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Flowers, candles and stuffed animals are seen at a makeshift memorial in Newtown, Conn., in what will be a week of memorial services and burials for 20 children and six adults massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (ERIC THAYER/REUTERS)
Flowers, candles and stuffed animals are seen at a makeshift memorial in Newtown, Conn., in what will be a week of memorial services and burials for 20 children and six adults massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (ERIC THAYER/REUTERS)

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Dec. 19: In the crucible of Life in America, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Life in America

Until mental-health services are as readily available to U.S. citizens as guns, there will be no hope for an end to such breathtakingly abominable acts (Kindness And Tears As A Town Begins Saying Goodbye To Its Children – Dec. 18).

Like it or not, such perpetrators, in their massively antisocial and unconscionable actions, are meeting some emotional need. Just how or why this seems to be the case will remain a mystery – with future perpetrators, even as we speak, being developed in the crucible of Life in America.

Al Wilkinson, Burlington, Ont.


In Pygmalion and subseqently My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins states that the Americans have not spoken English for years. By failing to see the difference between “people” as individuals, and “the people” as a collective, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 pro-gun decision proved the professor right. Suffer the little children.

How sad.

Jesse Vorst, Winnipeg


The horror of Sandy Hook obviously demands civic reflection, but antediluvian semantics are hardly helpful.

Biblical concepts of “good” and “evil” provide no insight into the realities of American gun violence and distract from the real-world debate on firearm access and mental-health policies (It’s Human Evil, Not Tragedy – Dec. 18). And yes, this sad and preventable attack can only be called a tragedy.

Michel Lucas, Ottawa


Lawrence Martin (Let The War On Domestic Terrorism Begin – Dec. 18) echoes a familiar theme: that now is the time to act on gun control.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Effective gun control requires carefully targeted measures, not an emotional knee-jerk reaction. Acting while emotions are raw will only result in ill-conceived, ineffective measures that undermine the credibility of gun control overall.

Teri Jane Bryant, Calgary


Margaret Wente is probably right (Mommy’s Got A Glock – Dec. 18): Guns are far too entrenched in American mythology, and the problems that result from their easy availability are too complex to yield to simple (or simplistic) solutions. That said, in my lifetime, evolving attitudes toward cigarette smoking and drunk driving (a source of humour in sitcoms when I was a kid) demonstrate that, when enough of us reach a tipping point, change happens. The question is whether that point has been reached.

If Friday’s events weren’t horrifying enough to initiate a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward firearms, what on Earth will it take?

Michael Lennick, Toronto


Teachers on strike

Historically, unions played an important role in improving conditions for workers, providing a voice for the powerless and contributing to the equalization of wealth distribution in society (As Teachers Strike, Union Warns Of Future Disruptions – Dec. 18).

However, the current labour strife driven by teachers’ unions, and especially by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, does not further these goals. The strikes only serve to polarize the issue and drive citizens into opposite sides of the camp.

It may very well be that the federation will win the battle on the picket line, but will lose the long-term war on bargaining rights. And then, thanks to the federation’s uncompromising stance, we as a society will be worse off.

Michael Drescher, Dundas, Ont.


CPP-policy ghosts

The efforts of the provinces and the federal government to overhaul the Canada Pension Plan have come back to haunt social policy-makers and the Finance Department, like the ghost of Christmas past (CPP Reform Put Back On The Agenda – Dec. 18).

Essentially, there are three viable policy options if the retirement income system, including the Canada Pension Plan, is to deal with the issues of universal coverage, adequate retirement income, and financial solvency.

1) Expand the CPP: The universal CPP would generate a higher level of income for wage earners in retirement, while employees and employers would pay a higher level of contributions to finance those benefits. This is the preferred option among progressive policy-makers.

2) The provinces could, like Quebec, withdraw from the CPP and establish individual provincially-sponsored public pension plans. Ottawa is only the administrator of the national CPP on behalf of the provinces; the provinces are not legally bound to stay within it.

3) The individual provinces, should the political will exist, have the constitutional right to “top up” the existing CPP. If Ottawa is unwilling to expand the CPP, or there is no national consensus, an individual province could create a new retirement income program, or layer, within its own jurisdiction to augment retirement income from the public pension system. This was the route followed by some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, in the early 1980s in an attempt to make pension reform a reality.

Richard Deaton, former assistant director, Pensions Branch, Saskatchewan Labour


No crocodile tears

We all have stories of people running red lights, barrelling through intersections – and not only on bicycles, though I have those stories, too (Hold The Tears – letters, Dec. 11).

We all have stories of pedestrians who, mid block, launch themselves like ships into traffic without a sideways glance, secure the sea will part for them by virtue of nothing more than their sheer arrogance.

I remember one wintry day when (yes, cycling) I had to lock up my brakes because a pair of middle-aged men stepped out in front of me, heads high, gazes fixed on the far side. I wiped out. They didn’t even look at me, though I was virtually at their feet. They just sauntered across the road, monarchs of all they surveyed.

Yet, when I hear of a pedestrian dying, I don’t think of those two, or all the pedestrians like them. I just think that it’s a shame someone’s dead.

So, your letter writer can spare me the self-righteousness.

Tom Sullivan, Toronto


Ambiguity indeed

The essayist helping other women select clothing while waiting to comment on his wife’s outfit (A Man-Child At The Mall – Facts & Arguments, Dec. 11) is in good company. Some years ago, Robin Williams was in our picturesque town for a movie shoot. Graciously, he visited several stores, chatting and signing autographs.

In the women’s lingerie and clothing shop, I watched as a customer exited the change room in a festive and close-fitting top. Playfully, she asked Mr. Williams for his opinion.

Never missing a beat, and with mischievous ambiguity, he opined, “It will make someone very happy.

Jackie Norris, Dundas, Ont.

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