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Opinion | Russian Runners, Banned in Boston

To the Editor:

Re “Brainless Bigotry in Boston,” by Bret Stephens (column, April 11), criticizing a decision to prohibit runners from Russia and Belarus from competing in the Boston Marathon next Monday:

Mr. Stephens raises valid questions. Why punish individuals who had nothing to do with a war and the resulting atrocities? What good are symbolic gestures that don’t affect guilty parties? And so on.

But one of the challenges we face when confronting the horrific acts of an autocrat like Vladimir Putin is that his unfettered control of state media makes it difficult for Russians to know what’s going on in Ukraine. Mr. Putin spreads disinformation and is not held accountable for his decisions and policies. In fact, we are told his popularity has increased in Russia.

It’s easy for us to feel helpless when dealing with a situation like the one in Ukraine. We want to do something — but what? Sanctions may work over time, but we still feel frustrated. In barring runners from Russia and Belarus, the Boston Marathon officials have chosen to take a stand. They have chosen action over helplessness.

Is it unfair to the runners? Maybe. But faced with doing something rather than nothing, they chose to act — and we should respect their motives.

Maybe the rejected runners will report to their fellow citizens what happened and why, and some truth will spread in their countries. In any case, it seems harsh to characterize the Boston Athletic Association’s decision as “brainless bigotry.”

Peter J. Sonnabend
Weston, Mass.

To the Editor:

Bret Stephens is right that punishing Russian citizens by forbidding them to participate in the Boston Marathon is morally and practically wrong. I moved with my family to the United States from Iran when I was 8 years old, at the time of the American hostage crisis. I’ve never fully recovered from the animus I suffered (in the playground but also from a few random adults on the street) simply for being Iranian, as if I were responsible for the crisis.

As a child, I barely knew anything about the hostage situation, and the adults in my family were neither involved in nor supported it. Governments can do terrible things, including our own here in the U.S., and it’s a dangerous form of xenophobia to extend anger about those policies to individual citizens.

Lara Rabiee
Brooklyn

To the Editor:

Bret Stephens’s objections to barring Russian runners from the Boston Marathon are all important. But it is also important to remember that when apartheid in South Africa finally crumbled, one of the reasons given was the shame and frustration that South Africans felt when their athletes were barred from international competitions.

Dena S. Davis
Bethlehem, Pa.

To the Editor:

I eagerly delved into Bret Stephens’s column wondering if he could convince me that I shouldn’t hold the citizenry of Russia in contempt for the atrocities their army is conducting in Ukraine, the country of my father’s heritage. Despite his quotes from “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” I was not convinced.

Mr. Stephens states that thousands of Russians risked imprisonment by publicly protesting the war. Well, thousands aren’t enough in a country as populous as Russia. Millions should be sufficiently outraged to take to the streets. I feel that there must be a collective character flaw in a nation where rank-and-file troops blindly follow orders to obliterate cities and murder babies, pregnant mothers and elderly citizens just because they can.

The magnitude of the evil being perpetrated on the Ukrainian citizenry defies belief and requires a response from every civilized human being. Barring Russians from participating in decent society is, despite Mr. Stephens’s protestations, the obligation of every person and country. Bravo, Boston Athletic Association!

Bill Gottdenker
Mountainside, N.J.

To the Editor:

Bret Stephens got it half right. Runners from Russia and Belarus should be allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon (with the exception of those who have publicly backed Vladimir Putin and/or the war), but not under their country’s name or flag (as international tennis authorities have decreed).

Marilyn Warner
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Pressure on Garland as Jan. 6 Inquiry Expands” (front page, April 3):

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s “deliberative approach” to the Jan. 6 investigation is appropriate, and he is inarguably correct that the rule of law must be the same for “friends” or “foes.”

But being deliberative doesn’t have to mean being overly slow or timidly hesitant. Any decision involving the potential prosecution of former President Donald Trump and/or any of his aides or advisers will be monumental and will be sure to provoke intense political reaction pro and con.

And the results of the midterm elections and the next presidential election may well determine the result of any cases not yet fully adjudicated. Those circumstances dictate that, if Mr. Garland decides to move forward with prosecutions of Mr. Trump or his former aides and advisers, he must act expeditiously.

It’s imperative that any trial be completed and verdicts rendered before possible changes in the composition of Congress and the occupancy of the White House take place. Even now, if indictments were handed down soon, it will be a race to get through the pretrial process, including possible appeals, in time to avoid potential political interference or judicial “slow walking” regarding any pending prosecutions.

The Jan. 6 committee must make its referrals, and Mr. Garland must make his decision quickly.

Jay Adolf
New York
The writer is a lawyer.

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