I had a conversation with my friend who hates socialism. He is one of those who idealizes the concept of the go-it-alone rugged individualist. I tried to convince him that society is better when individuals come together as a group to accomplish goals that individuals could not do on their own. I said that at times it might be OK if our government even gave those efforts special tax status and exempted them from normal business rules. That they could engage in employment practices to even out the competition. Even share revenues for others in that industry less fortunate than the most successful among them. He cursed me as a socialist and said I had ruined his life. He is devastated now and today will be sitting alone with nothing to do. I won the argument, but my friend has sworn off professional football for life. As a good socialist, I will be cheering for …

Robert A. Swart, Mankato, Minn.

Most religions have faced similar troubles

"Organized intimidation stifles voices of Islam" (Jan. 25) was a painful read for me and, I suspect, for faithful members of most religions. As a Christian committed to human equity and interfaith dialogue, my heart reaches out to Muslims pressured to avoid challenging patriarchal traditions.

There's a long history of patriarchal domination of Christianity, still very much alive in many structures and practices. My own Episcopal tradition was slow to allow women in key leadership roles. Critical studies suggest that most patriarchal traditions derived from ancient cultural practices rather than from accurate readings of faith scriptures. The more ancient traditions of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, indigenous tribal faiths et al. also have mixed patterns of experience on these issues.

Moreover, extremists in every faith, at different times, have expressed their convictions with deadly violence. The German Nazi Holocaust was a product, in part, of its leaders' readings of Christian tradition.

Islam is six centuries younger than Christianity. It fairly deserves a bit more time to catch up on critical theological analysis of its scripture, ancient texts and traditions. Muslims today face extreme internal struggles and deserve the deepest prayers possible from all people of faith.

Louis Stanley Schoen, St. Louis Park

• • •

Asra Q. Nomani's article said one major thing to me: Here is one gutsy woman. And frankly, it pointed out a real desperate need in this country to speak out when any religious movement is trying to co-opt freedom. I felt it was time somebody says something about a more covert happening in America. The religious right and its lackeys in the GOP continue to foster the myth that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. Bunk!

First, I'd like to ask them to name those values. I guarantee you anything they come up with that found its way into the Constitution was a human value long before the Bible was written and even longer before Jesus came along.

Then, they need to accept the fact that the founders who prevailed in the writing of the Constitution were at best deists, and some borderline atheists. Their careful crafting of this groundbreaking document actually saved the country from Christian fundamentalists.

Third, I would point out that there are provisions in our Constitution that actually conflict with perceived Judeo-Christian values. Example: The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech. That often conflicts with the Third Commandment. And what didn't get into the Constitution? A ban on slavery. (Thanks to a mainly Christian contingent from the Southern states who would have bolted from the proposed union.)

I think the purpose of that First Amendment was also to provide a freedom from religion. Wake up and heed it!

John Roberg, Green Valley, Ariz.

Wool over the eyes, but whose, exactly?

In writing about the militarization of local police and other emergency responders ("A society with a military imprint," Jan. 25), Peter Leschak references our founding fathers' insistence on not having a standing army. They could not have foreseen our modern interconnectedness and the dangers it brings, nor even could Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. But they were all wise. Despite what appear to be grave foreign threats, the greatest threat to a democracy is always a large, professional, standing military-industrial-security complex.

Most Americans complacently believe that "our" military would never overthrow "our" democracy. But what they don't realize is that the coup is taking place right under our noses, even as we speak. It is critical to re-establish civilian control over both the military and the police before it is too late.

John K. Trepp, Minneapolis

• • •

Leschak has such contempt of order, dedication and the respectful use of "sir" because of his very antimilitary opinions. He thinks this is corrupting our civil society.

I have several very antimilitary medical friends who astonishingly are not even aware of the military medical establishment and the incredible medical skills found there. Hatred tends to blind people. It should not be part of the Star Tribune's pages except to expose it as hatred, which this author did not do. Or, was that the editor's intent all along? If so, good job! Fooled me at first.

Mark Nupen, Anoka

Is the GOP doing a bait-and-switch?

It's ironic that Republicans are posing as the saviors of rural Minnesota when they are the architects of much of its problems ("Urban-rural split grows deeper, wider," Jan. 25). While they were in power, time after time, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his Republican cohorts in the Legislature slashed state aid to local governments (LGA). From 2003 to 2010, every budget they proposed included huge cuts to LGA. Marty Seifert, cited in the Jan. 25 article, proposed cutting LGA by $250 million when he was running for governor in 2010. Republicans did the same thing with transportation funding — proposing cuts in every one of their budgets. The Republican House's current budget barely covers maintenance. These local aid cuts hit rural Minnesota particularly hard, but now that their cuts have hollowed out small-town budgets and turned outstate roads into "goat trails," they are posing as the champions of rural Minnesota. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad.

Ken Hayes, Minneapolis