Thomas Jefferson’s 1814 response to a sea captain and convert to Christianity, who wrote to him urging for his conversion, too (“Thomas Jefferson makes case for reason, morality,” July 4), calls my attention to contemporary issues confronting our interreligious life together in modern times.
Jefferson rightly reminds his pious minister, and us today, that religious differences must be held with charity toward those whose visions of human destiny radically differ. In his day, difference was primarily between the Christian denominations; in ours it is much more complex — Buddhists, Hindus, secularists, Christians, Muslims, Jews. Jefferson wisely counsels the minister and us to act “honestly towards all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own.”
But Jefferson’s reason for this is itself a religious view based on a forgivable but irrational conclusion. “Let us not be uneasy,” he says, because in heaven “by these different paths we shall all meet in the end.”
It is historically forgivable because Jefferson, being the prodigious mind that he was, could not have asserted this if he were aware of the radical differences between world religious visions, which only began to be known in the Euro-American setting after 1850 but are on full display before us now.
It is nonetheless irrational in view of today’s more fulsome knowledge of religious pluralism. The religions have contrasting and even conflicting visions of what is the true and ultimate destiny of humankind. To state we shall “all meet in the end” unifies all religious aims and unintentionally functions to coerce the believers of the individual religions to attain an end they may not believe or teach by a means they do not practice or accept.
James F. Lewis, Roseville
MEDICARE FOR ALL
Free care won’t cure our bad habits
Rapidly becoming the topic of the day, Medicare for All is seen by many as the bromide to cure the nation’s health care ills. Proponents believe that if we all have access to medical care, treatments, drugs and therapies, everyone will be healthier and costs will be significantly lower. Medicare for All will not, however, bring an end to many root causes of where we are with health care today.
It’s no secret that a significant number of us are choosing a sedentary lifestyle staring at our phones, bingeing on Netflix and reality shows, scarfing down jumbo cheeseburgers and fries, large supreme pizzas, washing it all down with sugar-laden colas and beer. These are, after all, some of the primary causes of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung cancer, bone and muscle deterioration and more. It’s also said that physicians complain about patients who don’t follow orders, fail to take medicines they need while insisting they need drugs they have seen advertised on television. When we have a medical problem, we run to our doctors to get an immediate cure. That’s why most health care insurance companies provide program services to promote a healthier lifestyle. Fortunately, there is a trend toward a healthier diet and regular exercise, but the incidence of poor choices and noncompliance remains too high. Stemming the tide of these factors is what will bring costs down.
We already have the best health care technology in the world, an abundance of medical devices and diagnostic tools, more cutting-edge medical providers than anyone else and excellent medical education and research institutions. That patients, physicians and researchers from the world over come to the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Stanford University, Harvard and Yale, Cedars-Sinai, New York Presbyterian, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital and others for medical treatment and education gives testimony to health care excellence in America. Rather than improve these resources, Medicare for All just may lead to the opposite.
JOHN HELGERSON, Victoria
It should not be so tempting to flee
It is high time for politicians of every persuasion to recognize that the only solution to the humanitarian refugee crisis at our southern border is to double down on helping Central American countries develop their economies and political systems in equitable and democratic ways.
An action akin to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II is needed. During the Democratic debates, I was disappointed that only Julian Castro recognized this and spoke for it.
Private investment and foreign aid has not always been successful or effective because of rampant corruption in Central American governments. But it must be noted that the United States has contributed to the instability of the region by supporting corrupt governments and participating in civil wars and the development of right-wing militias.
A carefully administered aid plan could stem the flow of refugees from these countries. A promising opportunity presented itself when El Salvador recently elected a new president, Nayib Bukele, who is independent from the two main parties that have held power since the end of the civil war in 1992.
Bukele recently stated that his country must take responsibility for the conditions that are forcing the surge of refugees at our border — poverty, unemployment, violence and government corruption. He has vowed to work toward zero forceful migration. While his goals are lofty and admirable, El Salvador is not in a good position to accomplish this without help.
Let’s send a delegation to El Salvador immediately and form a plan that can help change this tragic situation. We can afford to help our neighbors. Billions of dollars are being wasted on border walls, guards and despicable detention facilities that will not solve this problem.
Bob Foucault, Minneapolis
TRUMP AND THE GOP
Republicans, try courage and decency
Congratulations to Michigan Congressman Justin Amash for his courage (“Citing D.C. dysfunction, Amash quits GOP,” July 5). I just read the latest of many insulting comments from President Donald Trump about Amash, who has been one of the very few members of the Republican caucus who has criticized Trump’s questionable behaviors.
As a retired elementary school teacher, I have a serious, nonpartisan concern about our nation’s decline of respectful behavior led by our president, who is a very poor role model for our nation’s children. Although I do not agree with many of Amash’s libertarian views, I commend him for his courage and decency while Trump continues to normalize disrespectful behaviors such as cyberbullying, constant lies, bigotry, corruption, mistreatment of allies and denouncing the free press.
Supporters of the president need to follow Amash’s courageous example and wake up to the big picture of our nation’s moral decline, including the abdication of leadership for the free world and the long-term harmful effects on the Republican Party.
Sandra Olkon, Golden Valley