Reading American history growing up, I always felt a sense of pride knowing that my country played a large role in ending Nazi Germany and largely stamping fascism out of the 20th century. And like many Americans, I was proud of the role my northern ancestors played in destroying the Confederacy and ridding our country of its greatest sin: slavery. But I also learned that subsequent generations forget both the sins and the sacrifices of their forebears. That time has come again.
Saturday's attacks were disgusting, reprehensible and represent everything our country was intended to stand against. This was not a display of hatred, bigotry and violence "on many sides." No, it was a display of hatred, bigotry and violence from one side. To be perfectly clear, these domestic terrorists represent the same despicable forces that we defeated in both the 19th and the 20th centuries.
More than at any point in most of our lifetimes, we all have a responsibility to preserve the values upon which our nation was founded. Hatred, racism and the forceful silencing of groups with whom we may disagree have no place in America. It is unacceptable for us to sit on the sidelines while the liberties of our fellow citizens are assaulted. We have a duty to resist this hate through our interactions with friends and strangers, in our vocations and at the ballot box.
Our ancestors did not look the other way when their freedoms and liberties were threatened. Neither can we.
Coleman Drake, Minneapolis
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President Donald Trump's initial refusal to declare strong condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups after the murderous rampage in Charlottesville, his eagerness to afford moral equivalency between them and those who protested their racism, and his eventual passionless rote delivery of the condemnation demanded by citizens (who included members of his own political party's leadership) left undeniable questions about where his loyalties lie.
Despite his children's advice to relieve Steve Bannon of his White House responsibilities and Bannon's apparent ties to white supremacy, Trump remains firmly committed to this man, telling his children that it's better to "keep him close."
Anyone who can add two and two can't help but come up with major questions about why this president is morbidly reluctant to call domestic evil by its name and scared to death of his own chief strategist.
Oliver Gilbert, Minneapolis
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There is a clear difference between the white supremacists who assembled and carried torches in Charlottesville this weekend and those who marched calling for social justice. One group was in the tradition of the KKK, the other in the heritage of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. One was advocating hate, the other was saying "no" to racism. We all should recall King's words: "Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. …. [V]iolence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem … . It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding."
Jim Scheibel, St. Paul
The writer is a former St. Paul mayor.
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I sincerely hope that at least a few Republican lawmakers are now experiencing a come-to-Jesus moment after seeing the kind of fire they've been playing with in tacitly encouraging, for their own political advantage, the murderous rage on display in Charlottesville.
Thomas R. Smith, River Falls, Wis.
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The original group of demonstrators in Virginia Saturday obtained a permit to protest the removal of a Confederate war statue. Because every protest these days requires a counterprotest, opponents showed up and chaos ensued. Here's an idea: 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. This dangerous trend of people confronting every person they determine to have an unfavorable opinion needs to end.
Jason Gabbert, Plymouth
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There is another way to deal with the Confederacy statue removal. Removing the statue angers people because it disconnects them with their past. Clearly, leaving the statue is a constant reminder of repression. Why not leave the statue but require an additional statue depicting the end of slavery? It would cost more but it might reduce some of the hyperpolarity
Shannon Bros O'BRIEN, Eagan
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As I watched scenes of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., I couldn't help but think of my great-great-grandfather, Peter. He immigrated to the U.S. from Luxembourg in 1854 with this wife and children. He settled in Wisconsin and worked there until 1863, when he enlisted in the Union army. He was captured in battle and sent to Andersonville prison, where he died. His body now lies buried in the red clay of Georgia.
I couldn't help but wonder what he would think if he could see the state of this country today. As an immigrant, he fought to protect and preserve his adopted country. He gave his life to the cause of ending slavery and assuring human rights to all people regardless of the color of their skin. What would he think if he could now see the angry white men marching with torches, rifles and Confederate battle flags in support of white nationalism?
Would he be angry or heartbroken? Would he fear that his life was given in vain? If he could speak to me now, what would he tell me to do?
I believe he would say: "I did what I could to help make this country's dreams come true. My death and the deaths of 360,000 other Union soldiers moved us closer to the goal. But the work we started isn't done yet. It's up to you now to keep working to make this country live up to its promises. Don't shirk your responsibility to those of us who sacrificed our lives for the cause. Keep believing in the vision of freedom and equality. Keep working to make it a reality."
I hope I don't let down my great-great grandpa.
Tom Ehlinger, Bloomington
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In case anyone is still confused about the phrase "white privilege," I have a recent example to sharpen your understanding. The alt-right participants in the Charlottesville riots on Saturday, all of whom were white, came to their rally armed with torches and chanting neo-Nazi slogans, and all of them went home in one piece. If they had been black or Hispanic, there would have been a bloodbath. That is white privilege.
Stephen Kriz, Maple Grove
Brush up on Iran-Contra history
The writer of Saturday's letter (Readers Write, Aug. 12) blaming President Carter's public condemnation of the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini as the reason for his holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days needs to bone up on his history. The writer either doesn't know, or conveniently forgot, that the hostage crisis was resolved not because of quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy but because of the clandestine, illegal sale of weapons from us to our sworn enemy Iran. A transaction negotiated by Ronald Reagan's team that later became know as the "arms for hostages" deal. Did the writer think that the mere election of Reagan scared the Hezbollah terrorists so much that they thought it best to release the hostages minutes following Reagan's inauguration? The writer needs to google "Iran-Contra Affair" for a little history lesson and learn the whole sordid story.
Doug Williams, Robbinsdale