In the January 2018 issue, letter-writer C. Frederickson notes a new harshness in the Correspondence section. Sure enough, a few letters later Michelle Doud writes that she has decided not to renew her subscription because of “insults to our president” and says, “My hope is that your world, which has crashed and burned, will emerge from the ashes of hate and intolerance and be capable of being rebuilt.”

It seems to me Doud has mistaken heartfelt observation of what has transpired in this country for a politics of the Left. I see it more as a platform of sanity, justice, and reflection. I wonder how she ever came to The Sun in the first place.

Stephen Farkash
Rio Rancho, New Mexico

I was stunned when I read Michelle Doud’s letter to the editor. For Doud — and many like her — what’s going on in the U.S. right now is simply business as usual. But it isn’t.

All presidents misspeak, make mistakes, and fail to deliver on some of their campaign promises. What we’re dealing with now is different. Donald Trump defers to no laws, principles, or dissenting points of view. In his first year in office he has pursued religious profiling, profited financially from his position, and attacked not just the press but the very concept of objective truth. We can argue about his positions on these or a hundred other issues, but what’s beyond argument is that this behavior by an American president — and the acceptance of it by the officials who surround him — is unprecedented.

Thank you for “One Nation, Indivisible” and for having the courage to point out the elephant in the room. The decline of a once-powerful country is hardly new, and history has much to tell us about where to go from here.

Emily Moore
Boise, Idaho

Dan Musgrave’s treatment of his dying dog, Maynard, [“Eclipse,” January 2018] was deplorable. Musgrave allowed Maynard to suffer for almost a month, reporting that the dog was “hurting all the time” and would struggle for breath, suffer seizures, panic from blindness, and cry “for nearly an hour.”

It is extremely difficult to have an animal companion euthanized. Like Musgrave, I have waited too long, and my terminally ill animals suffered because I could not bear to say goodbye. But allowing animals to live in pain for this reason is cruel. After discussion with my vet, I recently had my dying cat euthanized as soon as he had difficulty breathing. I miss him immensely but believe it was the merciful choice.

I hope Musgrave and his wife will be more compassionate to their future animal companions.

Linda Stein
New York, New York

Dan Musgrave responds:

I appreciate that Maynard continues to touch others far beyond the reach of his little legs. I sense that, as animal lovers, Linda Stein and I have much in common, and I was surprised she came to so negative a judgment from my selective sharing of this period. But then, “Eclipse” does also portray my encounter with a man whom I judged solely on the messages tattooed on his skin. It is dangerously easy for any of us to presume.

“Eclipse” wasn’t exclusively about Maynard’s decline, but I expect that part of the essay resonates with anyone who has cared for an ailing companion. Nor was it intended to provide a full accounting of the quality-of-life calculus I computed each day, under our vet’s guidance, for Maynard’s last month. It sounds like Stein also has an intimate understanding of that math. It hurts. The in-between period when decisions must be made about another’s well-being are fraught. There are few easy answers.

Heather Sellers’s essay “Dark Houses” [January 2018] made me sad and angry: Sad at the terrible situation the author was in, having to choose between a mentally ill mother who forced her to live in a house with blacked-out windows and a father whose darkness took a dramatically different form. Angry at these two so-called adults who would not take their minds off themselves long enough to provide adequate parenting to this child who relied on them.

There are many children in situations not far removed from Sellers’s. Sometimes those stories have happy endings, but more often they result in damaged children. No child should have to face such impossible challenges.

Rev. Steve Norcross
Portland, Oregon

Caleb Powell’s interview with Ali A. Rizvi [“Leaving the Faith,” December 2017] presents Rizvi as a man who freed himself from the shackles of a dominant, terrorizing Islam. As Rizvi’s mother and 1.5 billion other Muslims make clear, however, Islam is a religion of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives in peaceful ways. There are extremist Muslims just as there are extremist atheists, but these extremists are in the minority. Must we still remind people this?

