Don't blame religion; blame policy, tyranny

It's difficult to know how to respond to the Oct. 4 Letter of the Day ("Let's admit the underlying factor that motivates terrorism." If one denies that some "bright, motivated and successful" young Muslims are turning to violence, it would be a lie. If one suggests that this behavior may be the result not of religion, as our letter writer declares, but of a foreign policy that has run amok, one is called unpatriotic — at best.

President Obama is continuing and finessing the Bush doctrine, as in "we can and will do anything for resources, anywhere in the world." I sympathize with Muslim Americans. We've imploded the Middle East with our endless, quasi-legal actions. And I believe that Islam is, at heart, a religion of peace.

GRACE HEITKAMP, Lonsdale, Minn.

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It is not uncommon for tyrants to invoke terrorism. Machiavelli told us that power comes from fear, which is invoked from terror. When Moses killed 200,000 Canaanites and stole their gold, silver, livestock and young women, he professed that God told him to do it. Moses co-opted his religion to advance personal gains. When the emperor Constantine conquered the Byzantine empire, and switched Byzantium to Constantinople, he co-opted Christianity to get a city named for himself. All under the banner of the cross.

We see the same thing in our own country. The Ku Klux Klan invokes protestant Christianity, places crosses on sheets and burns crosses to frighten minorities. It co-opts Christianity to further its own bigoted goals.

We even have a recent president who implied that God told him to bomb a certain country.

When Pope Innocent III encouraged the Crusades and the Inquisition, he co-opted Christianity. Under the guise of religion, extreme cruelty was performed.

When Osama bin Laden flew airplanes into our buildings, he co-opted Allah to warrant his terror.

Please do not blame religious ideology for the acts listed above. When we execute someone in an electric chair, we do not blame Edison.

Michael D. Hoy, Excelsior


Focus on the kids, and on supportive housing

As the CEO of People Serving People — the region's largest and most comprehensive family focused homeless shelter — I see the current trends regarding homelessness first hand every day ("More are homeless, despite the recovery," editorial, Oct. 9). Ten percent of Minneapolis public school students are considered homeless or highly mobile. While largely invisible to many of us, homeless children with families represent the fastest-growing homeless trend in the state. If we're going to get serious about ending the cycle, we have to focus on the kids.

Last year, more than 2,000 homeless children stayed at People Serving People — an increase over the previous year, and a trend that we continue to see today. While single men are the most visible reminder to us of a growing homeless population, if you really want to see the new face of homelessness, it's that of a 6-year-old staying at People Serving People and attending a Minneapolis public school with your kids every day.

DANIEL GUMNIT, Minneapolis

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Investment in supportive housing is one part of the answer to the problem introduced in the editorial. I recently had the opportunity to tour Touchstone Supportive Housing and Wellness Center, a new affordable housing development by Project for Pride in Living and Touchstone Mental Health in Minneapolis. This building was designed for adults with serious and persistent mental illness, and it is one piece of the puzzle that addresses the increase of those who are experiencing both homelessness and mental illness. As mentioned in the editorial, 60 percent of the long-term homeless population suffers from a mental illness.

Designed based on research of the role that the built environment has on ameliorating the effects of mental illness, Touchstone provides permanent housing and community mental-health services. This is an innovative approach to housing the mentally ill and can serve as a national model. Investment can lead to improvement.

JIM ROTH, Minneapolis

The writer is executive director of the Metro Consortium of Community Developers.


Use the right numbers, and you'll understand

Andy Brehm got a lot wrong in his Oct. 7 sugar policy article.

He said that U.S. sugar prices are 62 to 94 percent higher than elsewhere. Wrong. Subsidized foreign sugar currently costs 22 cents per pound and U.S. sugar about 25 cents, according to USDA data. Factor in transportation, and imported sugar costs 3 cents per pound more than U.S. sugar.

He criticized American Crystal Sugar Co. for deciding to "default on a $71 million government loan." Wrong. American Crystal satisfied its loan with $25 million in cash and $46 million in collateral. That's not a default. A default is walking away from a loan without any repayment and pocketing the proceeds. Ironically, that's exactly the kind of subsidy scheme many foreign countries use to undercut U.S. prices and threaten U.S. jobs.

Speaking of jobs, Brehm said that sugar policy kills food-manufacturing jobs. Wrong. According to official U.S. government data, employment among sugar-using food companies grew throughout the recession.

America has 142,000 sugar jobs (not 61,000, as Brehm stated), and every one of them is worth saving from foreign subsidies. That is why Congress supports U.S. sugar policy.


The writer is executive director of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association.