December 18, 2018

The Washington Post Opinions section published hundreds of op-eds from outside contributors this year, covering an enormous range of topics, from Pi Day and Big Dairy to, inevitably, the midterm elections and President Trump. Below, opinions staff members pick their favorite op-eds from 2018 and explain what made their choices stand out.

Hannah Karcinell hugs her mother, Jodi, after attending a rally against assault weapons in Del Ray Beach, Fla., in February, just days after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Don’t defend the cowards who abuse the Second Amendment” by David French

I write (unfortunately far too often) about gun violence, so David French’s unflinching piece about how the Second Amendment is used to give cover to unjustified killings caught my attention. “Cowards” is how he described shooters who wrongly take the life of another because of fear for themselves. It was not what I expected from a senior writer at National Review who describes himself as a gun owner and defender of gun rights. That made his message all the more powerful. — Jo-Ann Armao, associate editorial page editor

Editing this final, posthumous column by Jamal Khashoggi was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But his words are a powerful demand for freedom of expression for his fellow Arabs in the Middle East. His murder at the hands of the Saudi regime only reinforces the critical need to resist authoritarianism and censorship, and the importance of centering Arab voices in their own stories about their societies. An important voice has been taken from us. But as Jamal himself would say: “Some depart to remain.” — Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I’m a female chef. Here’s how my restaurant dealt with harassment from customers.” by Erin Wade

So many of the insightful op-eds we publish draw attention to a problem that needs fixing. Chef Erin Wade’s op-ed not only identifies a problem — harassment by customers at the restaurant she runs — but also offers a solution that works. “This is just one story from one restaurant,” she tells us, “but I know there are others. The revolution we need is not just ousting powerful men behaving badly, but also elevating the status of women behaving well.” — Becca Clemons, operations editor

Pittsburghers treat each other as one community. We should all learn from them.” by Jeff Blattner

I’ve never lived in Pittsburgh, but some important people in my life are from there and I love the city (and its sports teams), so this piece after the Tree of Life shooting really struck a chord with me with its message of unity. The shooting was a horrific event, and in its aftermath, this piece so beautifully captured the best parts about Pittsburgh, Pittsburghers and people coming together as an “us.” — Kaitlin Coward, multiplatform editor and producer

Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’ ” by Laura Bush

I was impressed that a former first lady would speak out about a divisive issue, and that it was so important to her that she wanted to go on the record with her feelings. Her op-ed was concise and informed — she included information about the link between internment and higher rates of cardiovascular disease, for instance. But her piece was exceptional because it was emotional and personal. It took courage for her to step up but, in doing so, she spoke for very many Americans, and her words made an impact. — Mary-Ellen Deily, multiplatform editor

Why the Democratic victory in the House is a big deal for the rest of the world” by Asli Aydintasbas

Aydintasbas, a Turkish journalist who regularly contributes to The Post’s Global Opinions section, describes how she waited up late in Istanbul for the U.S. election results — and how, like many people around the world, she is clinging to hope that the U.S. retreat from global leadership and defense of human rights under President Trump will prove to be a passing aberration. — Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor

A math problem for Pi Day” by Satyan Linus Devadoss

We hear a lot about how STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is the future, and how students need to master the field to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. But I wish we heard more defenses of the humanities — for their own sake, not just their future profitability. This piece did that in a way that was clever and compelling. Also, Pi Day is my birthday! — Christine Emba, columnist

To the mother of the gunshot victim I couldn’t save” by Jacques Mather

Every year, it seems, features one or two high profile mass shootings, but 2018 was riddled with them. Jacques Mather’s op-ed captures a part of the gun epidemic story we don’t often hear — the daily struggle of physicians to save shooting victims. It’s a heart-breaking reminder that gun violence is not only a public health crisis, but a constant trauma facing families across the country. — Robert Gebelhoff, assistant editor

Flames engulf the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in September. (Leo Correa/AP)

We’re all in danger of watching our history go up in flames” by Hugh Eakin

Come for the thoughtful take on museum management. Stay for the whales boiled alive in their tanks. — Drew Goins, digital opinions producer

Mr. President, stop attacking the press” by John McCain

Over the years, we published 60 pieces authored or co-authored by Sen. McCain. This last one is vintage: unafraid to criticize a president of his own party, lucid and passionate in its defense of a free press, though that press had often excoriated McCain himself. President Trump’s “unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” McCain warned, have “provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit.” — Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor

My son has autism. He deserves separate sensory-friendly opportunities.” by Whitney Ellenby

