MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

February 4 2008
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

February 4 2008

‘I think Barack Obama is the new J.F.K. And as for Hillary; she is the new Richard Nixon.’

MAIL BAG

MORE VOTES FOR OBAMA

IN MY VIEW Senator Barack Obama will be president; that is final (“Obamarama!” World, Jan. 2l). Sure experience matters, but there are young people now trying to decide if any candidate is paying attention to their needs. He is connecting the dots and that is very important.

Anant Nagpur, Ottawa

I’VE SUPPORTED Obama’s candidacy ever since I went out on my 17th birthday and got his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope. I think he’s the newJ.F.K. And Hillary? She’s the new Nixon.

Perry Wall, Oshawa, Ont.

THE U.S. PRIMARIES are in full swing and we have the dramatic spectacle of Hillary Clinton tearing up on cue (“The Crying Game,” From the Editors, Jan. 2l). We can also witness mainstream candidate Barack Obama scaring up huge support among the electorate by pushing a message of change as the ultimate outsider. Welcome to the latest U.S. reality show.

David Maharaj, Etobicoke, Ont.

MACLEAN’S HAS A FLATTERING picture of a smiling Obama on the cover and a very unflattering picture of a misty-eyed Hillary Clinton on the editorial page. If Obama teared up, would he be ridiculed or would he be considered a sensitive guy? And if he fought back, would he be called shrill or strong? I’ve been around for a long time and it saddens me that many people in Iowa—and evidently the press—are still fearful of strong women. Don’t forget who raised you. Chances are it was a strong woman and one of the things she probably taught you is, play fair. Lorraine Williams, Kitchener, Ont.

INTERVIEW NOTES

I TURNED TO Kenneth Whyte’s interview with Ramin Jahanbegloo with interest (Interview, Jan. 2l). This is often one of my favourite sections of the magazine (I loved the Woody Allen interview in the Jan. 14 issue). Jahanbegloo had some interesting things to say, but it is the very end of the interview that I find dismaying in an oddly predictable way. Jahanbegloo says, “The Canadian dream is not an American dream. The Canadian dream is much more cultural, it’s much more about

human rights, it’s much more about the respect of others.” That’s completely off the mark! I was born in Czechoslovakia and came to this country 27 years ago after having lived in Israel, Great Britain and Iceland. For me, the Canadian dream is very similar to the American dream: it’s about liberty and opportunity. I came here and found a country that was free and just, relatively free of corruption, with an excellent standard of living and plenty of opportunity for self-realization. I didn’t seek out Canada because it was more “cultural” or more “about human rights.” That kind of tired cliché may appeal to freshmen

university students, but it doesn’t ring true to me or any other immigrant I know. George Grosman, Toronto

NYET, NEIN, NAH

THE ADVICE OF psychiatrist Nanette Gartrell is disturbing (“For women who can’t just say no,” Help, Jan. 2l). She advises readers to post a set of “ready-made excuses” by the phone to deal with people who need help too often or talk too long. Instead of simply saying, “Please excuse me, I really have to go,” she tells readers to say one of the kids is crying or they’re being paged. This is crazy. If our professionals are telling us to concoct little white lies to make our lives run smoother, then what hope does that leave of facing our fears or having others esteem us as trustworthy? Every lie we tell creates another layer of pretense. And we know it. And it makes us feel even more helpless. I’m glad my mother

taught me it was wrong to lie, not “strategic.” And I’m sure Gartrell won’t mind if I just say “no” to buying her new book.

Dayna E. Mazzuca, Edmonton

DREAMING OF DEMOCRACY

HAVING RECENTLY READ M.G. Vassanji’s powerful novel, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, which is set in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau uprisings, I was eager to see his comments about the country’s failed elections (“Why this sudden interest in Kenya?”, World, Jan. 2l). His reflections are a heartrending cri de coeur for his birthplace. Once again, his deeply felt hopes for Kenya’s long struggle toward democracy and social justice are disappointed. But what also depresses him to the point of seething anger is the global perception that such a failure is all we can expect from the African countries. We deserve his passionate reminder that attitudes of superiority are self-delusional and hypocritical. We have only to look around us. Carol McDermott, Sutton, Ont.

