MAIL BAG

July 28 2008

MAIL BAG

July 28 2008

MAIL BAG

WEALTHIER, BUT WISE?

SO WE ARE finally doing better than the U.S. in many areas that reflect the quality of our lives (“How Canada stole the American dream,” Society, July 7). Your stories on the differences between us in terms of marriage, health, crimes, sex and travel were all feel-good reads, but are you not setting the bar very low? For years, Canada had an enviable reputation for its peacekeepers. We now rank 33 out of 40 countries for contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. We are a very rich and blessed country, but remember our promise in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000? Nineteen years later, we still rank a very low No. 23 out of 27 industrialized nations. We rank 25 out of 30 nations in social spending as a percentage of GNP. And what about education spending? Pollution reduction? The selling out of Canadian companies? Come the next election, let’s insist on much higher goals for Canada.

Richard Ring, Grimsby, Ont.

IT WAS WITH great interest that I read your articles about Canadians and Americans, and I can’t say that Fm really surprised by the conclusions. I lived in the U.S. for a time, but decided it was not for me and moved back to Switzerland. When I was asked why I was resigning, I told my employers it was because of the quality of life. They were shocked and replied that they couldn’t offer me a raise. I laughed and told them I wasn’t talking about money. This is the point. Most Americans don’t have a clue what qualify of life really means. Steve Jordi, Prangins, Switzerland

IT IS REGRETFUL, unfortunate and sad that a country with such unique potential as Canada can define itself only in the context of not being American, or being better than Americans. Given Canada’s natural resources, good infrastructure, stable government and ability to bring in high-quality people through immigration, it may be time to look ahead and aim to become not only a distinct society, but a distinguished one as well.

Dr. Kristi Karambolova, Toronto

THERE IS ONE simple reason why the U.S. has us beat when it comes to violent crimes. It is because it has more lawless thugs willing to do anything for a dollar, even kill someone. Remove the criminals from the equa-

Gen. Natynczyk thinks road workers won’t take money from the Taliban? Naive.’

tion and you will end up with places like Switzerland that have more guns, nicer cars and less crime then Canada.

Michel Trahan, Verdun, Que.

TO PROCLAIM SO boldly that more ownership of firearms means more violent and illegal use of them is to either ignore reality or to fail to properly analyze the available information. I would normally say that the availability of firearms has zero effect on so-called gun crimes,

but there is a verifiable effect. That effect is a reduction in violent crime in places that allow the legal carrying of firearms by the law-abiding. If the author, Ken MacQueen, took the time to do more research, he might start to question his obvious anti-firearm bias. By the way, one of the sources he uses for this story, the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, is most notably cited as an independent and quotable resource by many gun control advocates.

Chris Potts, Ottawa

WHY CAN’T CANADIANS just make peace with the simple fact that we’re more or less the same as Americans? Only a country like Canada would have to justify its nationalism with statistics about things like teen pregnancies and vacation days.

J.J. McCullough, Coquitlam, B.C.

HAIL TO THE NEW CHIEF

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI certainly asked all the right questions in his interesting Q & A

with the new chief of the defence staff, Gen. Walter Natynczyk (Interview, July 7). I now feel I know the direction in which Natynczyk is heading. I am very proud of our soldiers and what they are doing in Afghanistan. I think we need to support our troops in any way we can—while they are in Afghanistan and when they come home.

Susan Apro, Hamilton

IN YOUR INTERVIEW with Gen. Natynczyk, he says that the 350 to 400 people working on a road in southern Afghanistan are bringing home a paycheque and that this will stop them from taking payment from the Taliban to shoot Canadian soldiers. How naive. This just shows how little he understands most of the Afghan people, or the Taliban, for that matter. A paycheque certainly wasn’t enough to stop the 9/11 hijackers. This whole struggle goes a lot deeper and political and military leaders need to wake up.

Russ Blakely, Pickering, Ont.

ON TO ZIMBABWE

YOU MENTION “building a self-sufficient Afghanistan” (“A country to be proud of, and thankful for,” From the editors, July 7). Do you really think there is one single Canadian who cares about this objective? Afghanistan is nothing more than warlords exporting drugs to the rest of the world. Our soldiers are being shot up for this? This mission is nothing more than a suck-up job to the Americans and Maclean’s editors should acknowledge this. If Canada wants to do something real, why don’t we parachute a couple of thousand soldiers into Zimbabwe and clean that hellhole out? Forget Americanistan.

Brian J. McDonough, Toronto

fA GRUESOME FEMALE’

WHEN PEOPLE like Canadian right-wing pundit Rachel Marsden look back at their lives, what do they see (“Agent provocateur,” Profile, July 7)? Do they see a life well-lived, or just a tangle of malice and spite? All across this land there are people who live mostly humble lives, unremarked upon except by the few they have touched. They go about their days trying to do all the good they can by any means they can. Sometimes this is just by being the best wife and mother they know how (an aim that no doubt would elicit whoops of derision from Marsden). Sometimes these people are written up—after their deaths—in The End. So, thank you for your piece on Marsden; in a way, it is a tribute to all honest, decent people, dead or alive. Rosemary Keelan, Delta, B.C.

FOUR PAGES on Rachel Marsden? Apart from self-promotion and idiocy, her contribution to Canadian life is nil. She is a gruesome female and should be happily and totally ignored. Mike Jekyll, North Vancouver

OH, DEAR GOD

SURELY POLITICIANS could have thought of a better solution to updating the daily ritual of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at Queen’s Park than rotating in a second prayer from one of nine different faiths (“Praise God, or Mother Earth, or holy dude, or whoozit,” Opinion, July 7). I would suggest that two minutes of silence to start the day would allow any religious group to think its own thoughts or say its own prayers without uttering a word, which is the best thing I can think of for a bunch of politicians.

