Every few weeks I meet a friend for coffee. We sit in Cafe Latte on Grand Avenue and talk about his dog, about politics, about our health. And in the summer, when he wears short-sleeve shirts, I can’t help but notice the number tattooed on his arm. A reminder of his life 70 years ago when, as a teen, he and his brother were prisoners in Auschwitz. Here is living history, sitting across from me, drinking a chai. He has shared his story with me and with others repeatedly. Never forget, we say. Never again. And now here we are in 2017, with neo-Nazis killing innocent people who were standing up for justice and racial equity. The New York Times reports that right wing extremists are “ … making arrangements to appear at future marches. Some were planning to run for public office. Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event — a protest, nominally, of the removal of a Confederate-era statue — were organizing efforts to preserve what they referred to as ‘white heritage’ symbols in their home regions.”
In Tuesday’s paper, Corby Pelto writes that “People across the country are only fooling themselves if they don’t realize that many good people … are upset about the removal of historical markers and statues by those engaged in historical revisionism and the politically correct movement that squelches free speech” (“There is plenty of blame to go around — for everybody,” Aug. 15).
Robert E. Lee was the leader of the Confederacy, which stood for maintaining slavery as an institution of the U.S. It stood for a hierarchy of human value. It stood for blatant racism. Why would any city in this country wish to honor and promote these ideas? It is far from historical revisionism; in fact, this country needs to spend more time examining its history and finding ways to make reparations to those who were oppressed. Germany faced its own dark history and has attempted to apologize and make reparations (however inadequate those might be). It is past time for us to own up, to truly face the ugliness, to look at it squarely and say, together: Never again.
Sharon DeMark, St. Paul
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Why, after Lincoln and Grant cleared Confederate leaders of treason 150 years ago, are revisionist and ignorant descendants of both the North and the South today calling for removal of “racist” reminders of these terrible events of our troubled past? The healing was to happen during Reconstruction and, as we know, President Andrew Johnson tried to pick up where Lincoln left off, to move us on to a more tolerant society. What happened? Hitler hijacked the swastika (good luck symbol from India) for his own diabolical purposes. The neo-Nazis of today and the KKK have hijacked the Confederate flag for the same reasons. Now it’s the statues! My great- and great-great-grandfather fought in the 52nd Virginia under Jubal Early and Stonewall Jackson. I’m an ex-Peace Corps volunteer having served in the Philippines 1967-69. I’m proud of my Southern heritage. I’m not a racist. I hate revisionists. What to do?
John Haack, Maple Lake, Minn.
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Pelto notes that reasonable people may differ over decisions to remove Confederate and other politically charged public monuments. True. Whether it’s a statue of Robert E. Lee or the name of a city lake in Minneapolis, it is possible to have reasonable discourse about revision. Are we making a positive change or just trying to forget? Are we reaching out to those we have offended or just trying to erase our past sins? Reasonable people can ask these questions. But these reasonable people were not the ones marching in Charlottesville last weekend with automatic weapons and riot gear.
Lesley Hendrickson, Minneapolis
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Star Tribune, time to recognize Bde Maka Ska and resist writing “Calhoun” on your pages (“Hundreds denounce racism, show support for Charlottesville victims at Lake Calhoun vigil,” StarTribune.com, Aug. 14). Say it with me: “B’day Ma-Kaa Ska.”
Tracy Nordstrom, Minneapolis
RIGHT TO PROTEST
As long as we’re keeping it peaceful, it’s OK — isn’t it?
I would like to respond to the letter writer’s comment about Charlottesville (Readers Write, Aug. 15): “Rather than confronting protesters you don’t agree with, let the protesters do their business unfettered. If they’re as wrong as you think they are, they’ll say their piece, eventually disperse and the Earth will continue spinning with no harm done.” History has shown that this simple solution did not work with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in this country or with the ascent of Hitler in Nazi Germany. At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, we must heed the words attributed to Edmund Burke, the 18th-century British philosopher and statesman: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”
John Silver, Lakeville
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A letter writer suggested that had the protesters not been white, but were instead black or Hispanic, there would have been a bloodbath. That is simply not true, as long as protesters are peaceful and respect the rule of law.
Bruce A. Lundeen, Minneapolis
GOOGLE AND GENDER BIAS
That is not my experience; Woman techie bought into myth
As a female senior software engineer with 16 years of industry experience, I take no small amount of umbrage at Megan McArdle’s commentary (“That guy at Google was right about women in tech,” Aug. 11).
What McArdle makes most clear is that she bought in to a mind-set that says that building a fiber-channel network in one’s basement is what a “real” tech worker would do on the weekend. I have co-workers of both sexes who do such things. Some of those same co-workers also spend lots of time on non-tech-related hobbies and activities, too.
The behavior that McArdle describes fits a stereotype of the technology worker, but it certainly doesn’t fit my life or the lives of my colleagues. To imply, as I feel she does, that one has to be one-dimensionally focused on technology in order to be good enough at technology to make a career of it is not only irresponsible, it’s just plain wrong. I sincerely hope that young women who are interested in a future in a technology field know better than to listen to such nonsense.
D. Morgan MacBain, St. Paul
Sorting out the hostage facts
A letter writer (Readers Write, Aug. 15) has gotten two Iranian events hopelessly muddled. The Iranian hostage crisis, where 52 diplomats were held for 444 days in retaliation for the U.S. admitting the deposed shah to U.S. soil, ended in 1981 and involved no Lebanese Hezbollah forces, contrary to what the writer suggests. The crisis was indeed resolved through clandestine diplomacy in Algiers.
The Iran-Contra Affair took place in 1985-86, years later, and did begin with Hezbollah holding seven American hostages in Lebanon. The Reagan administration sold arms to Iran to illegally fund U.S. operations in Nicaragua. In return, Iran agreed to exert influence on Hezbollah to free the seven hostages. This was a scandal that lasted until 1992, when most of the U.S. perpetrators were pardoned by President George W. Bush.
William O. Berman, Minneapolis