Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in oral arguments last week in an affirmative action case, thought it important to say that “there are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas … as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school where they do well.” He opined that some are “being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

I’m sure African-American college students everywhere appreciate the justice’s encouragement to lower their aspirations.

Had these comments been made in casual conversation over a beer at the corner tavern, they would be reprehensibly racist enough. But from the bench, by a sitting Supreme Court justice? Nothing short of outrageous. Justice Scalia is obligated by the canons of judicial ethics to recuse himself from this case and all future cases involving racially sensitive issues. More fundamentally, can anyone still wonder why racial and ethnic minorities question the American commitment to equal opportunity?

Mark Catron, White Bear Lake

AMERICA’S POPULISTS

Bernie Sanders should not be lumped in with these others

It was shocking to read Stephen Mihm’s Dec. 9 commentary (“Five characteristics of a political populist”) putting Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders (?!) in the same sentence. Really? The term “populist” describes these men as some weird equivalency?

Sanders has a long history of public service devoted to democratic, yes, democratic principles that he has championed his entire public career when he was in Vermont and the Senate. His campaign is strictly about the deteriorating conditions of this country’s common man that is at fever pitch after 30 years of Reaganomics, the domination of neoliberal policies wedded to right-wing religious tactics. Trump is using all of that to his advantage. Sanders wants to rein it in.

Sanders is not like anybody running for president. He does not deserve to be in the same sentence with Trump and Carson.

Claire D. Auckenthaler, Minneapolis

 

‘EUROPE’S TRUMPS’

Hungary’s prime minister is a statesman, not a demagogue

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is not like Donald Trump (“Europe already has its own Donald Trumps,” Opinion Exchange, Dec. 11).

Orbán’s government, about two months ago, proposed a six-point action plan to manage the migrant crisis, five of which points, except the last one, the European Council adopted and is implementing. I paraphrase:

1) Secure (not “close”) the borders of all European Union 28 member states, otherwise the Schengen Agreement, guaranteeing the free flow of capital and labor, can be discarded (Hungary lived up to the agreement when it built its fence.)

2) Distinguish between refugees and migrants, because they may have to be processed and treated differently.

3) Increase by 1 percent the financial contribution of members states and reduce by 1 percent E.U. expenditures to manage the crisis; repeat the procedure as many times as necessary.

4) Secure the cooperation of Turkey and Russia, without the cooperation of which the crisis cannot be managed long-term.

5) All developed countries of the world should offer quotas to receive refugees and migrants.

6) If Greece cannot secure its borders, police contingents of select E.U. member states should be sent to assist them,

I wish we had statesmen like Orbán.

Geza Simon, Minneapolis

 

PRAYER

Does power come from the response or from the act itself?

In a Dec. 6 commentary (“A nation that can’t pray together …”), Russell Moore decries the recent backlash to the idea that prayer is an effective response to mass shootings. Moore complains that “cynics” are mocking and shaming the reliance on prayer and that this — not religion itself — is creating an “ideologically fractured populace.” If only people who disagreed with us would change their minds, then everything would be fine.

Public prayer purports to be more than a unifying force and an expression of empathy, but only as an apparent afterthought does Moore state that “we do believe that God can intervene.” We believe? Not “it’s an obvious fact” or “there’s plenty of proof?” Those who claim divine intervention all too often rely on the B-word or politically correct victim-playing as a way to sidestep the need to provide convincing arguments.

Consider the fact that Muslims pray five times a day. You would think that by now Almighty God would have been able to get through to them, to change the hearts and minds of those who become more radicalized as they become more religious. It’s not like we’re asking him to stop bullets.

Patrick McCauley, Edina

• • •

Moore’s article offers valid perspective for many religiously oriented people about prayer as action that assumes God can and will intervene. For the religiously inclined, understanding what prayer is depends greatly on one’s understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world.

If one believes that prayer can coerce God into a particular course of action, the implication is that the pray-er has some degree of control over how God acts in the world. This represents a more problematic concept of God, although it is a commonly held view of prayer. I suspect this view of prayer was responsible for some of the negative comments about praying.

If, however, one believes that prayer is a person or community’s attempt to change themselves (rather than change God’s mind) to become more loving, forgiving and committed in compassionate solidarity with those who are suffering, then, according to theologian Marjorie Suchocki, God can work differently in the world through people who are compassionate and loving than when they are hateful and wishing harm to others. In this way, prayer does make a difference and does change the world.

This latter understanding of prayer has a greater capacity to lead individuals and religious groups into a more positive, outwardly directed activity in the world, recognizing that God’s intervention in the world is through human activity.

Mike Sirany, Roseville

 

SAFETY ON THE ROADS

These are dark days — literally, so dress accordingly

I was really hoping during this dark season that orange would be the new black. I have had several close calls with walkers, runners and bikers wearing fashionable black clothing. This is as true driving in the afternoon on a gray day as it is at night. It is very difficult to see you. Please do yourself and drivers a favor, and lighten up.

Carol O’Connor, St. Paul