"A Russian Meets America," by Oleg Voskresensky (Aug. 30), provided a unique perspective — as he compared living in his homeland to living here. We Americans are indeed sometimes overly concerned about scheduling our time. We are challenged by having so many choices. And our friendships are too often superficial.

Let's take his commentary one step further. Exactly why are so many of our friendships not as deep as those he experienced and observed in his native country? I can't help speculating that a main reason is the freedom we experience and cherish. It allows us to be individualistic, goal-oriented, efficient people, and those characteristics in turn lead us to be a competitive people. Do we avoid developing more emotionally connected relationships because we sense unconsciously that other individuals have the potential to compete with us? Are we afraid to communicate our own emotional depth because that might make us appear vulnerable or weak and less able to compete — even make us look un-American? Besides, our freedom encourages us to be more mobile, so we might inwardly resist developing some friendships simply because we don't want to experience the pain of separation that can come with "moving on."

Even within our country there is difference. I noticed it right away when I moved from the Washington, D.C., area many years ago to Dubuque, Iowa, to finish college. Midwestern people seem less likely to see other people as potential threats. At least on a basic level, we are friendlier. That might go back to the time when more of us were on farms, when somewhat distant neighbors still found a way to help each other when nature caused problems. Everybody knew that isolation could lead to failure or even death. Cooperation was a necessity. And other people were valued just because they were rare in a sense — not always there.

I'd be very interested in reading possible explanations from other readers.

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park

We govern for more than utility or the worst-case scenario

The minimum-wage discussion is always framed as only an economic issue ("And what if the worst case doesn't transpire," D.J. Tice column, Aug. 30). But, like slavery, it is a moral issue that trumps economics.

Anyone in America who works at a job 40 hours a week, for 50 weeks a year, for 50 years deserves a livable income and a livable retirement. That is a reasonable and moral result to expect in the richest nation in the world.

We don't have a living minimum wage for our workers because we don't have a moral compass to guide us. Most of our morality comes from the Christian and Jewish religions. But neither of these religions provide any real moral guidance in matters of commerce. While we spend more than half our waking hours selling our services or buying goods and services, religion is silent on issues related to the treatment of employees. This lack of moral guidance is one reason slavery in this country lasted into the 1860s.

Commerce is a very important part of our lives, so when religion fails to provide us with a guide, we turn to economic theory to fill the void. But economics isn't a moral guide; it is merely descriptive of what may happen under certain conditions. It is not concerned with what is right, only with what is efficient. Economic theory fails as a moral guide for minimum treatment of people because it treats people as commodities, not as humans. Commodities can have zero value in economics, but people never have zero value in America, because we chose to value and care for all people in this country.

We found profitable slavery immoral. We should find the profitable "less than living wage" immoral, too.

Robert Kaul, St. Anthony

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It may be true that "easier gun permitting has not been responsible for unleashing a nightmare of average citizen violence in America."

Still, a "nightmare" of gun violence has been unleashed.

No connection?

When the sheer number of guns increases, of course they will be used. Perhaps not by law-abiding citizens, but by others who get those guns just as easily, sometimes legally, more often not.

Where are the statistics on how many guns are stolen from those citizens and then used in crime?

Where are the statistics on how many people obtain guns legally because the laws are more lax and then use them for mayhem?

The gun culture pervades the country. Many people reason that if guns are so readily available and legally carried, they, too, should feel free to use them, to settle disputes, to wipe out school classrooms or to just kill cops indiscriminately. Oh, and for cops to kill citizens without fear of prosecution.

I thought that we had gotten this gun culture out of our system in the days of the Wild West. Didn't that populace strive to neutralize the gun culture so that civilization could prosper? I guess we didn't learn that lesson.

John Clouse, Shoreview

Cancer is no surprise given our consumption and environment

Nice job on story placement in the Science & Health section Aug. 30. The article about the search for food dyes not made from petroleum was right next to the stories about the rise of second cancers and the chemicals in coffee. It was an understated reminder that we live in a carcinogenic soup of our own making.

Steven White, Bloomington

Especially with lung cancer, quick detection is crucial

Kudos to the Star Tribune for bringing attention to patient harm caused by missed and misdiagnoses. One of the deadliest misdiagnoses pertains to America's deadliest cancer — lung cancer. While low-dose CT scans are readily available at most clinics and hospitals, the sometimes silent symptoms and the belief that only smokers get lung cancer keep this useful tool underutilized.

Less than 16 percent of lung cancer patients survive their diagnosis. This statistic directly correlates with late-stage diagnoses, which is common in lung cancer. Quick, accurate diagnoses are needed until early detection (read: preventive screening) becomes the norm.

Nancy Torrison, Wayzata

The writer is executive director of A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation.


In the making: A holocaust in another form?

I am haunted by two things after seeing the photos in the paper and on the news of the masses of people being trapped with no where to flee in Europe. First is the agony on the faces of those involved and secondly is the slogan that came from the Holocaust: "Never forget." Do we not see another Holocaust in the making with thousands seeking refuge from war, hunger and death? Have Europe and the world once again closed their doors to those in dire need? The greatest fear of all: Have we forgotten?

Ernest Gulner, Mendota Heights