Every parent of a special-needs child recognizes the look — from restaurant employees, from passersby at the farmers market, from other parents everywhere — that says, “What is up with your child? Why is he doing that? Can’t you just control him?” And, we learn what battles are worth fighting. Whitney Ellenby’s piece, about a topic we do not address often, captured the reasons why sensory-friendly experiences are so important for special-needs children. My wife and I take our son to locations that have set aside times for neuro-atypical kids (yay, trampoline park!), but we also debate how much to push him into typical settings for inclusion and growth. As Ellenby tells her readers, “Physical disabilities are often quiet and can assimilate in crowds; autism is disruptive and unwelcome. Making room for autism requires not just structural but also temperamental adjustments.” — Trey Johnson, chief multiplatform editor

Why can’t we hate men?” by Suzanna Danuta Walters

Walters lays out the simple facts of discrimination and violence against women as they have existed across the world, throughout all of history, and doesn’t flinch in drawing her conclusions. Challenging and unforgettable in the way a great op-ed can be. And if you want to see her point dreadfully proven, read her follow-up: “Mob misogyny is nothing new. I have the death threats to prove it.— Michael Larabee, op-ed editor

The disappearing story of the black homesteaders who pioneered the West” by Richard Edwards

I was grateful to learn about the little-known story of black homesteading in the 19th century and sorry to find out that the National Park Service is failing to preserve the physical evidence of this fascinating chapter in American history. C’mon, NPS, it’s time to get to work repairing those historic buildings in Nicodemus, Kan. — Mark Lasswell, associate op-ed editor

Please, President Trump, shed light on my fiance’s disappearance” by Hatice Cengiz

“Hatice Cengiz sounded the alarm about the disappearance of her fiance, Jamal Khashoggi. A few days later, she wrote this moving column demanding answers and putting the man she loved back at the center of what was quickly becoming a major geopolitical story. That took great courage.” — Eli Lopez, senior editor, Global Opinions

I thought Democrats would appreciate my first-ever donation. I was wrong.” by John Emshwiller

This piece was the rare op-ed that reminded us there is still humor in politics — especially in the most mundane things. I was smiling long after I finished reading this, and not even our dispiriting news cycle could change that. — Mili Mitra, digital opinions producer

The president attacked my reputation. It’s time to set the record straight.” by Jill McCabe

News is often shared in formats that are easily digestible — often 280 characters at a time. Jill McCabe’s op-ed reminds us all that there are real people behind the headlines. It also shows the irreparable harm caused by misinformation. — Nana Efua Mumford, executive assistant to the editorial board

Food donations are organized for distribution in Caguas, Puerto Rico, in October 2017. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

We fed Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Why couldn’t President Trump?” by José Andrés and Richard Wolffe

Out of all the firsthand accounts from the ground in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, it was this op-ed from José Andrés and Richard Wolffe that stayed with me. Yes, it was easy to criticize the Trump administration and other organizations for their failure to help Puerto Ricans with simple tasks, such as providing food and supplies. But Andrés and Wolffe did more than that: They provided a solution and acted on it (as a small nonprofit, mind you), proving, as they wrote, “the enormous challenges that Maria left behind were entirely solvable.” — Edgar Ramirez, social media producer for opinions

Drivers, help us cyclists get home alive” by Guy Edwards

There’s a symbiotic relationship among commuters in this town. Whether you bike to work and are just hoping to not get hit (again), squeeze into packed Metro cars at rush hour or brave the Beltway, getting around town can be a hassle. In this piece, Guy Edwards details getting hit on his bike on his way to a date and asks drivers to please be aware of others on the road. — Jamie Riley, letters and Local Opinions editor

Ripping children from parents will shatter America’s soul” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This is a personal experience essay, and it’s also not. The author’s experience is not the experience of children wrenched away from their parents at the Southern border. But even as the piece dwells on the differences among families the United States has divided over the years, it homes in at its very end on the inescapable similarity. Whether there is good reason or bad reason or no reason at all for the removals, they hurt “enough for me to remember it vividly more than 40 years later.” They hurt to read about, too. — Molly Roberts, editorial writer

The lonely world between the hearing and the Deaf” by Juliet Corwin

Fourteen-year-old Juliet Corwin is deaf, but she’s shunned by members of the capital-D Deaf community because she has a cochlear implant, which helps her sense sound. Her story is a sad illustration that the impulse to define ingroups and outgroups is so strong, it replicates even in marginalized communities. — Ryan Vogt, multiplatform editor

Plant-based ‘dairy’ products aren’t new. Neither is the U.S. dairy industry’s hostility.” by Paul Shapiro

Got oat milk? Thanks to lobbying from Big Dairy, the Food and Drug Administration may soon issue new guidance restricting the use of words such as “milk” and “cheese” for products not made from dairy. In an entertainingly written op-ed about the history of plant-based products, Shapiro goes all the way back to one of America’s founders to prove that plant-based foods and the dairy industry’s attempts to thwart them are nothing new. — Anna Walsh, multiplatform editor