Opinion | Readers critique The Post: A photo that captures beauty amid the pain

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

The remarkable photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba on the jump page of the April 23 front-page article “Hints of ambitions beyond Ukraine” of a 92-year-old woman waiting in a bunker for the Ukraine Red Cross to evacuate her reminded me of an 18th-century painting of a dying saint or Virgin Mary. (All it needed was some angels in the upper left.)

The composition, the lighting — I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Thanks for publishing such amazing photos by talented artists, in addition to all of the heartbreaking photos documenting this horrific war.

Retropolis’s mini-history lessons

I think the Retropolis section in the April 7 Post was brilliant. I read every word. I learned a great deal and thought it was refreshing to have this material — almost all new to me — laid out in such an effective way.

One small problem: I still don’t know what “Retropolis” means or alludes to. Other than that, bravo to The Post.

The April 7 Retropolis special section was excellent. What an interesting and wide-ranging series of mini-history lessons, complementing the weekly Retropolis articles. It’s critical that we learn and remember our history — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Gina Caceci, Falls Church

One Ukraine cheat sheet, please

In Fareed Zakaria’s April 15 op-ed, “Putin’s Plan A has failed. We can’t let his Plan B succeed.,” almost all Ukrainian place names were given with the Ukrainian, not Russian, spelling, yet it used the Russian spelling for Odessa. If consistency means anything, the spelling should be changed to Odesa, the Ukrainian name.

Also, would it be possible to include a map in each article about the war? Zakaria referred to Melitopol, Donbas, Transnistria, Mykolaiv. How many readers could locate each of those places from memory?

Elissandra N. Roy, Bethesda

Creations of a less perfect union

As always, art critic Sebastian Smee successfully argued in his April 17 Style column, “At the Met, a thrilling new take on Winslow Homer,” that appraisal of any work of art must include its temporal context. In his analysis of the Winslow Homer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he showed how aesthetics and history amplify each other.

One can argue that Homer’s travels to the Gulf shores in the late 1890s led him to reflect deeply upon the effect of the Supreme Court’s regrettable Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal”) decision of 1896. The latter deferred the full realization of the constitutional rights of all American citizens to the future. The somber, even pessimistic adjudication conveyed in Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” and “After the Hurricane, Bahamas” (both 1899) echoes Homer’s state of mind in the wake of that historic decision. In fact, the court supported the continuation of the Jim Crow laws that segregated Americans on the basis of racial identities and hierarchy.

Unfortunately, recent history shows that these issues have still not been resolved. Certainly, the Homer exhibit arrives at a good time to help us move toward a more perfect union.

M. Ashraf Aziz, Washingon

Jha is more than a ‘pandemic pundit’

The headline on the April 11 news article “New White House coronavirus czar: A pandemic pundit” was offensive. Ashish Jha has a medical degree from Harvard and did his chief residency at the University of California at San Francisco. He has been instrumental in public health, particularly during the pandemic. To equate him with a “pandemic pundit” was Fox News-level condescension.

John Wallace, Carlsbad, Calif.

All children should grow up in a family

Dorothy Roberts’s April 17 Outlook essay, “Five myths: Child welfare,” attributed quotes to AdoptUSKids that were taken out of context, leading to a false assertion that the project claims that “children taken by [child protective services] are better off in substitute care.”

AdoptUSKids is a national project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau with the mission of raising public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families and to assist U.S. states, tribes and territories in the recruitment, engagement, development and support of foster and adoptive families.

In Myth No. 4, “Placing children in foster care improves their well-being,” Roberts stated that, “some groups claim that children taken by CPS are better off in substitute care” and then provided two quotes from the AdoptUSKids website. The “Being a Successful Foster Parent” section from our website actually states that, “like any parents, foster parents will undoubtedly encounter situations and challenges that they do not feel equipped to handle. Foster parents receive training before they welcome children into their home and support from social workers and other professionals throughout the process.” To ensure that there is no misunderstanding, we have removed the words “unlike birth parents.” However, the context of this section focuses on the training and development that foster parents receive and does not state or imply that removing children from birth parents improves their well-being.

The second quote Roberts used is from a different section of the website that highlights the need for foster families so children are not placed in congregate care: “Every year, a quarter of a million children come into foster care in this country. Many of them will be placed in group homes or other group residential settings because there are simply not enough foster families to care for all of the children. Foster parents play a critical role in helping children heal. They show children stability and teach them life lessons that last a lifetime — and potentially affect future generations.”

More than 6 million people use the AdoptUSKids website annually to learn about foster care and adoption. We support prevention, reunification and kinship services to assist children and youths in living with their birth families and support other permanency options for them when reunification is not a possibility. We do not believe or promote the notion that children are better off in substitute care. We strongly believe that all children should grow up in a family.

Bob Herne, Linthicum, Md.

The writer is national project director for AdoptUSKids.

