LETTERS IN THE EDITOR'S MAILBAG.
U.S. conservatives act like Putin
David Brooks' March 5 column had some interesting points about Russian President Vladimir Putin ("Putin's actions reflect nationalistic zealotry").
Two of the ideas that are supposed to inform Putin's political philosophy are "Russian exceptionalism" and "devotion to the Orthodox faith." Substitute "American" for "Russian" and a generic "Christian" for "Orthodox" and you'd have two of the key concepts for conservative rhetoric in the United States.
Loss of devotion to God and Christianity is supposed to have rendered the human race, in the Russian nationalist philosophers' view, "morally blinded, gripped by materialism, irrationalism, and nihilism." I couldn't count the number of times I've read that sentiment in The Register-Guard's mailbag.
When I was young, conservatives used to tell protesters to go to Russia if they didn't like it here. I won't be uncharitable enough to offer them that advice now, but I can almost envision a day when American conservatives, fed up with gay marriage and pussyfooting presidents, would take refuge in Putin's Russia.
However, another outcome is just as likely - a future American government, gripped by the same "quasi-religious nationalism" that Brooks sees in Putin, growling back at Russia, macho American messianism face-to-face with macho Russian messianism, nuclear cannons loose on the deck.
Reach out and help the uninsured
There are many people in our community who've never had health insurance and are uncertain about how to apply for the policies available on the Cover Oregon website.
If those people don't apply soon they may miss out on the possibility of securing affordable health insurance and may be subject to a penalty.
I encourage those in our community who've had experience with health insurance to reach out and help people working at fast food restaurants, department stores and other places that don't provide affordable health insurance coverage.
Let them know they can get help applying from community partner agencies and certified insurance agents and brokers. Lists of those trained helpers can be found on the CoverOregon.com website.
Too-expensive tickets reduce sales
Woody Woodmark's March 10 letter was dead-on about the horrific prices for tickets to see a couple of music has-beens.
Don't get me wrong, Carlos Santana is one of the top five guitarists of all time and can still play with the best of them. But I was never a fan of Rod Stewart's style.
It will be interesting to see how many concert seats are actually sold at that price. I believe the ticket prices will either be reduced or the July 31 show canceled.
The Hult Center was supposed to be self-supporting but never has been. It often cuts its ticket prices in half because of poor sales.
Matthew Knight Arena could be headed in the same direction. Time will tell.
Stories ignore accused's other side
The Register-Guard's coverage of the indictment of Gerald Strebendt painted an ominous picture - a "mixed martial arts fighter," a "former Marine Corps sniper" and a man with "a recent history of bad driving with $580 in fines since July 2012."
Fair enough. Strebendt is a former professional athlete and served in the military. He's probably had a traffic citation or two. But why stop there? Let's give readers their money's worth.
Strebendt served God and his country in Afghanistan on two different tours. On numerous occasions, using his own money, he bought toys in the states, shipped them to Afghanistan, then gave the toys to Afghan orphans simply to see the joy on their faces.
He also went out of his way to give bottled water, considered a luxury, to Afghan elders as a display of respect for them and their culture.
Closer to home, let's not forget that Strebendt often gave high school students an opportunity to train at his facility at reduced rates, and often at no cost. He understood the need for young people to be involved in something that requires commitment and self-discipline.
The number of times Strebendt cut and delivered firewood to elderly friends and relatives are too many to count.
True, none of that makes him innocent or guilty. It does, however, show another side of the man, a side The Register-Guard doesn't seem to consider newsworthy.
DAVID W. KING
Don't use religion to discriminate
It occurs to me that our nation is moving away from one of our founding principles: Liberty and justice for all.
When I was growing up the principle of personal freedom was basically that my freedom to swing my fist ended at the tip of the other person's nose - that is, we each have the freedom to do as we please as long as we don't infringe on others' freedom.
Over the past decade or so, members of the conservative religious right (in particular) have seemed to have taken the position that their freedoms are more important than those of other Americans.
We often hear members of that community complaining that "Christians are the most persecuted minority in America." What nonsense. As Timothy Egan pointed out in his March 9 column ("Arizona dodges bad precedent"), there's a significant difference between religious freedoms and secular freedoms.
I have no problem with anybody believing being gay is a sin - I disagree with it, but I have no problem with it. However, that belief shouldn't preclude a business from offering to the gay community services it offers to the rest of the public. That's discrimination, and it's against the law.
If Arizona's religious liberty bill were allowed to stand, why wouldn't it be OK for Christians with "firmly held beliefs" to refuse service to Jews, or Muslims, or blacks, or Catholics - or vice versa, for that matter?
The beauty of the American way of life is that we're better than that.
Study science of global warming
I continue to be appalled by those who assert that climate change is no big deal. Countries on low-lying islands in the Pacific are losing land to rising water (Business Insider, "11 islands that will vanish when sea levels rise," Oct. 12, 2012). Their populations are unavoidably mindful of climate change.
Scientists who pooh-pooh climate change remind me of those who worked for the tobacco industry and denied a link between tobacco and illness.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that we are in the midst of very rapid global warming. In addition, warming is accelerating because of feedback effects. For instance, as polar ice melts, more heat is absorbed because dark ground and dark ocean water absorb heat much better than ice or snow. Similarly, the melting permafrost releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
For those who listen to reason, the U.S. National Academy of Science and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, which is the world's oldest state-chartered scientific society, have jointly produced a list of frequently asked questions about climate change. A link is available at royalsociety.org/policy/projects/climate-evidence-causes/.
The FAQ answers questions such as: How do scientists know recent climate change is largely caused by human activities? Does the recent slowdown of warming mean climate change is no longer happening? How confident are scientists that the Earth will warm further over the coming century? Are climate changes of a few degrees a cause for concern?