Always the 'other'
Re Anti-Semitism Increases With Israel-Gaza War (Aug. 4): Muslim vs. Jew, Hindu vs. Muslim, Muslim vs. Christian, Shiite vs. Sunni, Protestant vs. Catholic. Religion continues to work its magic.
Tim Jeffery, Toronto
Maybe The Globe is right in urging Canada to become more involved in trying to end the chaos in Libya (Stories Of Democratic Promise, Failure – editorial, Aug. 4). Goodness knows, we did more than our share to create it through our lead role in delivering destruction and death to that poor land. But should we not also be asking hard questions about why we supported the NATO attack on Libya in the first place?
Canada's foreign policy elites, political and intellectual, seem to have been suckered in by the same combination of reckless ignorance and naive do-goodism that generally infected the West during the euphoria of the Arab Spring. Why is there not more careful and critical thought and debate about foreign affairs in this country?
Michael Bliss, Toronto
Re Don't Look To Harper As Mediator In Crises (Aug. 4): Do we want a Prime Minister who rides the fence so that he can be an "honest broker"? Stephen Harper has been far more consistent on world affairs than Barack Obama.
We want leaders who can think and explain positions; we are not building "hopeful mediators."
Dean Dewey, Collingwood, Ont.
Sex isn't gender
Re The March Of Transgender Rights (Aug. 2): The first thing we discuss in my courses on Gender and Sexuality is the difference between sex and gender. The conflation is not, as Margaret Wente suggests, between gender and sexual orientation, but between sex and gender. Biological sex can usually be determined by investigating a series of physical facts such as genitals, hormones and internal organs, and the result is that one is designated male or female. (This is not always decisive – just ask the IOC.)
Gender is the expression of various social characteristics typically associated with femininity or masculinity, and results in being categorized, usually by others, as a man or woman. We all know females who are quite masculine and vice versa. Transgender people need to go further and decide that they are women or men independent of being female or male. They know they are what they are as surely as Ms. Wente knows she is a woman.
Children aren't given hormones before puberty, then only blockers to prevent the onset of secondary sex characteristics to eliminate the later need for lengthy, painful changes such as mastectomy. Only if the trans drive persists will further steps be taken; by then the youth is well able to undertake his or her own decisions.
The suicide-attempt rate among supported trans children is the same as among children generally. Unsupported trans children, however, have a suicide-attempt rate of roughly 90 per cent.
Michael A. Gilbert, professor of philosophy, York University
Re The Road To Gaza, And After (editorial, Aug. 2): There can be no question that Israel has the right and the responsibility to respond forcefully to Hamas's rockets and the dangers posed by its tunnels. But how forcefully and exactly where are legitimate questions, given the enormous loss of civilian lives.
Just because some military actions may well be defensible does not necessarily make them wise if one considers what the future could look like. I am a lifelong Zionist – on the dovish side – and know too well none of this lends itself to easy answers. But we can't give up hope and compassion.
Simon Rosenblum, Toronto
Israeli settlements on the West Bank have shrunk the land available for a Palestinian state into a spaghetti-bowl-like, rump territory with a geographical nightmare of irregular boundaries. More than four million people live in the Palestinian territories in an area not much larger than Prince Edward Island (pop. 146,000). Israeli pre-emption of West Bank land and scarce water resources is sabotaging a two-state solution.
Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people and should remain so. Tragically, meanwhile, the colonizing of the West Bank is creating a one-state Greater Israel, de facto if not yet de jure.
Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ont.
Scots are not "hot-headed separatists [who] want to carve out a new country from the motherland" (The Scots Are Treading Water On North Sea Oil – Report on Business, Aug. 2).
The referendum question isn't "Should we separate from the bloody English?" but simply, "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
With decreasing production, North Sea oil isn't a major incentive to Yes voters whose desire is to regain the freedom and national identity lost by the 1707 union, and to manage – for better or for worse – their own affairs.
Sheila M. Watt, Guelph, Ont.
Lest we forget?
Back To The Future (Focus, Aug. 2): Lest we forget? We forgot long ago. The end came when Canada went from being peacekeepers to world warriors, when sharing personal and private remembrances became political and commercial pantomimes.
The final indignity was allowing members of the armed services to kill themselves for whatever reason the government of Canada uses to justify its ineptitude in providing adequate help.
Lest we forget? Right. Just another slogan, and now a political one at that.
Robert Chornenki, Grand Forks, B.C.
The First World War was entered into by irresponsible and incompetent politicians, and fought with astonishing ineptitude by the generals on all sides.
Year after year, legions of young men were committed to attacks which were quite obviously futile, yet they continued until 16 million were dead, and to what purpose? The results of this war were almost entirely negative, and so far-reaching we are still dealing with them today.
It has been said that an event is not history until all those who participated in it are dead. That is now the case with regard to the First World War, so it should be possible, without denigrating the courage and sacrifices of those who fought, to recognize it as the boondoggle that it was.
James A. Duthie, Nanaimo, B.C.
About those details
Re Ontario Reaches Tentative Agreement With Its White-Collar Civil Servants' Union (Aug. 4): Although no details are forthcoming, we read that Treasury Board President Deb Matthews has called her government's new deal with the province's second-biggest union "fair and responsible."
Translation: "The terms of the agreement will not be released pending notification of the next of kin of the taxpayers!"
Paul Bond, Toronto