I applaud the sentiments expressed by Stephen B. Young in his beautifully written and well-intentioned commentary, “A letter concerning toleration” (Sept. 9), but it is well to remember that the divisive identity politics and intolerant political correctness he castigates have their origins in the rarefied atmosphere of American academia. In fact, it is in some of the most revered academic institutions in the world that the assault on free speech receives its intellectual rationalizations, equating unwelcome words with actual physical violence, for example, or granting students “safe spaces” where they can find sanctuary from ideas that might upset them. It is also at American universities that speakers deemed politically incorrect are shouted down and sometimes physically assaulted — assuming, that is, that they are able to speak in the first place. Is it any wonder that increasing numbers of us are hesitant to discuss race and sexual politics or other potentially controversial topics when academic institutions are vetting the ordinary speech of well-meaning young people for verbal microaggressions?
Fostering a culture that allows controversial subjects to be discussed freely and openly and that accepts that honorable men and women can sometimes agree to disagree, as our educational establishment should be doing, would go a long way to diffusing tensions in the culture wars. Indeed, if we are to restore cultural and political peace in America, then our universities must help the process by encouraging civil discourse and exposing young people to the “marketplace of ideas,” a concept first fully articulated by John Milton during the English Civil War of the 1640s.
Bernard Joseph Carpenter, Chanhassen
The writer is a history teacher.
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For those of us troubled by deep political divisions in America, Young’s “letter concerning toleration” is a must-read. Young works hard to present a solution that includes compromise on both sides of the divide, but ultimately he suggests that the religious right will need to do most of the heavy lifting. He summarizes, “The formula for toleration, therefore, is that whatever is religious — whatever is the stuff of faith and belief — is not for the state to establish as a public norm with the force of law.”
Young says that the government should not interfere with religion and that religious beliefs should not be codified into law. He highlights two issues as examples: abortion and same-sex marriage. He posits that both should be permitted and legal, but people of faith should be free to practice their beliefs privately. Women should have access to legal abortion, but if religious beliefs prevent you from terminating a pregnancy, then don’t do it. Same-sex couples should be awarded all the legal privileges that marriage bestows, but no one is going to force religious folks to marry gay couples in their house of worship.
Young’s compromise solution probably appeals to the majority of Americans (who are politically just a bit left or right of center). The problem comes from the relentless religious right — evangelicals in particular, whose sole aim is to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the government. Their actions suggest they will never compromise or give up: Their 45-year effort to re-criminalize abortion has never wavered, and their battle to prevent same-sex marriage went all the way to the Supreme Court. Evangelicals are even willing to embrace a president who is the complete antithesis of everything they value in order to accomplish their goals. Perhaps America’s only hope is frequent recitation of this prayer: “Lord, save us from your followers.”
Steve Millikan, Minneapolis
MINNEAPOLIS AND CARS
Change will truly come from personal practices, not policy
The Sept. 9 paper featured a front-page article about the Minneapolis 2040 plan and its aim to push out cars and make people walk more for their errands (“Mpls. has plan to brake car culture”). As a Minneapolis resident who bikes to work and walks or bikes for every errand possible, I saw the problem with the planning starkly evident in the article.
My concern with the plan is summed up by a quote in the article from Heather Worthington, the director of long-term planning for Minneapolis, “I live six blocks from a Target. It would be very easy for me to walk. I rarely do.” There you have it. I walk eight blocks to the grocery store regularly, as do many of my neighbors.
Personal discipline, not policy, makes for real change. I’m all for more bike lanes and transit, but a truly better world can only be the product of people who lead by example.
It’s not about government telling us the right thing to do. It’s about doing it on our own. It’s called personal responsibility. It requires discipline and humility, not so much policy.
Joel Cannon, Minneapolis
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Minneapolis’ plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by reducing driving trips is commendable. I now have three more grocery stores within walking distance than I had when I moved downtown 14 years ago. I’m encouraged to leave my car at home if I’m not buying something heavy or frozen, there is not inclement weather, or the sidewalks are not icy or blocked. Public transportation would be another option for me if there were bus routes to those destinations with boarding nearby. I actually prefer not driving, but there are times when I feel I have no other choice. When was the last time bus routes were altered to accommodate the growing population in new areas of the city?
Gayle Dustrud, Minneapolis
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The article about car culture mentions that in order to cut gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, Minneapolis needs to reduce driving trips by 37 percent.
I will do my part.
There is nothing that I am aware of in Minneapolis that I need or want that I cannot find outside of Minneapolis. So I will take my spending money and go elsewhere.
Mike McLean, Richfield
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One way to “brake the car culture” might be to allow small vehicles like golf cars and UTVs (utility task vehicles) to be licensed for non-expressway use in Minneapolis.
They are street-legal in Arizona, and you see them all around Phoenix. These vehicles can be equipped with lights, signals and horns just like cars. They are small, efficient and fun.
If small scooters can be licensed, why not golf cars and UTVs?
Mike Beer, Minneapolis
In Third District, Dean Phillips bravely walks the talk
In her Sept. 9 column, “Phillips wages his own kind of challenge,” Lori Sturdevant essentially asks the rhetorical question, “Is Dean Phillips either naive or brave in his Third District congressional campaign strategy?”
The answer would seem to be: brave.
Bravery demonstrated by not accepting special-interest political action committee (PAC) donations and by challenging all candidates from both his own and his opponent’s parties to do the same.
Bravery to be personally available and accountable to his possible future constituents in support of campaign reform and other compelling beliefs.
And bravery to shun the increasingly contentious media slings and arrows aimed at him from his opponent’s campaign and a Republican-funded super-PAC — while continuing to travel the long and circuitous “high road.”
Marvin Segal, Edina