and are neither male nor female. They would replace pronouns that are grouped as the “singular they.”

The construction “Someone had voted with their feet ...” needs to be revised by a new singular possessive pronoun that does not offend people by being sexist. We should not be having a conversation about perpetuating usage that does violence to the agreement of number. A singular noun should be followed by a singular verb and by a singular pronoun. Since new words are commonly invented, this task should not be hard. In the analogy of the “singular they” being a desire line that may one day get paved, as the column suggests, I submit instead it is a cutoff to avoid a switchback on the Appalachian Trail, one that leads to erosion. Does one put two shoes on one foot? Or set places for two guests when only one is invited?

Jeff Olsen

Silver Spring, Md.

More needed for Congress

Regarding the Sept. 19 cover story, “The spirit of Congress”: Your report on the good spirit engendered by prayer meetings among members of Congress is encouraging. However, that good spirit alone, while necessary, is not sufficient to enable Congress to produce good legislation.

Watching over the years for what works in political discourse about complex and contentious issues, I’ve noticed four conditions that, along with a spirit of collaboration, are necessary and sufficient for success: All stakeholders are engaged, with their concerns, interests, values, and priorities clearly expressed and respected; a clear vision is articulated of the desired and needed qualities of outcome that are important to the various stakeholders, independent of whatever particular solution may be selected to deliver those qualities; stakeholders support the chosen method to search for candidate solutions with good prospects for satisfying the vision; stakeholders support the chosen method to evaluate candidate solutions and select the best. The result is a solution that actually works, enjoys the support of a stakeholder consensus, and is not constrained by rigid positions, and so is adaptable to change as needed. 

The way out of our current political quagmire is for a core of enlightened citizens to understand these principles and demand that Congress adopt them.

William H. Cutler

Union City, Calif.

Hate speech

Regarding the Sept. 23 online article “San Jose State University investigates after swastikas found on campus” (CSMonitor.com): As a Jewish and Israeli member of the SJSU faculty, I found the swastikas, one of which was accompanied by overt anti-Semitic language, to be personally offensive and troubling. However, I reject the connection made in the article between these swastikas and activism against the oppression of Palestinians by Israel. I am the adviser to SJSU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which led a successful campaign last year that called for our university to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Linking real anti-Semitic incidents to legitimate and necessary political activism is misleading and plays into the hands of those who aim to stifle us in order to preserve Israel’s impunity.

Noam Perry

San Jose, Calif.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Readers write: Need for non-gender pronouns, more needed for Congress, hate speech
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Readers-Respond/2016/1112/Readers-write-Need-for-non-gender-pronouns-more-needed-for-Congress-hate-speech
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe