Coverage of tragedies is always predictable

Cathy Young nailed it when, in her May 15 commentary (“… and outrage over missing girls”), she pointed out that outrage is often selective and gender-biased. Men’s lives are, as Young writes, “disposable.” If you need proof, look at wire-service coverage of the recent mine disasters in Turkey and West Virginia. I’d wager that virtually all of, and maybe literally all of, the dead in those horrific accidents are men — but you won’t find any mention of men in those stories. Generally, the only reference to gender in such instances is women wailing with grief.

Lots of attention has been devoted in recent decades to gender-neutral language, but we haven’t gotten rid of one of the most sexist phrases to ever pass over human lips: “Among the dead were women and children.” When it comes to dying, men are the faceless, the default mode, portrayed not as husbands and fathers and sons and brothers, but as mere numbers.

Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.



Know the full history of Muslim scholarship

In “Why hate education, why hate wonder” (Readers Write, May 12), one letter writer claims it is “profoundly important” to distinguish between how science is taught in the West and “in Islam,” where the laws of nature are nonexistent because “all of this can be explained by the will of Allah, who is active in the tiniest motion to the most gigantic.”

Is the writer really unaware of how scientific thought was preserved in Arabic translations from Greek and other sources, then reintroduced, refined and advanced by Muslim scholars as Islam spread beyond the Middle East and into Spain? Just Google “Islamic science” to discover the lasting impact Muslims had on medicine, mathematics, astronomy and engineering, in addition to contributions to logic, philosophy and music.

Having addressed a cheap shot fired with great imprecision at Islam and Muslims, I have a return volley: How much has “Western” science been advanced by the Christian fringe that insists that creationism needs to be “taught” in our schools and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?

Bob Norberg, Lake City, Minn.



In this climate, they’re a very suitable amenity

I feel compelled to defend our skyways (“Making the Twin Cities a top-notch place,” May 14). Although I agree with much of what urbanism expert Gil Penalosa says, I doubt anyone who actually lives here would say we have “200 wonderful days” and only “15 horrible days.” Our winters are very harsh, and the season can last for seemingly endless months. And let’s not forget about other bad-weather days (rain, high winds, extreme heat and humidity).

Many people commute downtown by foot, and those numbers should grow. The skyways are particularly great for seniors, for the disabled and for people wanting to walk with young children in poor weather. While walking at street level is a far better experience, weather permitting, it is not always an option. Everyone I know uses the skyways regularly, including travelers.

Officials hope more people visit or relocate, but many people find our weather unpleasant. While sorely needing improvements (such as better street access and mapping), the skyways are a valuable amenity about which we should be proud. They also make the Twin Cities unique.

Anna Gillette, Minneapolis



In Grand Rapids, a voluntary reduction

Minneapolis could take a lesson from Grand Rapids on plastic-bag reduction (“Minneapolis hopes to ask: Where has all the trash gone?” May 12). In 2013, Grand Rapids became the first city in the state to begin a campaign promoting reusable bags. Earth Circle of Grand Rapids, a small group of citizens concerned about plastic-bag pollution, decided to do something about it. The City Council endorsed the plan, adding weight to the effort, not by mandating compliance but by simply encouraging citizens to reduce their plastic-bag consumption.

With little fanfare or media attention, Grand Rapids is doing something no other Minnesota city has done, and it’s catching on. It’s a matter of informing the public about the devastating consequences of plastic-bag pollution to the environment and to all of us who share it.

In the past year, we’ve learned a simple lesson: People care.

Pat Helmberger, Grand Rapids, Minn.



Does this social media make me look phat?

What a wonderful quotation by the late Susan Sontag in the May 12 “You Don’t Say” segment: “Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies.” I wonder if anyone posted it on their Facebook page.

Robert W. Carlson, Plymouth