"Democracy is under attack," a reprinted editorial from the New York Daily News (Dec. 14), is absolutely correct in condemning former President Donald Trump and his cohort for refusing to cooperate with the bipartisan investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army, also having served my country in the Peace Corps, I am deeply troubled by what happened at the Capitol on that January day. There is no doubt in my mind that what occurred then was part of a planned effort at a right-wing coup d'état against the democratically elected government of the United States.
I was deeply saddened to see that a significant number of military veterans were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, both in leadership positions and as blind followers of Trump. But I was not totally surprised, having witnessed several incidents involving bigotry, racism and right-wing idiocy during my military service. Sadly, our military culture sometimes breeds it.
Developments since that day strongly indicate that overthrowing the rule of democracy in our country remains the goal of several right-wing political sects with connections to highly placed politicians, and that additional illicit and violent efforts toward that goal can be expected.
It is incumbent on our congressional, judicial and executive branches of government to investigate and act strongly to prosecute the organizers and participants in the Jan. 6 coup at all levels. It is mandatory that the relevant authorities take the necessary measures to pre-empt and dismantle further coup attempts and efforts to destroy democracy in our country. That work should include efforts to remove extremism from our military forces.
Andrew Berman, St. Louis Park
What about those promises?
In 2020, candidate Joe Biden said, "I'm going to eliminate your student debt if you come from a family [making less] than $125,000 and went to a public university." In 2021, Biden announced that all student loan repayments will resume in 2022. A cynic might infer that Biden simply ran on a promise he had no intention to keep — and they would be right. Debtors are a large bloc of the party coalition, but they have been betrayed. One might think the Democratic coalition large enough that at least some of their concerns will be addressed, but they'd be wrong. Take environmentalists: To their dismay, Biden leased 80 million acres of Gulf Coast waters to oil companies for drilling. There are Democrats who voted blue to save democracy, but the For the People Act, which would end gerrymandering and voter suppression, died in the Senate because Democratic leaders refused to abolish the filibuster. Biden did not protest. There are humanitarians who thought Biden would be less severe to the people of the world — their hopes were dashed by videos of Border Patrol agents and Haitian refugees, by weapons sales to Saudi Arabia as it conducts a genocide in Yemen and so much more. Perhaps workers thought Biden would support their unionization efforts, but he has remained silent while greater men like Franklin D. Roosevelt once actively campaigned for unionization efforts.
Debtors, workers, environmentalists, humanitarians, all written off as unimportant. If the Democratic coalition is unhappy, it is because there is not a single bloc among them whose interests are being served. It's a curious governing strategy that will have predictable results in future elections.
Jack Lindsay, Minneapolis
Another troubling development
It is the ultimate irony that while President Joe Biden was hosting his conference on democracy, the United States was simultaneously pursuing the extradition of Julian Assange ("WikiLeaks founder a step closer to extradition," Dec. 11). Biden's words on press freedom ring especially hollow as Assange's situation represents the opposite. This is not about Assange himself, but about the freedom of a publisher to print information forwarded to WikiLeaks. This will have a tremendous ripple effect on all investigative journalists who choose to challenge the United States government. All those who still value our First Amendment rights should be very concerned.
Patrick O'Connor, Minneapolis
The British High Court has ruled that Julian Assange may be extradited to America, the country that plotted his assassination. The court accepted American assurances it would not hold Assange in torturous conditions, though these assurances were saddled with conditions that make them pointless.
The Assange case has effectively criminalized national security reporting worldwide, setting a "harmful legal precedent for prosecuting reporters simply for interacting with their sources," said the deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement.
For this reason, every major press freedom group now opposes Assange's extradition (CPJ, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty, Freedom of the Press Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union). This unanimity was slow to emerge due to a vicious smear campaign that made Assange poisonous for fundraisers. However, the sirens are blaring now and we should all hope it's not too late.
There is a human tragedy at the heart of this disaster.
Assange's family revealed on Saturday that he had suffered a stroke during his court video appearance from prison on Oct. 27, following more than a decade of arbitrary detention, orchestrated vilification and torture. This is Jamal Khashoggi in slow-motion.
President Biden needs to end this travesty. Free Julian Assange.
Drew Hamre, Golden Valley
Our ills come down to ourselves
Ross Douthat's commentary published in the Star Tribune on Dec. 14 lacked coherence ("What if it's the new right that sees our strange world most clearly?"). All the ills of our current society — whether long-established like inequity and international overreach or relatively new like online isolation — come down to one ill. It's a concept Douthat does include indirectly in his rambling lists of both liberal and conservative concerns, but he doesn't quite put his finger on it. What could that be? Selfishness. What's in it for us. The term "individualism" is close, but that concept connotes something less ingrained, something subject to a relatively easier fix.
Underlying Douthat's malaise is what appears to be an assumption: Government needs to fix this. Strangely enough, we must go full circle and correct it individually. It is in us. Of course, community reinforcement helps. Look at what many people do when neighbors, near or far, suffer from a visible and physical disaster like tornadoes. They pitch in. But we do lack consistency, especially when the suffering is pervasive, maybe strictly emotional, and we become almost numb to it. I'm not saying we have to deny our own needs and even wants. A change in perspective can do a lot — and not just during the holidays.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
The opinion piece by Ross Douthat struck a chord in me — a loud and dissonant one. We can argue the relative importance of issues in the eyes of individuals. and even, perhaps, the length of time those problems have persisted. It seems to me, however, that those on the far left have a very clear-eyed view of two of the most vitally pressing issues and approaches to them. The far left, young and old, recognize the enormous threat of climate change, the role human activity plays in this threat, and the need for immediate, vast action worldwide to avert existential disaster. They also see the extensive inequalities built into our society and recognize that a compassionate civilization should do everything in its power to guarantee that all people have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a thriving economy and a free society.
Instead, what we hear from the right, both young and old, is denial of the climate problem and endorsement of insane profits, both corporate and especially individual, over the greatest good for the greatest number.
John D. Tobin Jr., St. Paul
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