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Opinion | ‘Ordinary Citizens’ Turned Rioters on Jan. 6

To the Editor:

Re “90 Seconds of Rage on the Capitol Steps” (front page, Oct. 17):

This is one of the best pieces of reporting on the Jan. 6 riot to appear in some time. The role of Proud Boys, neo-Nazis and other committed insurrectionists and troublemakers is easy to understand in connection with the day’s events. The ability of seemingly ordinary, heretofore law-abiding citizens to be swept along in something like this, to the point of violently attacking police officers, is what needs our more considered attention.

Donald Trump continues to hold rallies and deliver semi-coherent rants rooted in lies and fantasies. He remains a menace to American democracy, world peace and fundamental human decency.

But perhaps we should worry less about the man at the microphone and more about the crowds that continue to cheer him even after all that has come before. Especially after all that has come before.

W.T. Koltek
Louisville, Ohio

To the Editor:

What are we to conclude about the insurrection participants you profiled? Their family members, friends and neighbors were quoted as saying that these were nice, giving and very helpful people. Some of the participants stated that they just wanted to be in the rally or to see President Donald Trump.

Did they have a short circuit in their brains that made them participate in the riot? Is there some kind of contradiction between their lives back home and their violent behavior on Jan. 6?

Not at all. We should not be distracted by the attempts to portray these participants as just ordinary folk. Some of them brought or used other items as weapons, as well as communication devices for coordinating their efforts. These participants engaged in a violent attempt to subvert our democracy and injure or kill our elected officials, as well as the police protectors of our nation’s democratic process and buildings.

Actions have consequences. They are responsible for their behavior and must be brought to justice. No niceness can save them from judicial remedies.

Robert Rosofsky
Milton, Mass.

To the Editor:

This article is chilling because it is likely that Donald Trump, if he becomes president again, would grant a blanket pardon to these and other so-called “patriots” for any federal crimes arising out of the Jan. 6 riots.

The article notes that prosecutors and congressional investigators are looking into how “seemingly average citizens — duped by a political lie, goaded by their leaders and swept up in a frenzied throng — can unite in breathtaking acts of brutality.” This statement evokes Kristallnacht and the horror that followed.

Donald Trump did goad this group. What these “ordinary citizens” are capable of in the thrall of a demagogue is frightening.

Mr. Trump has learned this from Jan. 6. And from past Republican inaction, he’s also learned, and would certainly come into office believing, that the rule of law does not apply to him. That power and mind-set in the hands of this petulant little man are a true danger.

Gary H. Levin
Fort Washington, Pa.

To the Editor:

Re “Voting Rights Impasse Puts Pressure on Filibuster,” by Carl Hulse (news analysis, Oct. 21):

The Senate’s failure to pass the Freedom to Vote Act is a cynical corrosion of democratic values. The act would limit partisan gerrymandering, require disclosure of very large campaign contributions and increase election security. These common-sense safeguards are foundational to a functional democracy.

Fortunately, my senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, supported the act. But every Republican senator who blocked it — representing a minority of voters — demonstrates contempt for the system they’re elected to defend.

Sarah Richardson
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Hey Parler, My Blue City Isn’t Turning Red,” by Margaret Renkl (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, Oct. 18):

Parler, a social media platform committed to free speech and to the preservation of a digital “town square,” has recently moved its headquarters to Nashville. Ms. Renkl’s premise is that Parler mistook Nashville to be a right-wing haven, and she zeroes in on my assertion that “Tennessee shares Parler’s vision of individual liberty and free expression.” Ms. Renkl wrongly suggests that these principles are somehow exclusive to those on the political right.

At Parler, we draw our inspiration from the Constitution — not the Republican Party’s platform — and we defend the American principle of free speech, which, as far as we are aware, is a principle that transcends party politics and is valued on both the left and the right. Or at least it used to be.

It is telling that so many on the left believe that “free expression” and “individual liberty” are code words for “conservative.” Worthy of discussion, isn’t it?

George Farmer
The writer is the chief executive of Parler.

To the Editor:

Re “Jefferson Knocked Off Pedestal in New York Council Chamber” (front page, Oct. 19):

Thomas Jefferson was a man of his era who, like all men in all eras, did not always live his ideals. Those ideals — that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and that the only legitimate government is by consent of the people — are the cornerstones of every modern democracy, including our own.

They have enabled our nation to evolve from a society in which slavery was tolerated into one in which, for most Americans, civil and human rights are paramount.

The framers’ vision, and the nation that they founded based on an idea, eclipse the frailties that marked Jefferson and his contemporaries as human beings.

As James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

If the New-York Historical Society does not accept the City Council’s Thomas Jefferson statue, the city is welcome to relocate it on my front lawn.

Rita C. Tobin
Chappaqua, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Thanks to Jane E. Brody for her thoughtful column “Keeping Older Drivers Protected on the Road” (Personal Health, Oct. 19).

One additional point: To help ease the transition from driving, carefully choose where you live. If possible, pick a location where you can walk (or bike) to many of the places you want or need to go to: stores, doctors, cafes, the library, parks and so on. This will enable you to have a healthier and more pleasant life.

And, for those now in your 40s and 50s, think ahead. Move to that more walkable neighborhood before you’re old.

David W. Sears
Bethesda, Md.

To the Editor:

Re “The Case for Filing Cabinets,” by Pamela Paul (Opinion guest essay, Sunday, Oct. 17):

Two phrases from this article — “digitally functional people” and “special I.T. skills” — do not describe this senior citizen who finds file cabinets indispensable.

I have an active two-drawer file cabinet that is used daily and culled yearly around tax time or when I need room for additions. My genealogy files contain original documents, pictures and even a braid of hair cut from an ancestor’s head circa 1863 — and my own personal and professional history to pass on to my progeny.

My late son was a systems analyst with superior I.T. skills. Our difficulty in accessing his encrypted files in the cloud made his scraps of paper and his voluminous paper files crucial in settling his estate.

So I will continue to file away without trying to remember passwords, or relying on internet service, which was out the other day.

V.E. France
White Plains, N.Y.

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