KINDERGARTEN CRISIS

MANY CANADIAN PARENTS feel uneasy about the public school system, but can’t really figure out why (“How to fix boys,” Society, Jan. 2l). Author and research psychologist Leonard Sax provides some shocking answers to their unspoken questions. We know now that the inclination to drop out of school at age 16 can be traced back to the unintentional teaching of attitudes in kindergarten. Is there a teacher-training institution that will take the consequences of these revelations and make some changes to the curriculum? Will our school authorities have the courage to provide kindergarten teachers with crash courses in awareness that they disseminate attitudes when they ask little boys and girls to behave like mini-adults instead of kids? Giselher Weber, Thornton, Ont.

THOSE OF US who have been teaching for a long time know that most fourand fiveyear-old boys are not developmentally ready to sit for long periods of instructional time. Unfortunately, in these times of increased emphasis on Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) test scores, boards have continually lowered the age at which they expect children to be engaged in reading and writing at board-targeted levels. There is no accounting for what is developmentally appropriate anymore. Frantic teachers torn between what they know is right and what is mandated spend great amounts of instructional time trying to get their young children, especially the boys, to focus, sit still and read. We are turning kids off of school in our high-powered, testdriven environments. Where once Ontario was a leader in education reform, now, sadly, all we can do is follow the poor models of other countries.

‘Freedom of speech isn’t something you can give and withhold depending on the topic. The most controversial opinions need the most protection.’

Terri Howell, Utterson, Ont.

PERHAPS IN THE 1950s it would have been appropriate to read tripe that portrayed young boys and girls as different as night and day. Today, I expect better than this blatantly misogynistic article. Our school system is not the true culprit in the so-called boy crisis. The problem is that we are teaching young boys to be disdainful of what is considered girls’ behaviour, and to embrace violence as the ultimate form of masculinity.

Laura Adelman, Waterloo, Ont.

SPEAKING FREELY

I CAN’T BELIEVE I am typing this, but I agree with Barbara Amiel in her column on human rights commissions (“I feel like suing them myself but that’s not the point,” Opinion, Jan. 2l). You’d think that human rights commissions existed to protect the rights of individuals who suffer discrimination; in my experience, they exist to promote and justify themselves, hence the high-profile cases against Amiel and Mark Steyn.

Janet Mar sten, Edinburgh, Scotland

I ENJOY AMIEL’s columns. She does seem to use quotations a lot. Perhaps she might consider the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre.” I rather suppose the admonition applies to the international theatre as well.

Jim Battershill, North Vancouver

AS AMIEL RIGHTLY points out, freedom of speech isn’t something you can give and withhold depending on the topic. In fact, it’s the most controversial opinions that are the most crucial to a liberal democracy and thus need the most protection.

Carolynne Burkholder, Nanaimo, B.C.

XENOPHOBIA IN PRINT

I AM DISGUSTED by the choices of your editors in highlighting the article about the acts of violence and intimidation used by the anglophone majority against the francophone mayor and councillors in the town of Bury, Que. (“Fire in the mountains,” National, Jan. 2l). Mayor Marc Jacques Gosselin has cer-

tainly been confrontational and used less than appropriate language, which in no way justifies the violence and intimidation that has occurred. However, the only xenophobia I can see was demonstrated in your table of contents, where you called the article “More Quebec Bigotry.”

Eric Grenier, Gatineau, Que.

AS A DESCENDANT of pioneer families in the area and as one who has spent most of my summers there, it is very distressing to see Bury brought to national attention for its current discord rather than, say, its sterling record in the Second World War, for which it had the highest per capita enlistment in Canada. Most long-term residents of the area would attest that there has always been a good relationship between French and English in the community. My anglophone grandmother and her francophone neighbour up the road communicated in the only way that really matters—lending a hand when it was needed and nodding at each other in lieu of words. Your journalist Martin Patriquin notes that Bury is home to a large number of English-French families; your readers may not realize that one of the more notable English-speaking Bury residents to marry a francophone was Jean Charest’s mother. My mother did the same. The current situation is an aberration that the good citizens of Bury will correct at the next municipal election. In the meantime, the volatile situation is not helped by outsiders who stir the pot to further their own agendas. Just as the commission on reasonable accommodation seemed to attract the lunatic fringe, so, it seems, do Bury town council meetings. Diane Cloutier, Richmond, Ont.

