The United States can't afford to ignore Hamas
Regarding the June 26 book review, "A look 'Inside Hamas' ": I live in an Arab neighborhood. Two shopkeeper friends are Sunni Palestinians (also American citizens) who strongly prefer Hamas to Fatah. They believe Fatah keeps more of the funding it receives for itself. Both claim that Hamas provides more charitable, educational, and medical services than Fatah.
Palestinians have lived under deplorable circumstances and hopelessness for far too long. A just peace between the Arabs and Israelis needs to be the goal of both sides. I think this will be even more difficult with the Palestinian territories divided between Hamas and Fatah. The territories need to speak with one voice.
It would be naive to think Hamas doesn't have support among Sunnis as well as the Shiites. I do agree with Zaki Chehab, the author of the book, "Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement." He suggests that the US cannot afford to ignore Hamas. Nor do I believe that it can ignore Fatah or the clerics. These are the groups that have the ears, if not the hearts, of the people.
The pitfalls of higher gas taxes
Regarding Randy Salzman's June 26 Opinion piece, "Get Americans to drive less: Raise gas taxes": Every time I learn of someone going on about how the United States ought to imitate Europe and try to tax Americans out of their cars and into mass transit, it makes me laugh.
Unlike Europe, America is a large country with vast distances to cross, and most of the stuff that you and I buy is delivered by truck. Raising gas taxes means that everything we get from food to electronics is going to get massively more expensive.
The foolish decision the US has made to use more ethanol may mean an even higher tax on fuel. Ethanol cannot be shipped via pipeline due to its water-absorbing characteristics that destroy pipelines, so it must travel by truck.
Most people commute miles from far-flung suburbs, where they moved to escape the violence of gang-infested cities and poor city schools. Moving is a goal that becomes ever higher on my list as my neighborhood makeup changes to a more unruly and discourteous populace. Moreover, few people live close to co-workers or are connected enough to their neighbors to even know if they work in proximity.
West Allis, Wis.
Randy Salzman's June 26 Opinion piece arguing for higher gas taxes to decrease driving misses an important point: We in the United States have developed our cities and outlying areas around driving. Those of us who do not live in well-planned cities often have no other option but to drive. We have planned ourselves into a difficult bind with unwalkable, and sometimes unsafe, towns, rural localities, suburban sprawl, and urban areas.
If gas prices go up to $5 a gallon, who will suffer? The rural poor with no easy access to grocery stores, everyone who lives in a town where main arteries have 50 m.p.h. speed limits and no grocery stores within walking distance, and those people in urban areas where the streets are unsafe after dark.
I agree that if we all lived in quaint university towns with their bike paths and good design elements, we'd be better off raising gas prices. But citizens have to demand better design from their city councils, local planning agencies, and developers. The city of the future may require walking, but there have to be places to walk.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Diversity of the black community
I appreciated Jim Sollisch's May 30 Opinion piece, "At graduation, reflections on race." It felt as if Mr. Sollisch articulated what I internally complain about daily as I interact with nonminorities. I am an African-American who is educated, married, has a family, and is pursuing educational goals in law school. I like Jane Austen and all types of music, especially rock. These are things that I sometimes find nonminorities marveling about.
I tell my husband all the time that racism today is not about being relegated to the back of the bus; it is a fallacious idea in the back of many people's minds that "black" means a person is either poor, uneducated, dishonest, or possesses any number of other unfavorable traits. It has been extremely frustrating to me that many nonminorities do not realize that people are just people, despite race, ethnicity, culture, or religion. Most people are law-abiding citizens who want to be happy and provide for their families.
Negative attributes are found across racial lines, and there is no one way to be female or black or Jewish or anything else. If I could say one thing to all nonminorities, it would be this quote from Sollisch's Opinion piece, "...that black culture is far from monolithic. Blacks are as diverse as whites."
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