Opinion | The Happiness (or Sadness) of Progressives

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To the Editor:

Re “The Self-Destructive Effects of Progressive Sadness,” by David Brooks (column, March 10), reflects a misunderstanding of the mind-set of many liberals.

Citing a “social science research” finding that conservatives report being happier than liberals, he ascribes to liberals “maladaptive sadness” consisting of “a catastrophizing mentality,” “extreme sensitivity to harm” and “a culture of denunciation.” Wow!

If, as Mr. Brooks suggests, conservatives are happy, perhaps it’s because they ignore the serious problems in the United States and elsewhere (e.g., potential environmental catastrophe, widespread poverty and racial discrimination), if they are not affected by those problems.

Liberals don’t share the complacency, which seems to Mr. Brooks like the secret to happiness. They are acutely aware of the challenges facing our country, but don’t feel, as Mr. Brooks claims many do, that “the American dream is a sham.” Rather, they work to fulfill that dream. That inspires them to take action, whether it be voting, volunteering for progressive causes, or simply, like Mr. Brooks, speaking their mind.

No, liberals are not satisfied, but surely their belief that they can make things better inspires more hope and satisfaction than mere complacency can ever offer.

David H. Kirkwood
New York

To the Editor:

David Brooks paints a picture of progressives as overly sad, anxiously catastrophizing and problematically lashing out to cancel those with whom they disagree. For most progressives, racial injustice, gun violence, the loss of abortion rights, the criminalization of gender-confirming treatment and climate change (among others) are catastrophes and not reflections of a too anxious mind.

While Mr. Brooks is critical of the admittedly problematic tendency to cancel those with conservative views, he does not sufficiently consider the lived experiences of those individuals who have effectively been “canceled” — literally and figuratively — by virtue of legislative efforts (and, at times, lack of effort) to impose a conservative agenda on the majority.

This does not excuse the excesses of “wokeness,” but these excesses cannot be adequately understood without acknowledging the reality of the dangers we face by those in power.

Larry S. Sandberg
New York
The writer is a psychiatrist.

To the Editor:

According to David Brooks, progressives should just get over their sadness and “have confidence in their ability to make a difference — don’t undermine that confidence.” As a liberal Democrat, I find that advice easier said than done.

He overlooks what the current Republican Party has become. The right wing has taken over the party and is determined to make sure that theirs is the only voice heard.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and the rest of the extreme right are holding the party hostage, ensuring that unless they agree with whatever the G.O.P. puts forth, nothing will get done. These are the same people who made sure that to become speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy adhered to their wishes.

The white supremacist groups are bolder than ever knowing that Republicans will not speak out against them. Antisemitism is on the rise, as are gun massacres. Our nation has never been as polarized as it is today. Excuse me, but I cannot imagine anyone who loved the once shining city on a hill not being sad at the current state of our country.

Linda Drum
Bradenton, Fla.

Why People Are Fleeing Oklahoma

To the Editor:

Re “In Oklahoma, Welcome Mat for Workers” (front page, March 3):

The sunny portrayal of my state as “an appealing place” to move to, given its affordability and limited government, omits mention of anti-women, anti-transgender and anti-education laws that now lead many Oklahomans to ask, “Why stay?”

Oklahoma has enacted harsh restrictions on reproductive freedom. Aiding and abetting abortion is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and $100,000 fines. Not to lag behind Texas, our state has also adopted a bounty law, allowing anyone to collect $10,000 or more against anyone who aids or abets an abortion.

Further, our political leaders are bent on banning gender-affirming care for minors and barring insurance coverage for such care for anyone.

As a professor and a parent, I can attest to the severe chilling effect our anti-critical race theory law has on teaching English, history, law and other subjects. Ironically, the ancestors of many Native Americans in Oklahoma were forcibly “moved” here via the Trail of Tears, but their history cannot be given a full accounting because it might cause “discomfort” or “anguish.”

True, state leaders want Oklahoma to be the “next Texas.” And if you like extreme Texas politics, you’ll love Oklahoma prices. But sadly, many graduates, educators, physicians and others are considering fleeing Oklahoma — or have already fled.

Joseph Thai
Norman, Okla.

Swiss Neutrality Amid a War in Ukraine

To the Editor:

Re “Neutral Status in Time of War Tests the Swiss” (front page, March 13):

Hand-wringing by Switzerland over whether to relax its tradition of neutrality rightly infuriates the beleaguered Ukrainians and their allies. The Swiss are in conflict among themselves about whether to allow their arms sales exports to be redirected to Ukraine, a third party that is at war.

Switzerland wants to be seen as “the world’s peacemakers and humanitarians,” your report says. But the country’s chief concern appears to be how it will emerge from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unscathed economically as ever.

One cannot forget the historical past, when the neutral Swiss, in many ways, benefited as Nazism nearly destroyed the world.

Let Swiss arms defend Ukraine!

Ted Gallagher
New York

What Is It Like to Be Homeless in America?

To the Editor:

To read “What Don’t You Know About Homelessness?,” with interviews by Susan Shain and Aidan Gardiner (March 6), is to open a door into the intimate side of lives often forgotten and ignored, into the fragility of lives on the edge — to listen to people who are not living that elusive “American dream” … and who know it and feel it each and every day.

Lack of access to shelter, lack of adequate health care and mile-long lines for food exist because there is no overarching public will or demand to act. Nonprofits continue to provide a lifeline … for some.

Heartfelt thanks to those sharing their life stories and to The Times for dedicating serious space to them.

Michael Katz

To the Editor:

The outstanding reporting done by Susan Shain and Aidan Gardiner confirms that homelessness cuts across all economic, social and political aspects of our collective lives.

How do we break the cycle of homelessness? Effective case management, job training and addiction counseling would be some places to start, but first we need the willpower to do so.

Ronald Barkby
Elgin, Ill.
The writer is president emeritus of Public Action to Deliver Shelter.

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