Two articles juxtaposed on the Nov. 22 front page were ironically related: "Afghan family ready for new life" and "Study shows more in U.S. rule out children."
There is concern by "the experts" about the declining U.S. birthrate, which they claim may not fuel enough population growth to keep the future economy and social programs afloat.
Yet, our world is already suffering from too many — 7.8 billion, increasing at the rate of 9,000 per hour. This fuels deforestation, drought and dwindling water supplies, which play a significant role in political unrest and desperate mass migrations.
Note that the featured Afghan family has arrived in the U.S. with six children, all of whom will contribute to our economy. Perhaps they will fulfill their mother's hopes for them as nurses, doctors and teachers.
There is hope in looking at the concern for our dwindling birthrate from a global — not just a U.S. — perspective.
Roberta Merryman, St. Louis Park
CRITICAL RACE THEORY
Disparate views, but a whiff of common understanding
Like many readers, I have been following the Pearlstein/Nimtz debate over the last week, including the input from fans of one or the other of these men. This morning I decided to go back and take a closer look at their original essays from Nov. 13 and 18. To my surprise, I found some common ground.
Pearlstein ("Making sense of the debates over CRT and 'systemic racism' ") writes: "After centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, redlining and the rest, it's obviously true that racism remains 'systemic' at some level. How could it not be? In this sense, CRT advocates are right, again at some level."
From Nimtz ("The real flaw in CRT: It's not revolutionary enough"), we read, "In good capitalist fashion, there are indeed persons and institutions, as Pearlstein also suggests, who have an investment in focusing exclusively on race. It advances their business model. For that reason, they conveniently ignore facts that challenge their claim that racism is as pervasive today as it was in the 1960s."
So one might reasonably conclude then that these men agree that systemic racism is still with us and is an important factor in ongoing social inequities in the United States. They might disagree on the extent of the problem, but at least they agree on the general terms of the argument. In this age of polarization, we can be thankful for even this little taste of common ground.
Jim Hart, Stillwater
While reading comments about Nimtz and Pearlstein and their opposing views regarding Marxism and capitalism, I was reminded of two books. One is "The New Class," by Yugoslav Milovan Djilas. He observed that under communism, party and state officials formed a class of their own, which used nationalized property to their benefit. In the 1911 book "Political Parties," Robert Michels wrote that the "iron law of oligarchy," is inevitable even within democratic entities. A paradox develops; a leadership class that centralizes power and grabs privileges for itself.
These concepts were expressed more plainly in the following, which came from John Kenneth Galbraith or was a popular saying in the old Soviet Union, or both: "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite."
James M. Dunn, Edina
Whatever the intent, own the risks and consequences
Although the Ohio ministry that sent missionaries and young children into clear and present danger in Haiti may have had good intentions, its decisionmakers actually made some terrible choices, and now we face the dilemma about how much do we, U.S. taxpayers, pay to help rescue those who were kidnapped and threatened with death? Are we obliged to foot the bill for religious pursuits? This saga reminds me of the foolish and costly antics of American billionaire hot-air balloonist Steve Fossett.
In August 1998, Fossett crashed his balloon off the coast of Australia, and it cost $500,000 to rescue him. This was just one of Fossett's series of crashes and misadventures over a few decades that cost several nations a lot of money to haul in one wet and rumpled millionaire. Fossett didn't learn — just a few months later in December 1998, the U.S. Coast Guard spent $130,00 to rescue three balloonists off Hawaii including two multimillionaires — British tycoon Richard Branson, and Steve Fossett. Fossett's noble cause? He wanted to be the first to fly around the world in a balloon. It seems to me that if adventurers are going to accept the accolades of a successful mission, they also should accept the costs and risks of an unsuccessful mission. In Fossett's case, he gets the accolades but taxpayers around the world pay the costs.
Fossett's tale and the American missionaries who were abducted for profit in Haiti have some things in common. Taxpayer resources (in Haiti, the FBI is involved in the missionary rescues, and it is unknown if there are other expenses related to rescue attempts) are spent going after people who knowingly took on a dangerous adventure for reasons of their own. From the point of view of the U.S. government, circumnavigating the world in a balloon should have no more or less value than promoting a specific religion in dangerous circumstances far from home. Maybe Fossett, and the ministry that sent the missionaries, should have had a little more money in the bank to fund a rescue before they went off on their misadventures.
There are many ways we can provide assistance to Haiti, including Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and other worthy rather than foolhardy organizations. The U.S. government should not be in the business of rescuing adventurers or missionaries.
Erica Klein, Richfield
ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE
Don't look to the young. Look in the mirror.
In reference to "Pope to young people: We need you to protect environment" (StarTribune.com, Nov. 21):
On Sunday, November 21, Pope Francis addressed a congregation of "young faithful" while celebrating mass at St. Peter's Basilica. He "praised young people for their efforts to protect the Earth's environment." While reading about this, I thought of Greta Thunberg's speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in which she shamed politicians for their lack of action on climate change: "You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!" I echo her words in response to Pope Francis. How dare you rely on us to inspire "fraternity" and solve the climate crisis, and market it as a brave and "exciting task."
I'm scared for the future. The climate crisis threatens my livelihood and safety. I'm a climate advocate because I have to be, it's no longer a choice. The generation of Pope Francis had a choice to advocate for the planet; it failed. And now, it looks to us.
In his sermon, Francis entirely passed over the fact that his own church contributed to the spread of vague and false information regarding climate change just in recent history. Still today many U.S. Catholics continue to deny or make less of the climate crisis. Further, many U.S. Catholic bishops still fail to answer the call Francis made in "Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home," in which he addressed climate change.
We need to ask more of our leaders. We must demand accountability and follow-through. Because our livelihood depends on it.
Jocie Anderson, Minneapolis
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