Reader responses to our May issue

Smithsonian Magazine
Smithsonian Magazine

From The Editors Our brief essay about mustang overpopulation, “Stampede,” in our May issue, triggered a rush of debate. “The land can sustain the wildlife and grazing rights of ranchers,” says Kim Myers, “but not millions of cows and sheep, which destructively overgraze.” To those who go to great lengths to rescue mustangs, David Schleser says, “Protecting wild horses is as ridiculous as wanting to protect feral dogs, cats and hogs.” Karen Bailey insists, “We are all responsible for all animals. They have a right to live.” Objecting to the pro-placebo stance of “Why I Take Fake Pills,” David Maher says, “A myriad of factors make placebos appear to work, but they don’t.” David Marolt, however, says the placebo effect is “a great statement about hope. When you have hope, many of the negative things going on inside your body change.”

Wild Horses

Stampede” falls into the common trap of blaming the mustang for the destruction of the lands of the “American West.” But nothing in nature is in isolation. Addressing the true cost of grazing rights, limiting areas in rotation to allow for recovery, and support for natural predator-prey balance are the only solutions, but sadly I do not see this happening. In the interim, the mustangs continue to be harassed, rounded up, interfered with and slaughtered.

Carolyn Bishop, Belmont, Massachusetts

Belief System

People suffering from the same mental condition could all take the same treatment and only some of them would feel its effect (“Why I Take Fake Pills”). This is precisely why it is so hard to treat conditions such as anxiety or depression. Both biology and environment play a part. So what if placebo works for some and not others? The more options, the better, in my opinion.

Bolla Hewitt, Facebook

Extreme Borders

With the Trump administration’s plan to tighten restrictions on some immigrants to the United States, we have the opposite of the Ellis Island immigrant program (“Piece of Mind”). Then, they tried to bar the “feeble-minded.” Today, we eliminate so many highly skilled would-be immigrants. We need these bright people, especially those whom we have educated, to compete with the fast-moving world.

Phil Acuff, Leawood, Kansas

Titanic River

Wet and Wild” celebrates New York City’s waterfront renaissance, but its historical content could use a bit more development. It never mentions Pier 54’s historic significance: Pier 54 was where Titanic’s survivors landed after rescue by the Carpathia, the origin of Lusitania’s final trans-Atlantic voyage, and the embarkation point for thousands of GI’s bound for Europe during two world wars. The article also incorrectly states that Titanic’s survivors were housed in the Jane Hotel. In April 1912, this building was the Institute of the American Seamen’s Friend Society’s Sailors’ Home, offering lodging only to seafarers. No Titanic passenger stayed there, and Titanic’s surviving crew were held aboard the Red Star liner Lapland and, later, White Star Line’s Celtic.

Charles A. Haas, Titanic International Society, Midland Park, New Jersey

Mount Fuji’s Message

Mount Fuji (“The Magic Mountain”) inspires the imagination, entices the wanderer, beckons the adventurer, tests the holy and simply reminds us—or maybe teaches us—to rise above ourselves to become something greater. For me, at least, it reminds me there is still magic left in the world.

Fred Pirone, Facebook

Refugees Tale

Thank you for the unbiased and educational portrayal of the two brave refugees (“A Modern Odyssey,” April). Their stories reflect the common good and the complications of combating evil.

Lorna M. Davi, Rochester, New York

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