Funny or offensive? It's a delicate balance.
Thank you for publishing the thoughtful perspectives of readers calling attention to unfair double standards when it comes to political correctness and cultural sensibilities (Readers Write, Feb. 6 and 7).
It also bears mentioning that it's not a crime to be a bonehead, and there is no constitutional right not to be offended or insulted by one. But when we are inhibited from legal self-expression, out of fear of reprisal for saying something boneheaded or offensive, this impedes our ability to speak freely, which does infringe a very important constitutional right.
Of course it's good policy to be nice and speak kindly to others as a rule, but on the other hand, we should all be fair game when it comes to taking a joke, even one in bad taste. It smacks of elitism for any person or group to imply that they are sacrosanct or deserving of a higher standard of respect than the rest of us, and that is a distinctly un-American notion.
BRAD JOHNSON, ST. PAUL
• • •
Do I think it's funny dressing up as a Muslim woman with a cellphone in my burqa? I think it's hilarious! LOL!
Do I think it's OK? Maybe not.
I'm a Catholic, gay Mexican-American and only people who are my friends and also Catholic, gay and/or Mexican-American (and some exceptions) get to make fun of me, and me of them, on these different issues and stereotypes. The double standard doesn't allow me to make fun of African-Americans or Jews, unless they're my friends and we make fun out of each other.
Let's try to be friends first.
FELIPE MUNOZ, MINNEAPOLIS
* * *
In a tragedy, justice isn't easy to define
As a father, my heart breaks for the family in Minnetrista who lost their daughter when their car broke through the ice on Lake Minnetonka. I especially empathize with the father, who is now facing a criminal charge. He made some very poor choices that had dire effects on his family.
But who among us has not made at least some poor choices in our lives? I am not excusing or condoning this father's actions. If he had made a single better choice that night, his baby might still be alive. If it had been me driving that car, I would spend the rest of my life never forgetting my actions, forever reconsidering the choices I had made.
Thankfully, most of the bad choices we make do not extract their cost in lives. At issue is how we, as a society, make sure that this father and husband takes responsibility for his poor, possibly criminal, choices.
I am thankful that I am not eligible for jury duty to judge this case. I honestly would not know how I would vote until I had heard all arguments for and against this father. I hope the jury judges him fairly and finds the appropriate justice for his choices.
I hope this father can find some peace in his life. I hope the family can find the strength to heal. And, most important, I hope that we all learn from the consequences of both the choices he made and the trial that will determine his responsibility.
ROBERT HEUERMANN, HUDSON, WIS.
* * *
Perhaps we need to see exactly how it looks
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black child in 1955, was brutally murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. He had been beaten and shot and dumped in the river with a weight tied to him.
After he was found three days later, unrecognizable and disfigured, his mother took it upon herself to bravely have his casket open to the public and the press. This accelerated the civil-rights movement.
It would have been so courageous of any parent, but could not really be expected, had a blunt picture of the recent carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School been in full public view. Opponents of gun control would have had to retreat.
The tragic murder of one boy, Emmett Till, made a difference. Twenty mutilated children and teachers should now make a difference if Americans really care about children.
MARSHALL BURKE, HUDSON, WIS.
* * *
Remember the good work being done locally
The Feb. 8 article about the Boy Scouts' upcoming decision on its membership policies ("Scout vote on gays will be a high-pressure act") missed the point. It missed lots of points. It was about the politics of the decision, but it should have been about scouting. When all is said and done, scouting is a great program that does real good for lots of kids.
First, the article quoted leaders of lots of organizations who have nothing to do with scouting. They care deeply about civil rights or family values -- but they advocate for their issue and not for the youths that scouting serves so well.
Second, the article didn't address how scouting really works. Scouting is administered through more than 300 local councils. Scout units are administered through chartered organizations. Many councils, chartered organizations (including churches) and units have inclusive membership policies and will continue to do so regardless of what the National Council does. Change is happening locally.
Third, the article didn't talk with actual scouting volunteers. We give up every Monday night for meetings, camp one weekend a month, and take a week or two off work every summer to take kids to camp.
The current policy is wrong. I wish it would go all the way and prohibit discrimination. But the "local option" proposal is a step. Please make sure that you communicate that there are lots of good people in scouting who want change and are working for it from the bottom up.
LOUIS HOFFMAN, MINNEAPOLIS