Is the U.S. on the Verge of a Civil War?

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  • Is the Boss a Jerk? That’s No Longer OK.
  • Voter Suppression, Then and Now

  Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Let’s Not Invent a Civil War” (column, Jan. 13):

I agree with Ross Douthat: Let’s not invent a civil war. But let’s not shrink from the truth and pretend that one isn’t brewing, either.

Mr. Douthat focuses on flaws in the evidence for the government’s case against those plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in 2020. But we cannot ignore the Jan. 6 insurrection, the slow-moving right-wing coup to control elections at the state levels, the Trump supporters asking, “When can we use our guns?”

We cannot ignore the threats of violence by Representative Paul Gosar and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene against their fellow representatives.

We cannot ignore the inflammatory rhetoric of Tucker Carlson and other right-wing media stars.

As one of our sons confided in me recently, he is scared for the future of his small children. And so am I.

Daniel Fink
Beverly Hills, Calif.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat makes a reasonable point about the precise meaning of “civil war.” However, on Jan. 6, 2021, a large number of seemingly “normal” Americans violently stormed the Capitol, the seat of American democracy. Since then, a shockingly large percentage of Americans continue to find just cause in this event, and the vast majority of one of our two governing political parties continues to quietly condone it, as does a sizable tranche of our media.

There is clearly a “new normal” at work here, and it is tectonic. Maybe it doesn’t meet the definition of low-grade “civil war” — yet! But to not be deeply alarmed is to naïvely cling to the chimeric belief that it couldn’t possibly happen here.

Wake up, Ross! It absolutely could.

Adam Wilson
Hartsdale, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “Are We Facing a Second Civil War?,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, Jan. 7):

On election night in 2016, I kept screaming, “We need to be two countries!” There is absolutely no common agreement that we are all Americans in this together. Every day our democracy is being whittled away.

I read this paper daily and I end with the thought, “Why are we allowing the traitors to take us all down?” They are the minority! I feel as if we are on the Titanic and the passengers are allowing the crew to steer full steam ahead into the iceberg.

I want to live in a democratic country that strives for fairness and equality, that values science and education, that is not afraid of reality, that sees the value of immigrants (which most of us are or are descended from) and that strives to be greater. I am not alone.

Now is the time to work toward peaceful separation before we lose a democratic America. It will not be easy, but better that than to live without freedom.

Kristine Buckley
Livermore, Calif.

Is the Boss a Jerk? That’s No Longer OK.

 Credit…Nicolas Ortega

To the Editor:

Re “No More Working for Jerks!” (Sunday Business, Jan. 9):

Bad behavior in leaders and managers results directly from insecurity. The authority conferred on bosses frequently triggers hidden self-doubt. The power in authority often leads to a sense of privilege, and privilege progresses to entitlement. Entitlement mixed with insecurity is a recipe for disaster.

One of the simplest ways to discern whether candidates for a leadership role are masking hidden jerk traits is to ask during the interview process what they know about the company’s core values, and assess the level to which they’ll embody those core values as leaders.

Today’s work force has far more agency than at any other time in history. They call the shots. It’s up to each leader to create an environment where teams of people work hard toward a common goal that makes the world better, and the leader works harder than anyone else in that pursuit.

Chad Verity
Springbrook, Alberta
The writer is chief executive of Holmetrics Inc., which analyzes workplace culture.

To the Editor:

An executive coach is quoted in your article as saying, “The tolerance for dealing with jerky bosses has decreased.” That’s a score for humanity for sure.

After 40 years in corporate America, I’m glad to read “the climate has changed” and the behaviors are no longer being tolerated and are now recognized as being toxic.

Those behaviors and microaggressions do add up, hurt productivity and have wide-reaching effects not only on colleagues but also on the trajectory of their lives and that of their families.

I worked for many toxic bosses. And the only thing I learned was how to be a better boss myself, and what not to do. But it’s not the type of training I’d wish on anyone.

Many times I wanted to quit, and at least twice I did move on in less than two years. But back in the day it was part of the working world, or so I thought, and you managed through it.

I did laugh, however, at the mention of the executive coach who was described as “a professional jerk patroller.” Now that’s a résumé builder!

Ruth Cousins
Livingston, N.J.

Voter Suppression, Then and Now

To the Editor:

Growing up in a liberal family in the North in the 1950s and ’60s, I heard a great deal about voter suppression in the South. Poll taxes, literacy tests and those old favorites, outright intimidation and violence, were rife.

Never did I imagine in my waning years that I would witness renewed zealous voter suppression in every section of the country spearheaded by Republicans sporting American flag lapel pins while boasting that their country was the last great bastion of freedom.

Tom Goodman

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