Defend US political system, not always the president
In response to Nonna Gorilovskaya's May 19 Opinion piece, "Why I defend President Bush when I'm abroad": Having spent the past five years working and doing business in Afghanistan, Russia, and many of the southern republics of the former Soviet Union, I find it very easy to defend our president and political system without necessarily agreeing with the president.
Now I spend a good deal of time speaking with university students here in America. When these subjects are broached, I make them understand that this is freedom and democracy in action. I make sure they know that we have a hostile press, and I, for one, am thrilled we do. I use this as a lesson in what it means to be a free people: We can stand up and say our president is wrong; we can argue strongly on either side of an issue, and it is OK.
So, there is no need to defend the president, only defend our system. For all its faults and duplicity, it is still the best, and that is said based on my experience living and working in over 20 different countries. As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Respect Hinduism's religious tolerance
In response to the May 15 article, "Indian attacks fit emerging pattern of attacks aimed at communal strife": Referring to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a "Hindu nationalist" party is as good as naming the US Republican Party a Christian nationalist party.
I am writing this because I see such reporting in English-language media in India and in the Western world too often. It never appreciates how accommodative and respectful Hindus have been toward other religions throughout history. In Hinduism, the world has an example of a major religion that has shown how different religions could live mutually respectfully and not merely tolerably.
At a time when the world is facing religiously charged terrorism, it is time that all English-language media and Western writers, reporters, and newsmakers get insight into the beliefs and behavior of Hindus towards other religions.
Kirit N. Mehta
Engage students in civic life
Regarding Diane Cameron's May 22 Opinion piece, "Do graduates understand citizenship?": As a student in college almost three decades ago, I used to say that after 13 to 17 years of education, being mostly being lectured at, you can't expect students, upon graduation, to become active, free-thinking, participating members of society.
Participation and civic engagement is more than just reading or listening. It's doing. But to get us to become participants and deliberative instead of reactive and reflexive, we have to take some of the things we learn in school, like research, and apply the same techniques to nonschool activities, such as improving the quality of local schools, land use, transit, etc.
Change is created by working with others. One way to start is to move toward more group-oriented learning methods, and to provide opportunities to learn how to organize projects in school and in other civic settings.
And our community organizations and locally elected boards need to create opportunities for school-aged and college students to participate in substantive ways.
Knowledge, participation, and working together make citizenship work.
Mount Rainier, Md.
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