Readers Respond to the November Issue
The glamorization of Nicholas II [“Resurrecting the Czar”] is an insult to history. Millions died in pogroms and World War I while he and his coterie cavorted in extravagant indifference.
Michael G. Price
Michigan Center, Michigan
The Last Czar
I am a descendant of Czar Nicholas II and was a DNA donor for the genetic analysis discussed in “Resurrecting the Czar.” I wish to commend the writer Joshua Hammer on his well-researched article. This is the first succinct, clearly written and, might I add, nonpolitical article I’ve read on the finding of the remains and the DNA studies. There will probably always be conflict about these issues, but Hammer’s article was clear and dispassionate.
The leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church claim to honor the Romanovs, yet their refusal to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that the bodies buried at Old Koptyaki Road were those of the royal family belies this. Their behavior reinforces the stereotype of the church as a stodgy organization steeped in willful ignorance and petulance.
I enjoyed your article “How Little Bighorn Was Won,” which the introduction explains is based on “accounts given by more than 50 Indian participants or witnesses.” But I take issue with the statement that those accounts were “long-neglected.” Journalists interviewed Sitting Bull, Gall and others within a few years of the battle and their stories were widely reported. Articles featuring Indian accounts were regularly printed in the 1930s, and entire books of Indian accounts appeared in the 1950s.
I really enjoyed “The Tell-Tale Murder,” about the 1830 killing of Capt. Joseph White in Salem, Massachusetts, and the aftermath. When I bought my first house in Salem, I was given a brief history of the property by Historic Salem, a preservation organization. The paperwork stated that the house was originally built for Lemuel Payson in 1808, who was lent money for the construction by White. Apparently Payson defaulted on the loan and never resided in the home, so White owned and rented the property. The papers also described the scandalous murder, which was a Salem story I had not known. I no longer reside in that house but will always feel a connection to the story. Thanks for recounting it and illuminating how it inspired great American gothic writers.
As a nuclear physician, I was fascinated with “Looking for Ghosts,” about the search for those elusive neutrinos. When I was a student at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, we were told an interesting story about how the subatomic particle got its name. The Italian scientist and Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi had proposed the name at a conference in 1933. When the nucleus of a radioactive atom disintegrates, particles are released that have no electric charge but carry a tiny amount of energy. Those particles, Fermi explained, are smaller than neutrons. “They should be called neutrinos,” he suggested, alluding to the Italian word bambino, for baby or child. Scientists have vivid imaginations, too.
John B. Selby Sr.
Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
I almost always enjoy The Last Page and often turn to it first. But I disagree with the notion that Americans are “exceptional” if they know a foreign language [“Fluent in 60 Seconds”]. I’d wager a week’s pay (though mine is paltry) that a vast number of Americans are at least bilingual—but not Anglo-Americans, who are for the most part linguocentric if not linguophobic. Rather, it’s Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans and similar groups who are bilingual.
Father Gregory Williams