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Letters to the Editor Tips

Use your life experiences to provide a rationale for your opinions.

Don’t let your letter read like a rant. It is easy to start a letter by stating your opinion on an issue. It’s far more persuasive if you communicate the reasoning behind that opinion. Every letter should contain two points; how I feel and why I feel this way. In two letters that have appeared in newspapers this week and last, you can see how I referenced personal experiences to justify my positions and influence the reader.

Arthur Seltzer Was Not a Loser

I once asked my cousin Arthur if the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan, depicting the Allied invasion of Normandy, was a dramatization. “No, that’s exactly what it was like,” he replied. Arthur Seltzer, a 20-year-old Army signalman at the time, was nervous as his PT boat carrying 36 soldiers approached Omaha Beach. With a 65-pound radio pack on his back and not knowing how to swim, things could not have looked bleaker. As his fellow fighters exited their boat, they were immediately gunned down by German forces. Arthur and his commanding officer were the only survivors. He spent the next terrifying 12 hours shielded behind the bodies of his dead comrades as Nazi gunners fired down from the cliffs that cradled the coast. From Omaha Beach, Arthur went on to liberate France and free the survivors of a Nazi concentration camp in Germany.

Arthur Seltzer was a true American hero.

I have been disgusted by President Trump’s disparagement of heroes like my cousin Arthur, referring to them as Losers and Suckers. Sadly, I have come to expect such outrages from the President, but I never thought that Senator Thom Tillis, someone who regularly expresses his support for the military and its veterans on social media, would remain silent in the face of such a disgraceful insult by the leader of his party. Several attempts by me to obtain a statement from the Senator were rebuffed.

Arthur Seltzer and thousands like him fought bravely for our country. Thom Tillis’ failure to defend them is a stunning display of cowardice and disrespect.

A Long Time Ago on a Manhattan Sidewalk

A sheltered existence is a good way to describe my upbringing in a white suburb in upstate New York. Although I was aware that racism existed, I never observed it or gave it much thought. That all changed during a visit to New York City in the mid 1970’s.

As I approached a busy Manhattan intersection on foot, I looked ahead to see a young Black man, about my age, walk toward a taxicab stopped at a red light, its dome indicating it was available for hire. He bent over slightly to wave at the driver and as he clutched the door handle, the light changed, and the cab sped off across the intersection to pick up a white person on the opposite corner. As it pulled away, the man took his fist and hit the side of the cab hard enough to dent it. For an instant, I became that man and the rage and disgust I experienced was so intense that my fists clenched and every muscle in my body stiffened. Had a brick been in my hand, I surely would have thrown it through the cab’s back window.

As a society, we should never condone the acts of violence or property damage that have been occurring during some Black Lives Matter protests. They only harm the innocent and are mostly counter-productive. But they are not actions of selfishness or criminality. Rather, they are the consequence of lifetimes of hurt, anger and frustration. Now, with the omnipresence of cellphone cameras and social media, we have all borne witness to the discrimination and brutality regularly inflicted on Black Americans. Only when each of us experiences the visceral rage and disgust that I felt that day on a Manhattan sidewalk will we finally be on the path to end racial injustice, once and for all.

Jeff Zalles


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