Cultural exchange can cultivate friendly relations worldwide

Let's have a standing ovation for John Hughes's Oct. 26 Opinion column, " 'Cultural diplomacy' is key to winning hearts and minds." I heard Mr. Hughes articulate this subject on a recent C-SPAN2 panel and wished for an encore. Hughes's column was a voice of reason describing a sure way to cultivate peace on our planet.

Worldwide there are an untold number of artists eager to share their skills. "Cultural armies" of artists, writers, and musicians can engage in actions that secure lasting friendships among nations. Cultural exchanges have the potential to help humanity realize its highest aspirations for making communities havens of beauty and safety. Instead of engaging in destructive wars, nations could create a "Cultural Peace Corps" that would promise to neutralize doctrines of hatred and intimidation.

Men, women, and children can unite to replace bombs with ballets, conflict with concerts, firepower with films, and sorrowful pain with plays, paintings, poetry and pottery. Also, a "cultural" curriculum for every child to share from preschool throughout his or her education has the potential to stem self-destructive tendencies of purposelessness and ignorance.

Please continue the "cultural diplomacy" dialogue. Many programs already exist that prove the value of art over armaments.
Anne M. Hofflund
San Diego

Democrats must act locally to win votes

Regarding the May 26 synopsis of the Monitor breakfast with Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer: It is unlikely that the GOP monolith will break up sufficiently next year to allow Democrats back into the majorities in either house of Congress.

The focus of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (which Senator Schumer chairs) on the level of national elections demonstrates a major flaw in the strategy to regain majority status. Truly going "back to basics" would require a push to elect Democrats at the county level. County legislators often become state legislators.

The current GOP lock on rural and suburban county legislatures provides an enormous cadre of political operatives supported by public funds. Until the Democrats achieve some level of parity in these arenas, they will be continuously outgunned in elections at the state and federal levels.
Robert Chapman
Lansing, N.Y.

Carbon atoms alone are not sentient life

In response to the Oct. 26 article, "NASA discovers interstellar 'chocolate,' ": For starters, the most common element in the universe is hydrogen. The sixth most common element in the universe is carbon. The fact that these elements interact with and around the earth's atmosphere (and get stuck to meteorites) doesn't prove much. It's irresponsible science to claim that hydrocarbons are the building blocks of complex life because, while these compounds are needed for life, there is a galactic chasm between polyatomic hydrocarbons and even the simplest bacteria cell. (It would be like arguing that because a human shares 50 percent of his genome with that of a banana, the fruit is halfway to being a man.)

Perhaps it's time to reevaluate (and update) NASA's mission. The Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, who first speculated that the beginning of life on earth may have had a connection to space, lived 2,500 years ago - not exactly a modern thinker. Trying to find in outer space what scientists could not find here on earth (the origin of life) is a shell game of interstellar proportions!
Dan Callahan
Springfield, Va.

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