America at 246: An Unvarnished Look

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  • Legalizing Cannabis Makes It Safer

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

To the Editor:

An outsider’s view of America: a president saying his vice president deserved to hang; mass shootings, even of little children; almost one million abortions a year; a mental health crisis among teens; more than 100,000 drug-related deaths annually; growing homelessness in the streets of major cities; a government paralyzed, unable to enact meaningful legislation.

Who is looking strategically at the country and asking: Where did we go wrong? How do we reverse this? Where, despite some of the world’s top universities, are the philosophers, sociologists and economists who can make breakthroughs and plot new ways forward?

It is as if a giant machine is grinding to a halt, and people cannot agree on how to fix it, cannot even get together to meaningfully discuss possible ways to fix it. The beautiful American experiment in liberal democracy is grinding to a wrenching halt.

Leon Joffe
Pretoria, South Africa

To the Editor:

“America Is Worth Saving,” by Darren Walker (Opinion guest essay, July 4), is a must-read for all Americans and has particular resonance for those of us who have become increasingly despairing of our country’s continued viability.

It’s a powerful reminder of the truth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Indeed, as Mr. Walker makes clear, our ability not just to survive but also to flourish as a nation is dependent upon our willingness to fulfill our mutual obligation to listen to and respect one another despite differences in our backgrounds, life circumstances or points of view.

Richard Stopol
New York
The writer is president emeritus and senior adviser, NYC Outward Bound Schools.

To the Editor:

I still experience a frisson when hearing our national anthem; perhaps it’s the emotional energy of the music’s Pavlovian stimulation. However, I returned the other day from a vacation to Finland, Estonia and Germany. Upon going through immigration, I did not feel the usual pride in my country as I submitted my passport to the agent.

Fittingly, he did not utter the usual “welcome back.”

We must do something to end this madness.

Richard D. Hyman
Alamo, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “The American Flag Belongs to Me, Too, and This Year I’m Taking It Back,” by Margaret Renkl (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, July 2):

As a member of the Silent Generation (meaning that I am in my 80s), I applaud Ms. Renkl’s article.

I am a registered independent, not comfortable with extreme views of any political party. And as I sat watching both Republican and Democratic speeches on television during the last election, I remember thinking: “Why are the Republicans claiming ownership of our flag? Why aren’t the Democrats lining the stage with the flag too?”

So, thank you, Ms. Renkl, for stating so eloquently what I could not: We all own this symbol of democracy, imperfect though it may be. It shouldn’t ever be commandeered by either party as “their” flag.

Donna Powell
Santa Rosa, Calif.

To the Editor:

As a Black American woman with South Carolina roots, I write in response to Margaret Renkl’s essay. Lately, I’ve wrestled with whether the American flag, my nation’s flag, belongs to me, too.

The reconciliation that Ms. Renkl has discovered is one I wonder if I’ll ever find, at odds with the only place I can call home. I respect Ms. Renkl’s journey, but I can’t help being reminded of the unique tension of my Black American experience. Under immense pain and dehumanization, my ancestors’ forced labor built America to be the dominant force it is today. My Black ancestors were American, although they weren’t even considered human.

So I ask: How do I make sense of the flag, one that seemingly excludes me and embraces so-called “patriots”? Like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, I ponder my own versions of their questions: “Ain’t I an American?” and “What does the flag mean to the Black American?”

Somewhere inside, I know the flag belongs to me, too, but its weight makes it difficult to raise.

Chantal Hinds

Legalizing Cannabis Makes It Safer

Dabbing, a method of inhaling highly concentrated THC, has become increasingly popular among teenagers. Credit…Michelle Groskopf for The New York Times

To the Editor:

“As Weed Becomes More Potent, So Do Its Risks” (news article, June 28) is absolutely right that anyone younger than 21 shouldn’t use cannabis given the risks to their growing brains. That is why the New York State Office of Cannabis Management launched a public health campaign, Cannabis Conversations, with that exact message on subways, the internet and TV.

The article highlights the risks with the illegal market, especially as it makes high-potency products available to youth through illicit sales.

There’s a clear distinction between the legal and illegal cannabis market.

The legal, regulated market we’re creating in New York is designed to keep cannabis away from youth and will be strictly regulated with marketing and packaging rules already available for public comment.

Moving cannabis sales from the shadows into a legal, regulated market provides opportunities to inform consumers how these products may affect them and to stop sales to youth. In New York, with Cannabis Conversations, we’re already showing the advantage of the legal approach.

Chris Alexander
New York
The writer is the executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

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