Poland: Learn from US farm-policy mistakes

After reading "Poland's small farms stunt EU aspirations" (Dec. 28) about small farms in Poland facing the threat of annihilation, I can only say to the Polish people and to the rest of the European Union: Don't do it! What are 1 million disenfranchised farmers supposed to do? Like the English, the United States also has a failed farm policy, except we don't talk about it. Instead of treating the root causes of the "farm problem," our government hands out subsidies, props up prices, buys surpluses, and encourages exports, therefore allowing imports, which hurts our farmers.

All of these activities are symptomatic of too much food production. Producing too much food drives down prices, which drives more farms out of business, which, in turn, requires more government programs to be paid for by you and me. Bigness also entails a score of other ills: pollution, inhumane treatment of livestock, and consolidation of wealth. When economic efficiency runs counter to other more important values, it isn't any good at all. What the economists fail to recognize is that all nations need small farms for green space, employment, food security, biodiversity, public health, fuel efficiency, community, culture, and really good food.

Carole Beverly Olympia, Wash.

Two views of the Muslim veil

I am writing to express my gratitude for "Voices from behind the veil" (Dec. 19). As a Muslim woman who was born and raised in the United States, I have always been perplexed by the West's obsession with the dress of Muslim women, particularly the veil. As the article mentions, for women in the West, such dress, especially the veil in its various forms, is an undeniable symbol of oppression. Yet what does this fixation on Muslim women's clothing say about us here in the West? Is a woman's worth or degree of liberation to be assessed by how much skin she shows? What many fail to acknowledge is that wearing a veil is often a choice made by women, which brings with it a sense of empowerment. Although in the countries spotlighted by the article women's dress codes are enforced by law, I ask people to take a look at other Muslim women around the world and consider how many of them independently choose to wear a head scarf or cover - not because they are mandated by governmental law, but due to their own personal religious conviction.

I hope that the comments offered by the women in the article will encourage people to reconsider the issue of Muslim women and the veil, and move beyond this matter. Choice is something we value a great deal in this country. Thus, we should be more understanding of the choices made by other women around the world, rather than superimposing upon them our ideals of what women should be and should look like.

Shabana Razvi Weston, Mass.

I will believe that "women of cover" choose to accept what they describe as their cultural role when they actually have a choice, and have had that choice for more than one generation.

Not uncommon is the phenomenon wherein the enslaved will depend upon their enslavement, and will even convince themselves they love and accept the slave master. But, as much as I believe all people should have the inalienable right to choose their own paths, I do not accept that Afghan and Saudi women now have that right. Therefore, they may wish we in the "West" understood their "choices," but they have forgotten, if they ever knew, what a real choice looks like. I do wish them well.

Anne Barnstead-Klos St. Louis

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