JULY 31, 2006
NIALL FERGUSON AND SAMUEL J. Abrams claim that anti-immigrant feeling in Europe stems from an illiberal, racist, and xenophobic populism that is especially pronounced in countries where people "most strongly support the proposition that immigrants should embrace the culture of their adoptive countries" ("Pop Up," June 19). Is that an unreasonable expectation? Aren't there elements of Muslim culture that, in the interest of liberal values, Europeans should not be prepared to welcome? Polygamy? Female circumcision? Honor killings of women in cases of adultery and rape? Arranged and forced marriages? Resistance to school curricular requirements and the sending of Muslim children to madrassas in their countries of origin? Failure to countenance free speech? The sanctioning of murderous actions when that culture is not accepted? In fact, as the author George Weigel has written, the European response to Muslim culture has been one of appeasement in large and small things, including the self-censorship of newspapers in the matter of Danish caricatures, the segregation by sex of French swimming pools, and the forbidding of Dutch flags (deemed provocative to immigrants) on the backpacks of schoolchildren. There are admirable aspects of Muslim art and culture. But, as for those Muslims who want to live in Europe but refuse to abide by fundamental liberal values, Europeans should be no more accepting of the cruel elements of their culture than Americans, in the fullness of time, were of the claims of Southern slaveholders that slavery was decent and humane.
Richard W. Jencks
Mill Valley, California
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
IN HIS EXCELLENT REVIEW of The Idea of the Self, Charles Larmore writes, "We would not count as believing [that the cat is on the mat] if we were indifferent to its implications, walking across the mat as though nothing were there" ("The Thinking Thing," June 19). The implausibility of this claim is shown by changing "that the cat is on the mat" to "that a toad is on the road" and "walking across the mat" to "driving across his path." In Larmore's view, motorists who proceed in this fashion, as they often do, necessarily have poor eyesight or are otherwise unable to form the belief in question. But this is absurd. So it must be the case that they don't lack the belief. Rather, they're indifferent with respect to it and act accordingly. steven m. sanders Franklin, Massachusetts
CHARLES LARMORE RESPONDS:
BUT A CAT IS not a toad, nor is walking the same as driving, and the implications of our beliefs about these matters differ accordingly. We would not (I hope) run over a cat without a second thought, nor (I suspect) walk across the mat in our usual way if we saw a toad there.
Too bad we don't have a Bob Dole handy right about now to push for the Darfur intervention the editors demand ("Again, Part II," June 19). As much as I disliked the former Republican senator, he deserves credit for forcing Bill Clinton to react to the genocide in the former Yugoslavia. Dole was a World War II veteran who was wounded in Italy trying to save his radioman. His heroism and battle injury earned the interest of Chicago surgeon and Armenian genocide survivor Hampar Kelikian, who operated on Dole for free. Kelikian told Dole of the genocide and Dole became aware of that awful crime. Although he lost the 1996 election, by pushing the issue of genocide in the Balkans, Dole forced Clinton to act or risk defeat. We need another Dole in the 2008 election.
Matt Weiland's excellent article on the old soccer league brought back warm memories of the heady days of "my" Portland Timbers ("Kick Off," June 19). They were contenders when I was in high school and college, and they went to the Soccer Bowl. The whole city went crazy when they headed for the playoffs, and I spent a great night or two in a sleeping bag outside the stadium waiting for the chance for tickets. One of their wingers, Jimmy Kelly, from Northern Ireland, was only half-jokingly talked about for mayor (don't laugh--we elected a tavern owner, after all). Portland became known as "Soccer City, USA." Many players from around the world liked Portland so much that, after their careers ended, they retired to the city or started new careers here. While I'll admit I hated the New York Cosmos for their East Coast money, media attention, and what I saw as referee favoritism, I got the chance after a practice session one afternoon to meet Pele and get his autograph. His attendants kept trying to usher him away, but he insisted on staying until everyone at least got to shake his hand. While the current league has more financial staying power than the nasl did, it has never been quite the same for me.
San Diego, California
This article originally ran in July 31, 2006, issue of the magazine.