Al Franken was not railroaded, and complaining about his treatment now shouldn’t win him any new sympathy (“Second thoughts on Franken ouster,” front page, July 23). Representing the people of Minnesota is not a legal right, it is a privilege, and we deserve to ask the highest character of our representatives. I enthusiastically voted for Al twice, but he lost my confidence when allegations of groping came from not one but several women. Resignation was the right thing to do. Minnesota got a terrific (and now elected) senator, and Democrats got the moral high ground that allowed Doug Jones to win a special election for the U.S. Senate in Alabama and save the Affordable Care Act. Al would do better to continue to put the common good ahead of his personal interests. That’s what politics is about.

Aaron Berger, Minneapolis

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Like Franken, who regrets resigning his Senate seat, and the seven senators who now regret calling for his resignation, I too regret Al’s departure. He was one of the strongest voices in government supporting policies I believe necessary to make America a better place for everyone but the uber-rich.

I read the allegations against Franken carefully as they emerged, and I concluded that the most egregious thing he may have done was to wrap his hand around a “muffin top” (which I understand to be a unisex term) while having his photo taken with a woman at the State Fair. His punishment did not fit his crime, and it will be a cold day in hell before I give an ounce of support to the unremorseful U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Craig Laughlin, Plymouth

THE STATE OF POLITICS

Disagreeing with someone isn’t racist. Here’s what is.

Dear Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: Your comments this past week about President Donald Trump’s tweets are half true. Of course it is not racist for a white person to disagree with the ideas of a person of color. What is racist is for someone to have to be told that his words are deeply and historically wounding. What is racist is to allow a crowd that he controls and that he has worked into a frenzy to continue to chant those words, and then to call them patriots. What is racist is to continually claim to not be racist. Someone not racist would apologize humbly. How I long for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s respect for the person but disagreement with ideas. Please be careful, Mr. Mnuchin. There is a reason witnesses take an oath to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Half-truths are just as destructive as lies. Perhaps they are even more dangerous because they masquerade as the whole truth and are meant to justify the unjustifiable.

Carol McNamara, Minneapolis

• • •

America is still a country where one is allowed to have an opinion. If it is the wrong opinion, according to the progressive liberals, you have left yourself open to ridicule and name-calling. The media seems to control what is the right or wrong opinion to have. I, myself, prefer to look at both sides of the issue and make an informed decision.

Dennis Malone, Glenwood, Minn.

• • •

Our Republican elected officials — unfortunately even those in Minnesota — appear to be in the norming stage of group development, where comments by the president intended to incite aggression against women of color are normed to “just politics.” My reading of group dynamics is that during the norming stage, Trump and his ilk feel they can do and say anything about anyone at anytime, and when called out, they feel hurt and as if they’ve been attacked themselves. After all, racism is a negative word when spewed by anyone but the president and his cohorts. I read today that Trump’s aides encouraged the president’s continued racist attacks in an attempt to solidify his base. The “us vs. the evil them” strategy has nothing to do with policy, of course, and everything to do with dividing Americans into tribes that are always on the verge of war. And, if that war happens to cause injury to someone on the other side, well, so be it.

I spoke with a former Minnesota state senator on Tuesday morning and asked if ad hominem attacks were common practice in the Minnesota Legislature. Of course, he said no. There were often heated policy debates, he said, but never the kind of outright racism and incendiary attacks that threaten people’s lives.

In the two years Trump has held office, I cannot recall a real policy debate occurring in Washington. Rather, the onslaught of personal attacks in the guise of “just politics” has pushed us further away from each other and into dangerous civil ground.

Thomas Collins, St. Paul

• • •

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar has proved herself an embarrassment to my Fifth District, but elevating potential threats to her to the level of those against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is a bit over the top (“Trump steps up his attacks, calls 4 congresswomen ‘racist,’ ” July 23). Unpopular politicians reap what they sow, so any fear for her safety has been earned through her offensive gestures to others that likely offend many American and other world citizens. Her outspoken far-left ideals are even too much for her own Democratic Party, and she might just be the tipping point to President Donald Trump and many other Republicans retaining or gaining office.

Of course, she should never be threatened or harmed, and providing adequate security will be another tax burden for those of us she is charged but fails to represent. Congressional examples include the lack of any progress on immigration reform and a reasonable path to citizenship. We have a crisis at our border, but what is Congress doing to improve conditions in the countries people flee, to create order at the border, to facilitate only our limited fair share of entrants and to provide adequate living conditions through the process? Those in Congress do nothing and just blame Trump for taking all the initiative they fail to provide.

Escalating the hateful ugly dialogue circus needs to stop. The chaotic distractions in Washington need to be redirected to civilly working the agenda we elected them to perform.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis

PLASTICS TAX

Until there’s political change, reducing plastic is voluntary effort

I would welcome a tax on plastic straws and bags in Minnesota (“What if we tax plastic straws and bags instead of ban them?” July 18). Unfortunately, our Legislature would no doubt stop such a proposal as it did in 2017. Until there’s a political change, we are left with voluntary efforts to reduce plastic consumption by changing habits.

Taxes or bans on single-use plastics have been enforced in a variety of cities and countries. Interestingly, Africa, where at least 14 countries have done so, is a leader in confronting this environmental hazard. Ireland is another. But until the fossil-fuel industry is forced to take responsibility for its contamination of the planet, we are left with a hodgepodge of approaches to a global calamity.

The author of the commentary, Harvard business and economics Prof. Scott Duke Kominers, points out that we can “calibrate taxes to match actual estimates of environmental harm.” But there are other consequences that can’t be calculated by taxes. I’m referring to the millions of creatures that die from ingesting or being entangled in plastic and to the contamination of our oceans, soil, and air. Plastic trash is piling up around the world while the fossil-fuel industry is increasing plastic production by 40%.

Rarely do we hear politicians mention this on any campaign trail they travel. And when our own Legislature refuses to give communities a choice to ban or tax plastic bags and straws, we’re in trouble.

Local, state, national and international leaders, in many instances, are attempting to confront this deluge of plastic, knowing that it contributes to climate change. If we want to leave our offspring a healthy world, we, as individuals, also need to reduce our plastic consumption.

Patricia Helmberger, Grand Rapids, Minn.