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Letters to the Editor

Jacinda Ardern, Donald Trump and confronting hate in New Zealand mosque attack

In this image made from video, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, hugs and consoles a woman as she visited Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers among tributes to Christchurch attack victims, in Wellington, Sunday, March 17, 2019. | TVNZ via AP

New Zealand does not have an official hate crimes database, making it difficult to measure the trend, but some incidents have been widely reported, causing outrage but sparking no real official measures.| AP

I spent my childhood in Christchurch, New Zealand and my reaction has been visceral to the deadly terrorist attack on Muslims in the city I love. How to reconcile what I know of this beautiful, peaceful city and its wonderful people with such an act of savagery?

I listened to the words of New Zealand‘s prime minister and compared them with the rhetoric of Donald Trump, and I was both inspired and revulsed. The contrast could not be more stark.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphatically condemned and rejected the ideology that fueled the attack. She passionately reminded the world of New Zealand’s values of diversity, kindness and compassion. Speaking of immigrants, she stated, “They are us.” But from the Oval Office, Trump once again refused to denounce white nationalism. Nor did he reject the attacker’s reference to him as “a symbol of renewed white identity and purpose.” Then, in defending his veto of Congress’ vote against his emergency declaration to build a southern border wall, Trump ranted against immigrants and referred to them as criminals and undesirables. He never wavers from a modus operandi of stoking fear and anger.

Christchurch has the will to recover. I saw firsthand the resilience and determination of the city after the devastating earthquake of 2011, when the city adapted the Maori slogan “Kia Kaha,” for “stay strong.” This city of magnificent parks and meandering rivers, home to people who represent the best of New Zealand values, will come back stronger. To all the people of New Zealand, I say “Kia Kaha.”

Madeleine Felix, Evanston

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Legal pot is bad for public health

Any lawmaker who voted for Tobacco 21 should look long and hard at their stance on commercializing marijuana. The heart of Tobacco 21 is the principle that making nicotine products illegal for those 18 to 20 years old limits access and promotes public health. How, then, can many of the same people say that making marijuana legal for the entire population of the state over 21 — thereby increasing access — will not increase its use and or harm health?

You can’t have it both ways. Tobacco 21 is good public health policy because the principle is sound. Commercial marijuana is terrible public health policy by the same principle. The marijuana commercialization movement is being pushed by big business at the expense of the health of our friends and neighbors. It’s crucial that we understand the truth and not get fooled by addiction profiteers, as we were in the 1960s.

Aaron Weiner, Long Grove

Stop ‘white power’ on social media

Some have thought of white supremacists or white nationalists as “lone wolves” who are mentally ill, narcissistic and angry. Some of that is true, except these men are not “lone wolves.” They belong to a leaderless group that is sharing plans, videos and information worldwide, just like all terrorist groups. This is a “White Power” movement, certainly fueled by Trump, “a symbol of renewed white identity” as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, charged in the New Zealand terrorist attack, wrote. Tarrant used parts of other manifestos to pour out his view of whites-only living in “white countries,” getting his message out to promote race wars. Call them what they are — white power terrorists. Stop the ‘White Power” movement from growing. Stop them from using social media now.  

Melanie Lee, Lakeview