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I've been wrecked by the news from Israel and Gaza, finding multiple sources of news and talking to friends in the know to help me understand this endless conflict. I notice that one thing is conspicuously absent: the presence of women in power. The only women I see are victims, covered in ash, holding babies, weeping. Highly polarized struggles over land, religious beliefs and ethnic identification seem to flare into unsolvable dilemmas in the Middle East, and women are not at the table where decisions get made.

When the world's ancient religions treat women as seconds, perilous temptations, or inferior to men, we're all socialized to believe it. Women are told they have to take a ritual bath after being "unclean" during menstruation, a natural biological function every mammal experiences. Women are told they have to cover their entire bodies, even their faces, to stay modest and not tempt the men around them. Catholic women, this very month, are begging male leadership to at least let them be deacons in the church they so avidly support. Just this year a certain sect of American Christianity made sure to codify its vote against women holding positions of power in church services.

Perhaps the original tenets of the main religions were holy and positive, but the interpretations of ancient scrolls and thousand-year-old oral histories, formulated and enforced by men, have been supremely unkind to women. This has played a particularly nasty role in creating the world we see now, with young male terrorists throughout the world plotting murder and training for acts of barbarism on others. Men seeking vengeance. Men raping and terrifying hostages. Such rage and mayhem almost never stems from women political leaders.

Of course, not all religious people hold extremist views, and I acknowledge that many courageous and empathetic acts have been performed in the name of religion. But when women don't have equal footing in an organization, and are even specifically labeled unworthy, I really have to wonder. Women are half the population and critical in sustaining the human race, but somehow deemed incapable of playing roles equal to men in prayer, sacraments and liturgy. Was this really the intent of an all-knowing creator?

God forbid.

Cheryl Bailey, St. Paul


Fidel Castro, humane? Um ...

History is indeed written by the victors. If you were to believe Prof. August Nimtz's commentary "To defeat injustice follow Mandela's, Castro's example" (Opinion Exchange, Oct. 23), you would be falling for the bogus history written by the victors of the Cuban communist revolution of 1959. Nimtz claims that a hallmark of Castro's rebel army was how it treated captured soldiers "humanely and with dignity." Nothing could be further from the truth. Castro ordered the execution of thousands of soldiers and civilians who opposed his faux freedom and democracy revolution. Castro fooled the Cuban people into believing he would restore democracy in Cuba and had no mercy for any opposition during the war and after. If you want to know the truth about Castro and his brutal revolution, ask a son or daughter of the men and women who were lucky enough to escape the Castro regime. Otherwise, you will only know the tale told by Marxist propagandists like Prof. Nimtz.

Alvaro Giraud, Brooklyn Park


The bar can't go any lower

As a Minnesota taxpayer and voter, I am utterly disgusted with the House Republicans and our Minnesota Republican delegation. Watching the chaos of the House is more like watching the movie "Home Alone" than watching the greatest democracy in the world at work. Yet, this dysfunction and these childish antics should come as no surprise. We are talking about a group laser-focused on government shutdowns, economy-damaging debt defaults and advancing the latest conspiracy-based nutty idea in the form of purported legislation rather than acting as a partner in governing America. These are not serious people but merely petulant children.

Actually, it is worse than that, as a random group of kids can manage to pick a quarterback so they can play the other kids in football on the playground. This, the House Republicans cannot do. Instead of taking responsibility, they try to blame their ineptitude on Democrats. The children of the House seem to be expecting the neighbor kid to clean up the window they broke. This is what comes of not voting, or voting based on knee-jerk reactions, rather than thinking about who will take the job of governing a great nation seriously.

Kelly Dahl, Linden Grove Township, Minn.


I hope that the Democrats in the Minnesota congressional delegation will be the adults in the room and support fellow member Rep. Tom Emmer in his campaign to become the next speaker. We have had our fun, but it is time to restore a functioning (more or less) legislative body.

Hanna Hill, Plymouth


As Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer runs for the speaker of the U.S. House, it would seem appropriate to review Emmer's actions and inactions regarding the 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Even though Emmer acknowledged that President Joe Biden won the election when he voted to certify the election results on Jan. 6, Emmer then signed onto the failed Texas brief in an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Emmer voted against creating the bipartisan commission that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Emmer voted not to impeach President Donald Trump and not hold him accountable for his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Emmer said on Jan. 13, 2021, "This is not the time for this proceeding. The president has indicated there will be a peaceful transition."

Upholding our Constitution and protecting our democracy should be the top priorities of any speaker of the House.

Emmer's actions and words since 2020 suggest he has different priorities.

Michael La Fave, Forest Lake


That the Republican Party of our parents' generation ceases to exist is well-documented and a matter of fact. Nonetheless, there are intelligent GOP members of Congress. Choosing a speaker is clearly part of the sausage-making of government. However, the next speaker (any speaker) cannot and must not be a House member who voted against recognizing the results of the 2020 presidential election. Period. Full stop.

Joseph Nuñez, Mendota Heights


Where are police voices?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the police do not seem to be part of the Third Precinct discussion? Over the course of the past months, I have read numerous articles and seen various television segments regarding the issue of where the new Third Precinct headquarters should be located. I do not recall one instance in which there was a comment by any member of the Minneapolis Police Department. Not the brass; not the union. Shouldn't the people who are charged with the critical responsibility to serve and protect the residents of the Third Precinct at least have a voice in this important discussion? When the 911 calls are made, it won't be the mayor or any members of the City Council who will need to respond.

John Brennan, Plymouth