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In Harvey's path
Houston, my home for the past year, has experienced a catastrophe no one could have prepared for, especially not a Canadian raised in rural Manitoba. I write this as I am surrounded by water, feeling incredibly grateful that my home has not been flooded and that I still have power.
What you see on the news only gives a small view of what more than 11 trillion gallons of rain will do to a city of 6.5 million people in its greater metropolitan area. The situation is unfathomable.
We are completely surrounded by water, there is looting, shootings, power outages, lack of running water and sewers, explosions, stranded individuals, concerns about drownings in cars and homes, tornado warnings, evacuations, and the endless rain.
Harvey seemingly came out of nowhere and just won't leave.
I work in the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical centre in the world and it is under water. Staff cannot get in and out, and a 400-plus bed hospital has been evacuated. The response of volunteers and first responders has been both heroic and incredible.
While a natural disaster can bring out the worst in humanity, it can – and does – also bring out the best. I implore Canadians to donate to relief efforts and to pray for Houston and the rest of the South dealing with Harvey.
Katarina Lee, Houston and Carman, Man.
Re Don't Bother Trying To Understand The 'Other Side' (Aug. 29): Mark Kingwell has clearly mastered the political philosophy of the militant left. If he's not careful though, he might find his loyalties under question from the arbiters of acceptable discourse.
I could swear I caught a hint of dog whistling to those troglodytic advocates of "core American values" and "Canadian tolerance"!
Martha McGinnis, Victoria
Statements such as Mark Kingwall's that "political belief" is something that is "in need of external control" keep me up at night. He glosses over an important distinction, one from Descartes I often use in teaching.
A worldview is like a house.
Just as one builds walls and ceilings on a foundation, one builds a worldview on foundational be-liefs. If the foundation is bad, the house will be bad. You might be great at reasoning, but if your foundational beliefs are bad, you end up with a bad worldview.
Racist and sexist worldviews (to name but two) are bad houses.
Bad worldviews are often embraced by otherwise rational people who started with bad foundational beliefs. These tend to be acquired by vulnerable children, teens and adults who are isolated or disenfranchised in some way.
If one acquires the bad belief that members of community X are dangerous, it is perfectly rational to fear them. It would be irrational not to be afraid. But that person isn't incapable of reason. He or she should be treated as reasoning from faulty beginnings.
People become very upset when their foundational beliefs are challenged. I see it constantly in philosophy classes. We must raise and educate the young in free, rational and compassionate environments. We must constantly challenge the bad foundational beliefs of those who hold them.
But all of this must be done within the environment of reason, not coercion.
Richard Feist, School of Public Ethics, Saint Paul University, Ottawa
Mark Kingwell's column reveals both the "extreme moral vacuity of the current White House" and the "other side" all too well.
He is correct that: the effort to "find common ground with fellow Americans who voted Trump" is "doomed to fail," that there "is no dialectic possible here" and that there "is no rational engagement possible."
He also says "there is a moral baseline that Nazism is indefensible." Also true, but no one can change the minds of those who believe otherwise, because one cannot remove from someone's mind, using reason, that which reason did not put there in the first place.
George Olds, Hamilton
Re I've Had It With The Monument Wars (Aug. 29): I too understand the frustration of coming to grips with past, present and future. However, Margaret Wente should not dismiss the danger posed by white supremacists as a "lunatic fringe who influence virtually no one."
Frankly, it's not their influence I fear. I am much more concerned with their propensity for violence. It does not take an army of haters to injure, maim and kill. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh and another white supremacist bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including kids in a daycare. In 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page murdered six worshippers at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Mich. Barely six months ago, Alexandre Bissonnette is alleged to have entered a mosque in St. Foy, Que., where six innocent worshippers were gunned down. Preliminary reports suggest possible ties to the far right.
We need to keep our eyes wide open to all possibilities. Dismissing haters as lunatics we need not worry about makes me worry.
Bernie M. Farber, executive director, Mosaic Institute
Give horses their due
Re The Great Trail (Folio, Aug. 26): As you report, the genesis of the Great Trail began in 1992 with the celebration of Canada's 125th birthday. At that time, I, along with many others, participated in a "relay" to convey a letter with birthday wishes from the Queen from coast to coast … on horseback. Much of the route lay along the shoulder of paved highways, and the concept for the TransCanada Trail was born.
The traders, trappers, gold miners and early railway engineers who used these historic trails were often on horseback or carried by horse-drawn conveyance.
Many, if not most, of these trails have been solely preserved and maintained by horsemen, prior to their discovery by other recreational users.
Today, many equestrian groups donate untold hours of volunteer labour and funds to trail maintenance. Recreational horseback riding remains a major industry, contributing millions of dollars to Canada's economy yearly.
It saddens me to see the horse – perhaps the ultimate symbol of outdoor recreation – so frequently forgotten or ignored.
Terre O'Brennan, Horse Council BC
On the slow track
Re What To Do With Via Rail? (Aug. 24): Having taken Via's The Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver this May, I can report that while the cars are showing their age, they are comfortable. The staff was competent and cheerful, and the food was very good.
However, arriving in Vancouver 13 1/2 hours late took the shine off the trip. Frankly, it was embarrassing given all the international tourists on the train who probably expected much better from our national passenger service. The shared-track system kept us regularly on a siding, waiting for a freight to pass. For a country built on rail – very sad.
Al MacKay, Ottawa