Downtowns disappearing - for what?

Regarding your June 15 article "Gas wars: Mini-marts fend off Wal-Mart": The idea of Wal-Mart selling gas at loss-leader prices is really unfortunate. Those stores have no appeal in atmosphere, cost, quality, or service, and they have paved vast acres of land which could have a better use. Now they're putting their predatory discount prices on gas to destroy other local business, just like they've gutted downtowns for a long time now. It replaces the once-center of town with a sterile, mechanical process of buying.

What is happening is not competitive; it's destructive of a whole lifestyle.

Sure, we get in a hurry to rush through the chores, get the shopping out of the way, so there is time for ... what? We used to shop "downtown," where we knew the store and the people who waited on us, and likely ran into someone we knew in the small or larger urban center. Now, is personalized activity considered too much trouble and too much money?

I never got too excited about a gas station, but I can get excited about the damage done to community. Worse, the mega-stores can afford to take a loss on gas at the expense of Chinese and Honduran workers who are paid a few dollars a week to make all the stuff inside the store.

There's nothing wrong with innovation, but super-gas-stations outside the big box which has replaced the little stores are not an improvement. We need to push back away from the altar of the extreme bottom-price and review the values of buying a little less, going slower, and seeing people.

Grace Braley Yonkers, N.Y.

Familiar terrain in Colombia

Regarding your June 19 article "Colombia's 'battle free' villages": The campesinos in Colombia fighting to create zones free of war sound just like those in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador during the 1980s. Then, we sent military aid to fight communism. Now we aid Colombia's military to fight drugs.

It seems so irresponsible to supply huge amounts of weaponry - as we are doing - when it is sure to be used to kill innocent civilians who choose not to enter the conflict. And when an exhausted country finally stops fighting, the truth comes out: that terrible slaughter and environmental devastation have taken place.

There must be a way for us to increase our training and support of skilled peacekeeping forces through the UN, and groups like the Canadian Peace Brigades and Witness for Peace, that can protect civilians and mediate conflicts. We know how. Sadly, we seem to lack the will.

Betty Neville Michelozzi Corralitos, Calif.

Inherited guilt?

Mr. Kaiser's June 8 opinion piece "My Germany, my burden," was a sad example of wallowing in inherited collective guilt. Germans living today are not responsible for what was done by some Germans - who, with very few exceptions, are now dead - in the first half of the last century. We do not inherit guilt; we are responsible for our own misdeeds. Mr. Kaiser writes "I was born decades after these crimes were committed. I don't mind carrying the burden that flows from them." He should.

Paul Rowlandson Londonderry, Northern Ireland

More Yankee blunders

In your June 20 "Canucks are full of yuks at Yankee blunders," you've unwittingly added another. The article states that "Canada is no newer than the US," but it is actually 91 years younger if you accept 1776 as the birth of your nation, and 1867 (the year of Confederation) as the birth of ours.

Offered in the spirit of cooperation between neighbours....

C. McGillicuddy Burlington, Ontario

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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