Response to Tom Wright

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Because silence is too often construed as assent, we feel obliged to respond to the recent, unfortunate, contribution of Tom Wright (here) to these pages. It’s hard to know where to begin with such a flawed and bizarre “argument.” It starts with putative outrage about the nation-wide debate over the removal of statues that glorify a segregationist or colonial past, but then quickly morphs into a claim that Black Lives Matter is about “destroying America’s heritage and culture,” followed by a conspiracy theory about dedicated Marxist revolutionaries apparently attempting to vandalize the India Palace! Needless to say, Wright provides no evidence to support either claim. But before we can catch our breath, he moves onto easily disproved tropes about the black community in our country, namely, that the real problem isn’t structural racism, or the police violence that is disproportionately aimed against blacks; no, really the problem is the so-called demise of the black family, which results in a scourge of black-on-black crime. Again, he would be advised to back such claims up with evidence that hasn’t been debunked years ago.

When you step back a little, his paranoid association of images meant solely to inspire fear—Marxists! BLM! Thugs! Vandals!—seems clearly based in his own fear that the country might actually try to live up to its Constitution, and treat all its citizens as having equal rights under the law. He seems to yearn for the good old days, where the people had the good sense to know their place, and our country’s ideals were honored more in the breach than the observance. It is particularly telling that, in order to support his claim that “the BLM purpose…is about destroying America’s heritage and culture,” Wright provides only the following three examples: a BLM activist who desires to remove images of “the White Jesus,” a BLM co-founder calling for President Trump to resign, and a video of the same co-founder stating that she and the other movement founders are “super versed – Marxist organizers.” It is abundantly clear that in Wright’s view, Donald Trump and “White Jesus” are synonymous with “America’s heritage and culture,” and any criticisms of the former will inherently threaten to destroy the latter. According to such a worldview, any attempt to question authority, tradition, or symbols of power threatens to irreparably destroy the American tradition. This view is both paranoid and ignorant, and it completely overlooks a complex historical legacy; incidentally, one in which dissent and political protest play a central role.

Along those lines, it’s ridiculous to call the movement to remove relatively new statues of problematic white supremacist figures “a political movement to subvert the US government.” Somehow the US government functioned for decades without these statues in place, it can certainly survive their removal. Statues are not plopped onto their pedestals by God himself; they are placed there by men, for a purpose, to tell and glorify a particular story. Stories change as storytellers change. It’s time for new storytellers.

We don’t enjoy elevating the platform of a crank, but countering his racist nonsense is necessary. Tom Wright is not a Los Alamosian and doesn’t live here. He certainly does not speak for this Los Alamos family. We denounce Wright’s offensive diatribe in the strongest possible terms.

Finally, as a note to the publisher, we would respectfully suggest that in the future, the Reporter use a rubric of three criteria to determine what is worth publishing, keeping in mind that every newspaper has the right and the absolute control over what it publishes. (No newspaper is obliged to publish every letter it receives, and few do.) First, refrain from publishing divisive nonsense written by outsiders and intended only to inflame: letters should be from Los Alamosians and/or pertaining to local issues specifically. Second, letters to the editor should be clearly labeled as such and not given lofty titles like “Political Commentary” unless the writer has special credentials. Certainly the (initial) designation of “press release” for what is clearly one man’s bigoted gibberish is inaccurate. Third, no conspiracy theories. A claim like, “The recent vandalism at India Palace … is likely not the work of white supremacist, but that of [Marxist] professional activists sent to divide us on ethnic lines,” which is completely unsubstantiated, should not be propagated.

The Nakhleh-Martinez family:
Stephanie and Charlie Nakhleh
Aidan Nakhleh
Juan Miguel Martinez and Julia Nakhleh