Ralph Meyer, Sechelt, B.C.

ANDREW POTTER is correct that the Ontario legislature is a place for state business, not the imposition of prayer on an increasingly irreligious society. State endorsement for specific religious practices ended decades ago in our schools for all the right reasons. Yet in 2008, why didn’t a single MPP vote for the separation of church from state? I accept that many theists don’t understand (or don’t want to acknowledge) that secularism is the most important freedom that

we have, and that our other freedoms have either been derived from secularism or allowed to flourish because of it. Those MPPs who know that prayer is pointless should be ashamed of themselves for voting to retain it. For our provincial legislators to lack such an understanding of the importance of secularism is a threat to both our parliamentary democracy and our free society. Religious belief or non-belief is a private matter that should not be wasting the time of our elected officials.

Drew Shaw, Duncan, B.C.

ANDREW POTTER DECRIES the rotation of prayers in the provincial legislature of our pluralistic society. His pluralism would exclude religion altogether, an aspect of life that our multicultural Ontario should get used to since most of the people who wish to migrate here bring a strong faith tradition with them. Perhaps he’s never heard of ecumenism, which encourages just the kind of prayerful exchange that the premier has promoted. Our elected officials can begin to bridge the culture gap by reflecting upon one of the deepest-held displays of any culture, which answers the question, “How do you pray?” Spirituality is a part of Ontario, enriching the character of service to the community and elevating the bar by beseeching our leaders to bow their heads and remember that the power they have won is highly temporary, gloriously superseded by a power to whom all are supplicant. Potter’s opinion piece is that sort of paperthin soapbox from which we hear too much nowadays.

IN PASSING

Michael DeBakey, 99, cardiovascular surgeon. He pioneered cardiac bypass surgery half a century ago, which has become a routine life-saving procedure. The Houston doctor was said to have performed 60,000 heart operations, including on Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. In 1932, he invented the roller pump, a component in heart-lung machines used during cardiac surgery.

Tony Snow, 53, press officer. As press secretary in the administration of George W. Bush, he served only 17 months, succeeding Scott McClellan, before succumbing to colon cancer. During his career he also appeared on Fox News as a conservative commentator and host.

‘To a guy nearing 50, there’s no question about the real Batman. And he wasn’t silly.’

Paul Newland, Comparative Religions Teacher, Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board, Mississauga, Ont.

AS PASTOR of a mainline Christian denomination, I found Andrew Potter’s piece was spoton when it comes to what passes for religion in the public sphere in our country. The fact is that the McGuinty government has once again proven Lord Acton’s famous dictum, “Beware that in trying to please everyone, you may in fact please no one.”

Rev. Steve Boros, Barrie, Ont.

HEART STOPPER

ARRHYTHMOGENIC right ventricular cardiomyopathy, which was highlighted in your story on congenital heart disease (CHD), is but one of many CHD conditions (“When the rhythm goes wrong,” Health, July 7). CHD is the world’s leading cause of birth defects: there are over 180,000 Canadians with CHD, and at least 12 children are born with it every day in Canada. One of the greatest successes of modern medicine is that of pediatric cardiovascular surgery. In the 1950s, only two per cent of children with CHD were expected to survive into adulthood. Now the chances of survival are 95 per cent. However, one surgery is not a cure for life. Most patients require annual monitoring and multiple surgeries throughout their lives. The lack of funding for clinics and the very

specialized training of professionals treating adults with CHD is causing long wait times for surgeries and an almost intolerable strain on patients and doctors.

Over the years, millions of dollars have been spent on research, treatment, and prevention of acquired heart disease and almost no funds have been forthcoming to assist those with or working with CHD. I am encouraged that the Heart and Stroke Foundation has recently recognized the seriousness of the problem and hopefully government will follow suit. With this recognition it is hoped that the mortality rate of all patients with CHD will eventually decrease.

John A MacEachem, President, Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance, Oakville, Ont.

PEAK OIL’S PEAK HOUR

STEVE MAICH WRITES of the recurrent theme of politicians blaming speculation for the rapidly increasing price of oil (“Why oil speculators are your friend,” Business, July 7). I was reminded of another recurrent theme, that involving the collective amnesia of market analysts and the media. Haven’t we seen this before with the dot-com bubble and others? A rapid rise in a market, followed by commentators speaking of a “new normal,” “growth over profits,” or whatever other neologism they can use in an attempt to rationalize the irrational. Today, we hear of “peak oil” and the “fear premium” to explain a near doubling of the price of oil in a year. The only “fear premium” for these speculators is in getting their money out before the inevitable crash.

Peter Sutherland, Montreal

BAM! POW! ZOWIE!

I DON’T KNOW how old your writer Jaime J. Weinman is, but to a guy who is approaching 50, there is no question about the real Batman (“Holy identity crisis, Batman,” Film, July 2l). Back in 1966, to copy our heroes in the Batman TV series and the movie that followed it, my younger brother and I would each grab a towel, tie it around our necks, and run around the backyard fighting crime for hours. Jumping off the fence and out of the tree in the yard, we battled more criminals than all of the superheroes combined. Then, we would get on our bikes (our own private Batmobiles) and fly around the neighbourhood looking for more potential crim-

inals to apprehend. What put us over the edge was the spectacular summer day we stumbled upon the Batmobile, the Batcopter and the Batboat in a parking lot while on a drive with our grandfather. They were all on the way to Toronto on a publicity tour for the movie and we were allowed to sit in each vehicle. By the way, the characters of that age were not crazy or silly.

Farley Donsky, Thornhill, Ont.