To the editor: Europeans, like many others in the world, can't stand Americans and can't get enough of them. They watch us, they copy us, they travel to see us. When they visit our mountains and deserts and woods and cities, they are astounded and repulsed, all at once. ("The American Way over the Nordic Model? Are we crazy?," Op-Ed, Jan. 11)
Americans are like your crazy, fun cousins who have the loudest parties, the biggest fights, the deliciously bad foods. We take liberties to the extremes that Europeans resist — freedom to have winners and losers, wealthy and poor, healthy and sick; freedom to be tidy or be a slob, to care or not to care, to be saints or bullies; freedom from your own government and from your nosy neighbors.
Europeans actually admire American freedoms. They just realize that many of them are unhealthy for you and for your country.
Ron Ellsworth, La Mesa
To the editor: Ann Jones, an American ex-pat living in Oslo, jumps past the 800-pound gorilla sitting in Norway's living room without a mention.
Over the last four or five decades, the Norwegians and their elected governments have built a substantial system of health and welfare benefits largely financed by the bounty of the North Sea oil reserves. The reserves are rapidly declining and Norway will be at a crossroads concerning how it can fund its very generous public benefits.
Taxation is already punishingly high. Many Norwegians have raised the red flag about sustainability without the North Sea oil money.
Jones should have addressed how Norway intends to cope with the costs of public benefits when the North Sea oil fields are depleted.
George Smith, Pacific Palisades
To the editor: Jones struggles to answer whether America is crazy. America's strange behavior can be explained by two factors: excessive individualism and excessive materialism.
The extreme interpretation of our founders' emphasis on individual rights and the pursuit of personal happiness has led to America's destructiveness in the form of environmental damage, corporate and individual greed, income inequality, the undermining of our social safety net, underfunding of education and more.
How sad for us and the world that our founding fathers' brilliant philosophy has been so distorted and corrupted.
Jonathan Kramer, La Jolla
To the editor: Ironically, Jones' piece was published not long after the attacks on France, a European nation that has many of the same weaknesses and vulnerabilities as Norway.
These European nations since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt have been more than happy to let America do all the heavy lifting, first in containing and defeating the Soviet Union and now in the war on terror.
The United States is far from perfect, but our nation and its people are exceptional. Norwegians can enjoy their "free" medical care, college education and extensive social welfare system, but when Norway is threatened, the United States will answer the phone.
When it comes to defense, we don't discriminate against our citizens when they ignorantly share their opinions or against nations that can avoid the realities of the real world because America is around. But a thanks, rather than calling us crazy, would be nice.
Guy R. Gruppie, Arcadia