Readers write: Nonsense words, politics and religion, and more

Letters to the editor for the April 20, 2020 weekly magazine. Readers discuss the First Amendment, Melissa Mohr’s column, and more.

Staff

Nonsense words

Regarding Melissa Mohr’s column “Not the same old folderol: ‘Nonsense’ words” in the Jan. 27 Monitor Weekly: When it comes to creating nonsense words, I nominate author Damon Runyon as the literary star whose colorful dialogues frequently paid scant attention to the dictionary.

An oft-cited perennial favorite is his line “I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus,” from the 1937 story “Tobias the Terrible.” In keeping with nonsense words, phedinkus probably means “bunch of hokum,” “con,” or “well-intentioned claptrap.”

Harry Melkonian
Vaucluse, Australia

Politics and religion

Regarding “Looking past Roe: Can ‘pro-life Democrats’ still fit with the party?” in the Feb. 24 Monitor Weekly: In the article, Democratic state Sen. Katrina Jackson of Louisiana is quoted as saying, “To the extent that the party is on the wrong side of an issue – and what I mean by the wrong side is that they veer away from the Christian faith – then I have to stand with God.”

This is where the difficulty lies. According to the U.S. Constitution, laws cannot be passed that favor any religion. This is true, whether one is a Democrat or a Republican.

Marianne Preger-Simon
Whately, Massachusetts

Bookstores and community

Regarding Peter Rainer’s film review “Book dealers, behind the scenes” in the March 2 Monitor Weekly: Booksellers foster the growth of communities that support mutual care and regard. So I very much appreciated this review of the documentary “The Booksellers.”

Far from the metropolitan areas covered in “The Booksellers,” the small towns in southeastern Vermont enjoy independent bookshops. I especially love Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vermont. The owners, Pat and Alan Fowler, are community leaders, and the store itself is a hub of activity. Writers visit and speak with customers often; a knitting group uses the store as a meeting place. Some of us hang out there, and we buy and give away more than we keep. We learn through exposure to many modes of thought, feeling, and politics.

Bruce L. MacDuffie
Westminster, Vermont

Moral courage

Regarding “Rohingya ruling: How a tiny African country brought Myanmar to court” in the March 2 Monitor Weekly: 

Thank you to Gambia’s attorney general and justice minister, Abubacarr Tambadou, for working to hold Myanmar responsible for its abuse of the Rohingya people. A small country like Gambia making a huge difference sets a great example for the rest of us. Hopefully Gambia’s campaign will result in improved lives, but it also makes the rest of the world aware of what seemingly minor players can do. We should all be ashamed that we didn’t do it first. 

Another good example in the same Monitor issue is Gov. Janet Mills of Maine resisting sports betting as discussed in “Yelling ‘foul’ on legal sports betting.” Every one of us needs to stand up for our convictions.

Christine Matthews
Washington, D.C. 

British literature

Regarding “The joys and perils of rereading” in the March 16 Monitor Weekly: In his review of “Unfinished Business” by Vivian Gornick, Steve Donoghue states that he detests the “inept fiction” of British author D.H. Lawrence. Mr. Donoghue is entitled to his views, but many would argue that his comment is unduly harsh and critical. Lawrence is a unique voice in British literature. Novels such as “The Rainbow” provide a candid portrait of life in England during the early 20th century.

Alistair Budd
Newport, Wales

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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.