Thanks to columnist Jennifer Brooks (“What price history? $4M,” April 26) for calling attention to the attempt to gut the Minnesota Historical Society budget over what state Sens. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, and Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, call “revisionist history.” That’s an interesting and contested term, but the truly sinister form of historical revision is removal of information from the public record, Stalinists removing images of out-of-favor leaders from photographs (long before Photoshop was around), or the whole anti-Semitic industry of Holocaust denial.
Brooks is right to call the inclusion of Native perspectives an addition. It’s an enrichment of what it means to be a Minnesotan to recognize, for example, that Mendota and Mendota Heights are derived from the Dakota Bdote, for place where rivers join. It deepens my appreciation for my state to imagine the Dakota word Mnisota being explained to early Europeans, according to one account, by indigenous peoples pouring milk into a clear stream to illustrate sky-in-water.
And, yes, it enriches us all to remember the complexities of the Dred Scott case and the U.S.-Dakota War. Having learned these and other lessons, let’s not “revise” them back out of our collective story. Appreciating military history, as Kiffmeyer would apparently have it, requires denying other aspects of Minnesota’s story. And if that history can’t be reduced to bumper-sticker formulae, then let’s damage the whole story, shrink the budget until it tells only the story she and Newman want.
James McKenzie, St. Paul
We see, in several examples in this paper, how damaging it can be
Feelings and behaviors can be stoked by word choices. The “warrior” training offered to police officers may include helpful learning to stay safe (“Union’s ‘warrior’ courses defy ban,” April 25). But “warriors”? Let’s think about what that stimulates in the minds of young people to make them feel they need to defend themselves.
Provocative words and phrases aren’t hard to find — for example, “flash point” in the April 23 front-page headline about South St. Paul Secondary students requesting to wear graduation sashes. This looked to me like a story about students who had a good, empowering high school experience coming to talk to a school board who agreed to listen … just what we hope for. Maybe the principal needed to think about it, and quite likely he would have come around in time. “Flash point” evoked a divisive confrontation that cuts off the possibility of agreement.
And the use of the phrase “anti-vaccine hysteria” in the “Top News” column on the April 25 front page sounds like hysteria reigns everywhere. I support vaccination for all. But the moms who have become afraid of it are not “hysterical” — they’ve been told that their children are in danger and are acting like protective parents do. Labeling and demeaning anyone tends to provoke more resistance rather than openness to new learning.
Maybe if we all tone down our words and stick to straight-up descriptions, we can stop provoking so much anger and defensiveness and lower our collective high blood pressure.
Helen Gilbert, Minneapolis
GENDER IDENTITY LEGISLATION
We and our legislators aren’t ready to be codifying anything on this topic
If someone reading this thinks I’m trying to discriminate against someone with two X chromosomes, they’re wrong. What I’m trying to do is bring common sense to a topic that’s beginning to outrun itself. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has introduced H.R. 5, the Equality Act. It would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Remember the recent talk about gender-neutral restrooms and locker rooms, and how gender dysphoria and gender-fluid situations, etc., should be dealt with? That debate noise has quieted down, but there’s been little resolution or intellectual understanding. The proof is the accelerating problem of many women being forced to compete against “XY (biological male) trans women” on athletic fields.
It is premature for Congress to establish the permanence of legislation about something its members probably can’t explain and don’t understand. We need to continue the debates on campus, in legislatures, among medical groups, in our homes and in our hearts. Let’s learn a whole lot more about this issue before we try to institutionalize a solution. We and our legislators aren’t ready. We don’t even understand “endogenous and exogenous androgens” — at least I don’t.
Steve Bakke, Edina
PUBLIC ACCESS TO COURT
It isn’t clear that Noor trial judge grants it the importance she must
The April 25 profile of Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance, who is overseeing the Mohamed Noor trial, made much of her “no-nonsense” style and “deep trial experience.” (“Judge lands in international spotlight.”) But it didn’t explore an important question: How did someone unfamiliar with or antagonistic to public access to trials get assigned this high-profile case?
When she was forced by media and other organizations to obey the First Amendment, Quaintance made it clear in her written opinion that she was doing so grudgingly. She also disagreed with years of legal precedent guaranteeing public access. On one occasion in court, she expressed ignorance that sketches of jurors could be televised without their permission.
Public access is not an arcane legal standard but a fundamental right that a “no-nonsense” judge should respect. One has to wonder if she will try again to violate that right when the spotlight is off.
Pat Doyle, Minneapolis
The writer is a former Star Tribune reporter.
THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE
Two peculiar mistakes in writer’s tableau of ‘two astonishing events’
David Feinwachs’ generally well-informed April 24 commentary (“The future of health care: Two astonishing recent events, as seen by an experienced observer”) accurately assesses the public’s desire for a better health care system (very high) and the insurance industry’s willingness to deliver needed change (very low).
Along the way, however, he makes two peculiar mistakes. First, he claims that the political left rejects Bernie Sanders’ plan because “it doesn’t give everyone everything for free.” In actuality, all serious health proposals that purport to be single-payer are subjected to rigorous economic analysis. The result has always been that, after we pay our premiums, those of us who are middle- and low-income will spend less, even as we cover everyone.
Second, Mr. Feinwachs professes to be comfortable with expanding Medicare but bringing the private insurers who run Medicare Advantage along for the ride. Why retain the useless middleman? Let’s improve traditional Medicare coverage and make it available directly to all.
Ironically, if there is a valid criticism of Sanders’ bill, it is that he provides an opening for new corporate entities that resemble private insurers and that promise to waste just as much in administrative overhead. In this and other ways, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act of 2019 is the superior example of single-payer.
Joel G. Clemmer, St. Paul