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Letters to the Editor | Dec. 18, 2022

Inquirer readers on the high cost of space exploration and the Columbus statue controversy.

Pay attention to Muslim voters

It is critically important that mayoral candidates pay attention to the Philadelphia Muslim community this election cycle.

With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, Philadelphia Muslims are a huge voting bloc. Beyond just its size, the community is powerful. Muslims increasingly hold prominent roles in the city, from elected political officials to union leaders to major nonprofit management and beyond.

The Black Muslim vote was crucial to swinging Philadelphia — and Pennsylvania — to President Joe Biden in 2020. This, in turn, led to his election. This is a prime example of the power of this group’s vote.

Philadelphia Muslims have the power to determine the outcome of the mayoral election. I urge the candidates to reach out to the community to learn more about its interests and needs, and to make those issues central to their platforms.

Salima Suswell, Philadelphia

Both sides of history

A recent ruling by Commonwealth Court President Judge Emerita Mary Hannah Leavitt required the city to remove the plywood covering the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza, and this has happened. Judge Leavitt suggested that “If the city disagrees with the statue’s message, it should add a plaque explaining what is more in line with the message the city wishes to convey.”

I sympathize with those descended from Indigenous peoples who see Columbus not as a noble icon of Western history, but as the author of a tragic sea change in their history and the beginning of the destruction of the world their ancestors knew. Clearly, this side of the story needs to be told and not just the traditional Eurocentric view.

What has been lost in this debate between those with opposing views based on their different ethnicities is an understanding that the arbiter in this situation needs to be history and all the facts about Columbus’ life and its effect on the future. Columbus brought naval science forward in an existential leap. Modern container ships, the key to the world trade that makes us all wealthier, still follow favorable sea lanes discovered by this great navigator and seaman.

Thus, Judge Leavitt’s ruling should be seen as a potential step forward, and we should avoid removing all evidence of Columbus from Marconi Plaza, as has been suggested, as if erasing history is even possible. Even if the present, iconic work is ultimately replaced by something that better represents both sides of the story, he needs to be represented there.

John Baxter, Toano, Va.

Redeploy financial resources

As much as I value the exploration of space by NASA, I wish those intellectual and financial resources would be deployed to solve the planet’s problems of climate change, ocean degradation, and a lack of alternative energy sources. And this is from someone who joined the Air Force in the 1970s because I wanted to become an astronaut.

Deborah McQuiston, Pocono Lake, Pa.

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