It’s also disingenuous, if not wholly ignorant, to emphasize the dangers facing atheists while downplaying the horrors facing the world’s Muslims. America’s military is responsible for more than a million Muslim deaths in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, and millions more continue to perish in Yemen, Syria, and Myanmar. It’s hard to feel sorry for an atheist physician living in Canada.

Moreover, how is Rizvi justified in saying Christianity was “violent a few hundred years ago” and “for the most part has been reformed”? Christianity was the driving force behind the annihilation of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK — and this legacy continues today. It’s shocking that Powell did not challenge these statements.

Islamophobia is pervasive and real, and Rizvi is not immune. He expresses some of the same anti-Muslim sentiments as those he purports to educate. Islamic terrorism is also real. It has no place in Islam and should be stopped. But let’s spare the 99.9 percent of peaceful believers from being painted with Rizvi’s historically inaccurate brush.

Sebastian Robins
New York, New York

Ali A. Rizvi responds:

We liberals in the West are products of the Age of Enlightenment. Our freedoms, liberties, and secular pluralism are the result of scientists and philosophers challenging the religious theocracies of the Dark Ages. As beneficiaries of our freethinking predecessors’ actions, it seems shortsighted for us to dismiss the activists, dissidents, and reformers of the Muslim world who are also challenging their religion to gain the same benefits for their societies.

I agree that “Christianity was the driving force behind the annihilation of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK.” Why is it not OK to say something similar about Islam? In some parts of the world Islam has been the driving force behind slavery, the slaughter of minority religions and sects, and the execution of apostates and homosexuals — all at a scale rivaling that of Christianity and continuing to a significant extent today.

There is outrage among my fellow liberals when televangelists Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell say something homophobic or misogynistic, but criticizing the same attitudes in Islamic communities is considered “Islamophobic.” Is this not a form of bigotry in itself, driven by lowered expectations of Muslims, as if they can’t handle tough dialogue? I know anti-Muslim bigotry is real. As a member of a Muslim family and community, I have been on the receiving end of it. Islamic oppression is real, too. As an atheist, I’ve received death threats from Muslims, many correctly quoting the Quran. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

I also agree about the horrors that U.S. foreign policy has brought on a number of Muslim-majority countries, but I fail to see how that drives Muslim fundamentalists to subjugate women, crucify their neighbors for apostasy, imprison or execute bloggers, or publicly hang homosexuals.

There is a big difference between challenging Islamic doctrine and demonizing Muslim people. This is not about the majority of peaceful believers; it’s about specific violent doctrines. If a small room in your house is on fire, you won’t dismiss it because the rest of the house is OK. Criticizing Islam as you would Christianity, Mormonism, or Scientology isn’t bigotry. Singling it out for protection is.

Thank you for printing Mark Leviton’s interview with William Richards on the positive effects of psychedelics [“From Here to Eternity,” November 2017]. I am a forty-five-year-old woman and have dealt with depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder since I was a teenager. I’ve been in therapy and tried nearly every prescription; none have provided the benefits I get from psilocybin.

Last year a friend procured some psychedelic mushrooms for me after I heard a piece about their positive effects on NPR. I began taking small doses in the morning and at midday, and the results were profound. The dose wasn’t large enough for me to “trip” (I had to get through my workday, after all), but my anxiety fell away, along with the looming hopelessness that normally plagues me. Moreover, I have experienced no negative side effects: no jitters, racing heart, upset stomach, mood swings, or sleeplessness.

Psilocybin may not be for everyone, but it has been nothing short of a miracle for me, and I hate that I have to buy it illegally. I hope these behemoth pharmaceutical corporations are soon pushed aside by individuals and organizations who actually care about people’s quality of life rather than their own bottom line.

Name Withheld

Correction

Due to a proofreading error, the print version of this interview with physician Andrew Coates [“The End of Insurance?”] left readers hanging: the last word was missing.

The word is “take.”

We are embarrassed by the mistake and apologize to our readers, to the interviewer Tracy Frisch, and to Dr. Coates.