A beautiful, yet killer, leafy enclave

A promo in the April 17 Travel section for the “Where We Live” Real Estate column featured the words “A leafy enclave” against a background picture of a noxious invasive, English ivy, as if it’s a good thing.

English ivy infests millions of trees across the country, killing them by choking, stealing nutrients and adding weight that can be deadly in high winds. Look around and notice the many thousands of trees horribly engulfed in the area — all spread by people who planted English ivy and let it get out of control.

We know trees reduce greenhouse gases, and yet local and state governments do almost nothing to stop English ivy from killing trees. The physical removal efforts in Arlington and nearly everywhere else are all-volunteer, an indicator of how much our leaders care about countering climate change.

Elaine Simmons, Arlington

In defense of cats and ‘Pickles’

A sure sign that a comic strip has run out of creative or even mildly amusing observations is its return to a recurring theme that other cartoon artists have run into the ground. In the case of “Pickles,” it is the cliche and false notion that cats are devious creatures unworthy of human affection. Such efforts usually don’t deserve any comment, but the April 17 strip was exceptionally dreadful.

The strip began with the grandson asking his grandmother whether she loves her cat more than him, while the cat sneers at the child. It ends with the grandfather, who dislikes the cat, convincing a visibly upset grandmother that the accusation could be true. The “gag” I believe crossed the line from the trite and unfunny to appealing to those who abhor cats and unfortunately sometimes might act on those tendencies.

I suggest that if “Pickles” is so short of ideas that the author turn to other tired standbys such as shopping, laundry or golf jokes.

The April 23 “Pickles” comic strip brought me to tears. Such tenderness and love in four tiny panels.

I met the “light of my life” about 23 years ago. Two very different backgrounds, educations, interests. But something magic clicked, and two lives merged. I was a dozen years older; it didn’t matter. She made me young. We were a team.

Two years ago, she left her life behind, suddenly, inexplicably extinguished. Her heart stopped. My life emptied; the small, caring gestures vanished.

As most survivors do, I am reassembling life as a single person. It’s pretty good. New friends. New focal points. “Pickles,” though, brought memories flooding back, sweet and bitter, lost and refound. Love is always present. Somewhere.

Robert Garrett, Annandale

Maps that need better boundaries

Thanks for the April 17 Metro article about the current and approved new congressional district maps, “Recharted territory.”

The maps, however, could have been improved. It was hard to tell where all the district lines were. Some were dark enough to be easily seen. Others were not. This is arguably less important on the old map. It was also hard to see because the lines go all over the place.

This doesn’t apply to the new map. Why was the line that separated the 8th District from the 4th District a very thin line? It was particularly difficult to see against the dark blue background.

Similarly, the line between the 4th and 5th districts was hard to see because of the background. The line between the 2nd and 7th districts was also hard to see.

I think this was a missed opportunity to help Maryland readers know where the new congressional district boundaries are going to be.

John J. Landers, Bethesda

Stop euphemizing abortions

In her April 19 op-ed, “Corporations have become the last firewall for abortion rights,” Catherine Rampell referred to “women’s rights,” “reproductive care,” “women’s constitutional rights to reproductive autonomy” and “bodily autonomy,” said “women are losing say over their own bodies and family size,” and noted the desirability that “their families will have access to the health care they need.”

Not too bad. Only six euphemisms.

Okay, so you know where I am coming from: I am a retired professor, a theoretical physicist, a practicing Episcopalian, a fiscal conservative, a social liberal, with little or no LGBTQ-phobia. I think former president Donald Trump should be in prison. I support neither major political party — not the Democrats because they advocate abortion and not the Republicans, in part, because they obstruct contraception.

My opinion/feeling about abortion is pretty straightforward: Abortion is evil, and it should be permitted only when it is the least of all the evils involved. To be more specific, I think abortion should be on the table in cases of rape; incest; serious medical emergency, both physical and mental, for the prospective mother; and catastrophic fetal defect. I also think pregnant women should be supported, attended to and cared for.

With a little luck, a fetus will in due course become a living human being. I have no idea why people can’t understand that.

After global climate change and the threat of nuclear war, abortion is the most important existential crisis facing humanity.

Wesley N. Mathews Jr., Arlington

Where were photos from the Boston Marathon? Almost 30,000 runners competed in this classic testament to individual achievement. The winners performed magnificently, demonstrating extraordinary human endurance and willpower. They deserved more credit in The Post than they received.

Malcolm O’Hagan, Chevy Chase

Expand attention outside the West

On April 7, the war in Ukraine engendered front-page coverage and multiple pages of additional news articles, as it has since that war started [“Ukraine’s east braces for onslaught,” etc.]. In the same edition, ongoing genocide in Ethiopia, which has “killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million,” got one paragraph in the World Digest [“Rights groups accuse Ethiopian forces of genocide”]. Maybe Ethiopia should open its doors to some of the Ukrainian refugees so it will have enough White people on hand to garner better attention in The Post.

Frederick Winter, Arlington