Two May 20 articles, two outcomes: First, Peter M. Leschak (“Check your loyalty”) argues that the individual is greater than the group, that the pack cannot exist without the wolf, relating the abstract of the group to the concrete allegiance of the individual. Second, Gail Rosenblum (“Rebuilding from grief, one bluebird house at a time”) tells a touching story of a widower who finds purpose building bluebird houses and in the process is lifted up out of his grief by a community of friends and strangers, each with a story of loss they believe they bear alone, until they reach out and are touched by the kindness of strangers.

Of the two stories, I prefer the feel-good, “footprint in the sand” scenario that Rosenblum describes to the cynical, everyone-for-themselves motif Leschak presents. Life is a takeaway process. We need a community to be a witness and remind us that our life has meaning. I don’t care if the Democratic Party needs me more than I need it, or whether being a union steward has helped or hurt my career. All I know is that I would prefer to live a life with these organizations in it than without.

I prefer not to look at life through prison bars on my heart. If that is a confidence game, then the fix is already in.

Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings

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Leschak’s commentary fascinates the senses when he toggles between loyalties given to organizations vs. the individual. He describes the behavior of the wolf pack as the ideal organization because each wolf acts independently when contributing to a kill. This is in contrast to human organizations that operate only as a brand or a letterhead.

Having a strong allegiance to a group could be an outgrowth of brainwashing and coercion from political establishments; lord knows, they have their ways. A strong profit motive from corporations holds power over their employees. Who has more power, the individual or the organization? It depends.

Not falling into line can be seen as a threat for some groups or as refreshing for others. For example, people of color may find it blasphemous when some in their group vote Republican, or Democrats find it disingenuous when evangelicals support a philanderer for president. The larger issue, of course, is what do we think of people who belong to these groups? Do we believe they follow in lockstep with the brand or the canon of bylaws for an organization, or are they independent thinkers? Do we stereotype those who belong to a certain affiliation, or do we see them as individuals? Pigeonholing all who belong to a specific group is as thoughtless as having blind loyalty to a political party.

Our loyalties and our allegiance belong to ourselves within that specific group, as has always been the case. So, with all due respect, don’t judge me based on my group or affiliations. In most cases you’d be wrong!

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover

TRUMP AND THE MIDWEST

It’s all speculation until we know Mueller’s findings

As they are both busy and in depth on the Donald Trump cataclysm (“Checking what ails us in the age of Trump,” May 20), analyst Dan Balz and local columnist D.J. Tice both miss the big override in their carefully measured research and conclusions.

Tice sums up the social malaise by thumping America’s “elites,” who “have managed to convey such deep contempt and disrespect to large numbers of common people.” Whether one of Tice’s stereotyped elitists or commoners (or anything in between), no conclusions about our national human character can be accepted until the darkest cloud in American election history has been penetrated by the searing rays of the Mueller inquiry.

Without the overriding facts of this wacked election, editorial analysis, reporting and conclusions on the human subjects and victims is unknowing fiction. Right now, and for the unforeseeable future, we are at a crazed period of wait-and-see. Without those missing pieces of the election, we are foundering in a violent sea of raw attitude and emotion. Writers, too, are not immune.

Imagine if Robert Mueller reappears, and he replaces conjecture with some hard facts — sourcing illegal foreign and domestic electioneering (and who knows what else). At such time, there will be valuable information about our nation for much-needed writers to analyze and report to a recovering public.

Steve Watson, Minneapolis

• • •

Tice’s column about why the common man and woman are Trump supporters left out the Fox News factor. Fox is America’s version of state TV — the kind of information we ridicule in countries such as Cuba, China, North Korea and the Soviet Union when it still existed. The programs are composed of sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans that offer no context or historical background to their reports.

This is not a call for censorship but rather a call to continually monitor reports on the Fox network and to expose the falsehoods. The common person may not read the papers or watch the legitimate networks, but over time, the truth will succeed, as it did when Edward R. Murrow brought down Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Do you have that kind of courage, Mr. Tice? Does the Star Tribune?

Tom Leary, Mendota Heights

LEGACY AMENDMENT

Money isn’t going where most needed, or even where intended

The twin articles about the Legacy Amendment (“Looking for payoff on $5.6 billion plan,” May 20) show that there have been benefits from the tax money spent on arts and the environment. But that isn’t a surprise. If you spend billions of dollars on something, there will be benefits. The real question is: Could the money have been better spent on other things? And the answer to that is yes. State funding for arts should be a fairly low priority. It is a “nice-to-have,” a luxury. And the environment, while more important, is also not the most important thing on the budget.

By providing a guaranteed funding stream for the environment and the arts, the Legacy Amendment effectively makes those two items the most important budget priorities for the state. All other items can be cut; not those. Are those items really more important than K-12 education, higher education, welfare, Medicaid and transportation? I don’t think so. I think it was a mistake to make them the top priorities for state spending.

James Brandt, New Brighton

• • •

As we struggle to find ways to protect and clean water, the use of Legacy dollars to build more parking lots, maintenance buildings, shooting ranges and asphalt trails is not helping. Most construction destroys habitat, uses resources and creates pollution and runoff. Often trail construction involves the clearing of 50-foot swaths. In Spring Lake Park reserve, a rare bluff prairie was blown up to put in an asphalt trail. Maintaining asphalt trails in the no-risk condition many people demand calls for salt, which washes into surface and groundwaters. Shooting ranges come with lead shot, contaminating land, water and eventually wildlife.

Subsequent to the Legacy Amendment’s passage, the 25-year Parks and Trails plan was developed. Citizens involved in the plan’s development called for “protecting Nature and creating the next generation of stewards.” They also wanted balanced spending. Thus far, according to the Parks and Trails Legacy advisory committee report, “Celebrating six years of Legacy parks and trails success,” 82 percent of Legacy parks and trails money has been spent on the built environment, with less than 3 percent on natural-resource conservation, protection and restoration. These activities are being “celebrated” this year. Not what you voted for? Attend a “celebration” and express your disdain because right now, most of the Legacy parks and trails money isn’t being spent for clean water or nature.

Catherine Zimmer, St. Paul