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Re: Thompson, Matamoros: There's a link (Aug. 9). Don Marks offers a simplistic analysis of the problems facing places like Matamoros, Mexico. The drug trade does not originate in Mexico. It largely originates in South America and Mexico is the transition country through which much of it passes into the U.S. and Canada.
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The Mexican cartels are brutal, but generally leave gringos alone. It is the Mexican people who bear the brunt of their brutality. By clamping down on drugs and deporting Mexicans, the United States (and Canada) have ensured the burden of the war on drugs falls mainly on people no one cares about. It is the people in small villages in Chihuahua state who disappear, never to be seen again. They subsist on beans and corn, and if they can afford to buy other food, finding it is difficult, as safety conditions have curtailed the transport of goods.
Neither is the drug trade the only reason Matamoros has changed in 50 years. Poverty in other regions of Mexico has forced many of the men to migrate to places like Matamoros, where they can work in the U.S. I have been to towns where there were no men left in the villages because they had all gone to work in the U.S. Since 2008, many have returned home, but poverty is still a huge factor in parts of Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement also ensured border towns would grow, as goods can be made cheaper in Mexico and shipped to wealthy Canadians.
Marks' cheap chess set was probably made in a small shop where there was no safety equipment -- onyx dust in the lungs is not a good thing. Marks may not have been wealthy, but he was taking advantage of people who were even worse off. Of course they were friendly -- they had to make a living somehow. And many of those gringos treat Mexican citizens poorly, a fact not lost on the population.
I also object to his cheap stereotypical rhetoric -- "dropping like hot sauce off a taco." He is aware how such racial slurs have the effect of minimizing an issue. I suspect he would find a comment like Indian Posse members are dropping like crumbs off bannock to be insensitive at best, racist at worst. Legalizing drugs is a good first step in changing conditions in Mexico. Just don't expect it to change Matamoros back to the fantasy land of the past.
From Russia without love
In response to Gary Lawless's column NHLers must take stand on gay rights (Aug. 8), I believe the law does not prevent homosexuality as much as it prevents the proselytization of it.
Maybe the Russians imposed this law to prevent gays from bringing violence upon themselves when they hold parades in public that infuriate the anti-gay population.
Gary attempts to compare the rights of blacks and Jews to the rights of gays. These are vastly different, as blacks and Jews are races and there is no room for debate or opinion on whether people choose to be a part of this group or not, because they are born into it. There is still much debate over whether being gay is a chosen lifestyle or whether this behaviour results from a gene people are born with.
Many people still consider the gay lifestyle a moral issue, regardless of whether being gay is a choice or not. Isn't it ironic that the "evil Russians" take a similar position on this moral issue as Christians? But western society takes a contrary side, even though western society was built on Christian values.
Human rights should not mean people can behave anyway they want and the rest of society accepts their behaviour as normal. Is it not possible to respect a gay person without condoning or accepting their lifestyle?
Muslim bigotry a problem
Re: The West is a disgrace (Letters, Aug. 8). Margaret Maier's recitation of apparent Muslim benevolence to Jews is highly selective. Jews have been persecuted by Muslims since at least the 12th century, when they were subjected to massacres and forced conversions. Prior to and during the Second World War, many in the Arab world supported Nazi Germany, and Jews were victims of violent pogroms. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Iraqi prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, actively collaborated with Hitler.
In 1948, immediately after Israel was proclaimed a state, it was attacked by five of its Muslim neighbours. It is estimated that between 800,000 and one million Jews have fled or been expelled from Arab countries where they faced seizure of property, revocation of citizenship and other forms of persecution. Today, some of the most virulent anti-Semitism, including the blood libels which Maier attributes only to Christians, exists on a mass scale in Muslim countries.
Maier asks, "Why won't Israel let the Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza live normal, happy lives?" She ought to ask why many Muslims in the West Bank, Gaza and throughout the world won't recognize the Jewish state's legitimacy and coexist peacefully with the Jews of Israel and the world.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East is a complicated and volatile problem that seems to be unresolvable, so I choose to support neither side but rather attempt to grasp the pros and cons of both points of view. Margaret Maier's search for a rose-coloured-glasses resolution to this problem is both naØve and narrow-minded and does not attempt to explain the complexity of this crisis.
Maier cannot "understand Canada's and the West's attitude toward Palestine and some Muslim countries," as if most people are hostile to their cause, but the contrary is true. The Palestinians and their Muslim supporters have very cleverly won the public-relations war among most western countries. She uses the word Palestine as if it was once a country when it was never an Arab identity, but in fact nothing but a stagnant and barren tract of land until it became what is now Israel.
Maier should also delve into the way Palestinians were and continue to be treated by other Muslim countries, such as Syria and Jordan, where human rights of refugees are continually violated and they are treated like second-class citizens. The only Arab statesman, Egypt's Anwar Sadat, who recognized that peace with Israel was a step forward to resolving this problem, was assassinated by Islamist fundamentalist army officers in 1981. No Muslim countries are pro-Palestinian; they are anti-Israeli.
I take great offence that Maier states that the "Christian West... is a disgrace to the world." The so-called Christian West has embraced Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and every other religious sect known to man, which is more than one can say about most Muslim countries that not only ban but consider it blasphemy to practise any other religion but Islam.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 A14
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