“Even to friends, Chauvin was an enigma in blue” (front page, Aug. 9) reveals important perspectives on the type of police officer Derek Chauvin was but draws the wrong conclusion. The article’s testimonials describe him as not “overly aggressive” for the force, a normal “face in the crowd” of Minneapolis officers, while simultaneously concluding that something “happened to him” and that he somehow went rogue. Not only is this a blatant contradiction, but it misses the opportunity to demonstrate the problem with policing in this country: Having 17 misconduct complaints is viewed as normal and a man who can behave as Chauvin did toward George Floyd didn’t previously stand out from his fellow officers.
To conclude from these testimonials that Chauvin went rogue is a problem with the reporting of policing. It is, to borrow a word from Trevor Noah, “copaganda.” Chauvin’s unremarkable record, coupled with the recently reported data that Black people make up 78% of vehicle searches conducted by the Minneapolis Police Department (front page, Aug. 7), should lead a reasonable person to conclude that there is racism and violence deeply embedded within the MPD. Chauvin is the most clear-cut example, but, as activists and protesters have been telling us, the problem runs far deeper than just one bad apple.
Matthew Ruppert, Edina
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Read this passage from a May 28 Star Tribune article very carefully: “ ‘I don’t think the paramedics knew what was going on. They just saw a split second of what was happening,’ [the Hennepin Healthcare EMS chief] said in reference to Chauvin’s prolonged knee restraint on Floyd’s neck. ‘Ultimately, if the police have somebody in custody, we have to get permission from them to work with on the patient.’ ”
Does this mean that no human — be they physician, medic, first aid attendant, EMS, nurse, health care aide or a concerned member of the public — can direct, instruct, order, demand or insist that a public servant allow for medical assistance to be rendered for a person in their charge?
How much power over human life do the police need in order to perform their public duties?
Lawrence Crosthwaite, Ponoka, Alberta
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In response to an Aug. 9 letter in which the writer states that he “inflicted more stress than [he] suffered” in Vietnam and wonders if the same might be true of Minneapolis police officers now making claims of post-traumatic stress disorder:
I wonder how much stress you could inflict if, when you went into battle, your commanding officer said to you: “When they start shooting and throwing grenades, I want you to stand there and take it, because you do realize that these are peaceful enemies [the protesters].” I am a vet, too. If you have no stress related to those days, count your blessings — at least you were in a position to defend yourself.
Lowell A Geske, Rosemount
France then and America now
I concur with Bret Stephens’ comparison of America’s current revolutionary fervor with the French Revolution (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 9). But Edmund Burke’s warning needs an international audience as well.
Naturally, America’s adversaries seek to harm and diminish us. But actions stoking racial strife, election interference, fake news, etc., in the hope of a violent American revolution, are reckless and ignorant. Foreign powers interfered with and pushed the French Revolution as well. The result was a military dictatorship and Napoleon’s wars of aggression. Oops.
Can such instigators really be such fools as to think they can manage/control a violent revolution in America? History is a far better guide than speculation, intentions or theories. An aggressive American Napoleon with nuclear weapons would be their worst nightmare. What are they thinking?
Martin R. Wellens, Shorewood
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Aside from its awkward all-roads-lead-to-Trump non sequiturs, Stephens’ column does justice to Burke, the spiritual father of modern evolutionary conservatism and the man who got the French Revolution right when so many of his contemporaries got it very wrong. In stark contrast to his fellow Briton William Wordsworth, Burke did not foresee “golden times” ahead for France, and wrote magnificently — if somewhat wordily by modern standards — to warn others of the dire consequences of the French experiment.
But he was not as prescient as many think. When Burke published his “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” France already had experienced savage violence in the storming of the Bastille, the rural unrest that followed known as the “Great Fear,” and the Women’s March on Versailles that resulted in decapitations of royal guards and their severed heads being hoisted on pikes and dangled in front of the coach windows forcibly carrying Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette back to virtual imprisonment in Paris. All of these occurred long before the Reign of Terror and before Burke published his Reflections.
Unlike other observers, however, he saw in the anarchy that was consuming France — as some see in the lawlessness plaguing America’s cities in this summer of 2020 — a sign of things to come. Burke was able to arrive at this insight because he understood the adamantine verities of human nature, something the present holders of the revolutionary baton seem worryingly incapable of comprehending.
Bernard Carpenter, Chanhassen
In praise of Camp Widjiwagan
Having lived on the North Arm with Camp Widjiwagan for more than 30 years and previously spending every summer at my family’s own nearby resort, I can attest to the superior quality of Widjiwagan (“YMCA cuts affecting storied camps,” Outdoors, Aug. 9). Kids of all ages have been going on camping trips for years. They are taught to respect and love nature and are taught courage and an “I am strong, I can do anything” attitude.
Camp Widjiwagan is a great camp, offering kids all kinds of trips — from daylong, weeklong or 10-day adventures — without their parents. It offers a great experience at a time in life when kids need to learn how to believe in themselves and what they are capable of doing. It would be a shame to get rid of the people who make it happen. It would be a shame not to offer this one-of-a-kind experience. It should stay the same as it always has been.
Claire Taylor, Ely, Minn.
The judgment and the details
The Star Tribune has shown us twice recently how totally blind it is to the suffering in our community. When most families are struggling to figure out how they take care of their families’ basic needs, the paper took up valuable space (“A wave of new pools,” Aug. 6) letting us know that if kids are bored this summer, just build them an $80,000 pool. And with “The new shape of home” (Aug. 9), it lets us know that if you are struggling to figure out how to handle distance learning for your three kids, simply add built-in desks/working spaces for them between their bedrooms
I can’t believe how insensitive these stories are — are the Star Tribune’s journalists really that blind to what most parents and their kids are going through?
Maggie Nathan, Minneapolis
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A passage in “The new shape of home” mistakes oilcloth as flooring. Oilcloth was used, particularly during the Great Depression, not as flooring but as a tablecloth. It had a smooth, waterproof surface that could be wiped clean. Linoleum was the flooring of choice, and once the pattern had been worn off, people sometimes painted over the backing to extend its life.
Incidentally, at the age of 93, I remember the Depression very well and know whereof I speak.
Eunice Hafemeister, Minneapolis