Pastor Bradlee Dean's hate-filled invocation last week wasn't nearly as surprising to me as what Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers did next. The appropriately horrified Zellers hit the session reset button, asked the regular House chaplain, the Rev. Grady St. Dennis, to pray, then called for another Pledge of Allegiance and attendance vote.
Reboot. Just like that. Were real life that simple.
Turns out we may have another opportunity to reboot with a special session, which seemed likely on Monday. Special session or not, I have a plea for many of our legislators: Please stop leading by fear.
Fear is a terrible motivator for living. It's a lousy motivator for legislating, too. Vikings stadium aside, this legislative session has been the Year of Fear, so much of it unfounded.
Rampant home intruders who should be shot. Fraudulent voters who must be stopped. Same-sex couples whose simple desire to love and be loved somehow threatens that right for others.
Really want to keep us safe? A gun bill designed to expand citizens' ability to use deadly force in self-defense is not the answer. Horrific stories about strangers invading our homes make news not because of their frequency, but because of their rarity. Police officers and prosecutors vehemently oppose the bill because they know the truth about violence: Far more often than not, the bogeyman is us. Family members and partners, propelled for myriad reasons to a snapping point, are those who harm us.
The best thing you can do? Find ways to defuse that snapping point. Don't cut social services that provide mental health support, parenting programs, basic health care and job training.
Voter fraud? This is a serious accusation, a felony, in fact. That's why 82 percent of Minnesota's county attorneys responded to a 2010 survey by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota.
CEIMN, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, hoped its results, based on the 2008 Minnesota general election, would "provide insight" for the voter ID debate. They did. The total percentage of voters investigated for voter impersonation (the only form of voter fraud that photo ID would prevent), was two-ten-thousandths of 1 percent, or 0.0002%. No one was convicted.
Only nine investigations of possible "noncitizen" voter fraud occurred, with no convictions, leading one outstate district attorney to assure his constituents that reality and the fear of illegal immigrants storming voting booths were not aligned. "I haven't had a documented case of this reported to me," he said.
It is true that 26 felons (out of nearly 3 million voters) were convicted for voting. While the survey was "a snapshot in time," said Kathy Bonnifield, CEIMN's associate director, "no one has stepped forward to dispute our reported findings that only felons are a problem. This is a very, very strong indicator of what is going on." And what is not going on.
The greatest fear, though, revolves around the myth that same-sex marriage endangers traditional marriage. Anxiety over the possibility that "an activist judge or liberal legislators [might] redefine marriage in the future without public approval" drove the push to place a marriage amendment on the 2012 Minnesota ballot.
The truth is that marriage has been defined and redefined for thousands of years. Divorce, premarital sex, out-of-wedlock births and blended families date back to at least the ancient Greeks and Romans. Same-sex marriages, though rare, were sanctioned in some early cultures, said Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."
Interracial marriage was finally decriminalized in all states in 1967. In the 1970s, most states no longer designated a husband as "head and master" with control of all property.
Today, married couples no longer make up the majority of households in the Twin Cities, and stepfamilies are the most common form of American family.
Real life isn't simple. It's nothing to be feared, either, especially by strong leaders who embrace inevitable change with eyes, and hearts, open.
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350 firstname.lastname@example.org