‘I agree Potts is no Pavarotti. Indeed, he is a “bog-standard tenor.” So what?’

BENEFITS OF FEMALE DOCS

THE REMARKS attributed to me in the article entitled “Adding Fuel to the Doctor Crisis” (Health, Jan. 14) might have left readers thinking I was critical of the role of female physicians within our medical system. In fact, the increasing number of female doctors is a positive factor that enhances the quality of our health system. There is data to show that female physicians spend more time with patients, are more compassionate, and are often perceived as more conscientious. In terms of the shortage of doctors, I believe that governments must plan accordingly. The public clearly wants more female doctors, and a consumer-responsive system should respond to that demand. The rise in numbers of female students in medical schools is likely due to the fact that women applicants have superior academic and other desired credentials. I would never argue that quantity should replace quality. My own wife is a family physician, who had a full obstetric practice, and worked over 55 hours a week. I thought she was the best family physician in the world, an opinion shared by her patients. We need more like her.

Dr. Brian Day, President, CMA, Ottawa

MR. HOCKEY’S STREET FIGHT

CONGRATULATIONS to Charlie Gillis on giving us the full story on the recent Gordie Howe lawsuit against his neighbours in an upscale community near Detroit (“Howe humiliating,” Society, Jan. 14). Gillis’s meticulous piece brought home the realization of how slapdash much of journalism has become. When this story broke, most readers and viewers knew only that some deviant neighbours were “spying” on an elderly hockey legend and his ailing wife for some supposedly sick reason. You have helped to restore the reputation of the Dorfmans. Unfortunately, as

Lionel Dorfman’s Google example painfully illustrates, it’s probably too late.

Jonathon Naylor, Flin Flon, Man.

THE ARTICLE ABOUT Gordie Howe and his neighbours the Dorfmans jolted me back to my own experience with a neighbour from hell, albeit doing something certainly illegal. Some 30 years ago, when my wife and I owned a house in a poor area, we discovered our next-door neighbour was dealing in drugs under the guise of being a part-time motorcycle repair man. Dozens of people would call at the house at all times of the day and night. And just like the Dorfmans, we never knew who we would find either parked in or blocking our driveway. My initial complaint to my neighbour was met with concern, but after that he simply ignored me. When I finally took action by complaining to the police, his response was much the same as Howe’s to Lionel Dorfman: “What the f— is your problem?” I solved my problem by moving. Yet it’s sad that even in an upscale community one is not immune to boorish neighbours. Michael Montcomhroux, Inwood, Man.

THE POTTS PHENOMENON

JAIME J. WEINMAN’S article on YouTube sensation Paul Potts was rather catty (“The man who cowed Simon Cowell,” Music, Jan. 2l). First, the story says that Potts “has exploited the idea that he was kept down by his lack of wealth” and then the sub-heading states that Cowell “is partly to blame for the Paul Potts

phenomenon,” as if somehow he’d inflicted something repellent on an unsuspecting public. I agree Potts is no Pavarotti. Indeed, Weinman quotes music critic Philip Henshaw as saying he is “the sort of bog-standard tenor to be found in any amateur opera company.” So what? Potts was able to accomplish what many seasoned performers fail to do: connect with his audience on a visceral level, ignorant or not of the meaning of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. Give the man his due and don’t blame him for trying.

Patrick Tee, Westmount, Que.

IN PASSING

Heath Ledger, 28, actor. Australianborn, he rose to international fame with A Knight’s Tale in 2001, and it was his portrayal of an inarticulate homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain that earned him a nomination for an Oscar. He fathered a child with his Brokeback co-star, Michelle Williams. Ledger recently played the Joker in the upcoming Batman movie.

Don Wittman, 71, broadcaster. A versatile CBC sports commentator, he covered Grey Cup games, curling Briers, golf tournaments and was at 18 Olympic Games. He began as a disc jockey in Saskatchewan before joining the CBC in 1961 in Winnipeg.