Recently, I attended my daughter’s high school graduation. As is often the case, the principal asked the families to hold their applause until after all of the graduates’ names were called. He explained that applauding each graduate is inconsiderate to the other families who may not be able to hear their graduates’ names called. About half of the families ignored the request and loudly and obnoxiously yelled, shouted, hooted and hollered for their graduates. They were sending a signal to the school administration and to the other families that they could simply not care less about behaving as the principal had requested.

This seems like a small thing. It isn’t breaking the law or physically hurting someone. Nevertheless, I think this type of poor behavior and disrespect for authority figures bodes ill for our society. When people don’t behave properly with regard to small rules, they also tend to ignore more important ones.

Nowadays, authority figures tend to overlook such infractions. They want to be tolerant and inclusive. But it seems to me that the standards of behavior are lower than they were in the past and that tolerating such bad behavior simply leads to worse behavior.

James Brandt, New Brighton


Two older books can help us understand America today

There are two books that I recommend at this time: Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom” and Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.”

Fromm describes how society reacts when people feel that there is too much freedom. Old mores and social norms are breaking down, and there is a feeling that freedom has become confused with license. Today, perhaps gay rights — including marriage and having families — have been a tipping point for some. This came on top of electing an African-American president; the government pressing for ever more civil rights, such as preventing states from writing their own voting laws; attempting to control gun purchases; defending Planned Parenthood, and forcing insurers to pay for contraception. This is especially stressful when these events conflict with deeply held religious beliefs. It is time for the pendulum to swing back from too much liberty (or license), but the swing is toward more conservative values (or authoritarianism).

Hoffer’s book is, in essence, an introduction to Donald Trump. Trump’s tactics are very like those of Hitler and Mussolini, offering the restoration of power to those who feel marginalized and are looking to a strong leader to restore their sense of importance and security. This is not an issue for the poor, as they do not recall when they were doing better. It more likely is the middle-class individual who has suffered a real loss. Unfortunately, the slogan “Make America great again,” for which we have seen no coherent plan, relies on faith overcoming reason.

Those who think we are going to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in a massive military campaign lose sight of the fact that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. If we go to war with Islam, will we be fighting all of these folks? We are confronted with a small group who are difficult to identify and defeat because they are their own small group of “true believers” who want to “escape from freedom” and impose an authoritarian form of government. Let us not follow the lead of ISIL. This is not what made America great.

Theodore Nagel, Minneapolis


Their poor service to students is a long-developing problem

The only surprising thing about Bob Larson’s June 8 broadside against law schools (“Solicitations will be bitterly denied”) is that it didn’t show up much sooner.

While the market for new lawyers has steadily shrunk during the last 15 years, the number of new lawyers being turned out by America’s 200-plus law schools has, if anything, increased. Thousands and thousands of newly minted lawyers like Larson (whose law degree is from a high-quality, highly ranked institution) find little or no prospect of long-term gainful employment after three years of law school, a bar examination and (often) six figures of student debt.

Worse yet, because admissions standards at many law schools have been lowered (many of the brightest college students are opting for MBAs rather than JDs), many graduates are finding that they cannot pass a bar examination, even on repeated attempts.

The profession in general, and the American Bar Association in particular, have been slow — glacially slow — to respond to this embarrassing and unacceptable situation. But despite Larson’s experience — and thousands like his every year — law schools continue unabated, fueled by the virtually unlimited availability of federal student loans that cover both tuition and living expenses for three years, resulting in six-figure debt for large numbers of new law graduates before they deposit their first paycheck.

Sadly enough, the equitable maxim “caveat emptor” has come to apply to the very prospect of becoming a lawyer.

Wood R. Foster Jr., St. Paul

The writer is a retired attorney. He was president of the Minnesota State Bar Association from 1999 to 2000.


The situation is frustrating, but worse, it’s dangerous

I spent 25 minutes on Thursday morning on a freeway exit ramp waiting to enter downtown St. Paul so I could get to my job near the State Capitol. I was extremely late to a meeting, but at least I made it in one piece. I hope the same goes for everyone else affected. I say this mainly because I was part of a line of cars extending out into Interstate 94 in a situation ripe for injuries or fatalities. You have a long line of cars at a complete standstill meeting cars flying in at 55 miles per hour at least. I also saw at least one driver get so frustrated that she or he turned the wrong way down a one-way street just to escape the stalled line of cars.

Everywhere in the metro area, traveling is a nightmare. I moved with my family to the Twin Cities two years ago to take a job and build a better life than the one we had on the West Coast, and I so regret it. The quality of life in the metro area is awful, due entirely to the traffic problems. I’ve already started looking for opportunities elsewhere because with anticipated population growth, the situation will only get worse.

Aside from livability being at rock-bottom, at this point I’m far more concerned that with the state of traffic engineering and planning here someone in my family will end up part of a traffic fatality statistic. What will it take for the Twin Cities to wake up and take the traffic tragedy here seriously?

Brenda Hoppe, Minneapolis


Wildflowers at Mill Ruins Park, good deeds in the skyway

I am writing to thank the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for the really grand display of wildflowers at Mill Ruins Park. After several years of nurturing by the board, we now have a wondrous hill of color that through the summer and into the fall will enhance the walk for the Mill District and for the city as well.

Kathleen Clarke Anderson, Minneapolis

• • •

On June 6, my walker lost an important bolt and fell apart in the Minneapolis skyway system. Two men got down on the floor to help put the walker together. One was a complete stranger; the other was an employee of Target.

On many occasions, I have been given aid by the wonderful Downtown Improvement District ambassadors and by wonderful and kind Minnesotans. I just wanted to say thank you for the kindness I have been given. I sincerely am so grateful.

Dorothy “Dottie” Lewis, Minneapolis