Thank you, Alice O’Keeffe (Squeezed Middle, 17 January): your reflection on doing something that occupies your heart and soul – caring for children – cut through my disenchantment with both Cristina Odone’s article on Christians in public life (“The new intolerance”, 10 January) and the responses following it.
Facing up to the fear of letting your career take a back seat to childcare, as I have also done, is a radical choice. For me, it’s about how I choose to value and grow other human beings. This is part of being a Christian. I do this not because it’s “traditional”, or because religion oppresses me as a woman, but because Jesus preached ideas about what is of real value. Christianity has something to offer public life but it’s not power. It is a lesson in what matters.
Trundling a pushchair that holds a sleeping baby and heavy shopping, I am not doing anything important to change the world – other than beginning with the value of care in everyday life and building from there.
I can’t be the only reader who was deeply depressed by Rafael Behr’s encounter with Douglas Alexander (Politics Interview, 17 January): yet another smartly dressed Labour politician who is immersed in the minutiae of US politics, but gives no hint that he is anything other than ignorant of political affairs in other European states, and who talks tough about seeing no need to leave a door open for the Lib Dems in any future Labour-led coalition. Dear God. Is there no alternative?
The real Israel
Having been to Israel a couple of times in the past few years, I can reassure Peter Wilby (First Thoughts, 17 January) that it is still a country of which socialists and liberals can be proud. That it is “widely perceived as aggressive, imperialist and racist” owes more to the anti-Semitic bias of the left-wing media than any objective reality.
I fondly want to believe that the NS tries to tell it like it is. However, Peter Wilby writes: “Now Israel is just another privatising, neoliberal state, as well as one that is widely perceived as aggressive, imperialist and racist.”
Does he not believe this to be true? Why is he being careful not to say so clearly? Israel is an aggressive, imperialist and racist state.
The 17-year-old Oliver Hudson’s letter (Correspondence, 17 January) in response to Cristina Odone’s “The new intolerance” (10 January) was impressive. His reminder that, unlike faith, sexuality is not a choice and should be defended as a civil right resolves for me all hesitations about the gay question like no article ever did.
Oliver Hudson’s comments about Cristina Odone being anti-gay are ridiculous. She said nothing against homosexual people. What she stated was that she can’t support gay marriage, because marriage is the union of a man and a woman open to procreation. That is what marriage has always been understood as. Two people of the same sex can have a committed and loving relationship – sexually active or celibate – but this is not the same thing as marriage.
Peacehaven, East Sussex
Would Cristina Odone understand the angry reaction to a conference if it had been titled: “One White Man. One Black Man. Making the Case for Segregation for the Good of Society”?
I am puzzled by Richard J Evans’s assertion (“Before the war”, 17 January) that the clash of ideologies and religions was a significant factor in the lead-up to the First World War. Christian Germany and the Islamic Ottoman empire were allies, while republican France fought alongside absolutist Russia.
Richard J Evans is right to point out that as only a small proportion of the country was eligible to vote, Michael Gove’s claim that we were a functioning democracy during the Great War is nonsense. When you examine the acts rushed through, you see that the war was accompanied by a grave curtailment of civil liberties. Aldershot, home of the British army, resembled closed military towns in the Soviet Union. It is also disappointing that so little new information about events such as the influenza epidemic – which probably originated in bad conditions at army camps in Aldershot or Étaples and killed more people than the war – is emerging.
Will Self should watch his tongue (Real Meals, 17 January). He admits to creeping into the kitchen at night and going for the jam armed only with a spoon. My uncle did the same thing as a child and was stung on the tongue by a wasp.
Here’s a thought – if Will Self has nothing to say, why allow him to write a weekly column?
Mexborough, South Yorkshire
Could someone tell Alice O’Keeffe (Squeezed Middle, 17 January) to start thinking of her life as half full rather than half empty? This works for me.
If only Robert Cooper (NS Essay, 10 January) had been around in the late 1950s to inform the Swiss that referendums are “never a good way to govern a country” and that being out of the EU is “stupid”. Then that country might have experienced 60 years of economic growth, social harmony, near-full employment, low inflation, positive balance-of-trade figures, high GDP per head, and so on. Live and learn, eh?