So much rides on individual actions


Sanford Levinson argues ("Freedom: Not just another word," July 4) that the structural difficulties of changing the Constitution are a key reason many Americans are alienated from the national government. I think the bigger, more basic reason is something that Levinson mentions but doesn't adequately emphasize.

He writes, "The greatest lesson of the founders is that Americans must think for themselves" -- and we, as individuals and as a people, do a lousy job of thinking for ourselves. Or, if we are thinking, we're doing a lousy job of communicating what we're thinking about.

Think, for example, of how little outcry there's been over the past decade about our foolish, futile and obscenely expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or how little outcry there's been about the corruption and ineptitude in the financial sector that played a huge role in our current economic mess. And then think about how society at large has ridiculed and reviled those few war protesters and those members of the Occupy movement who have had the common sense and the courage to recognize obvious wrongs and stand up against them.

The problem isn't the Constitution; the problem is the cowardice of "we the people," we who have become cattle.


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In his July 4 commentary about the health care debate and Sarah Palin's concept of freedom, Michael Fuerstein concedes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act involves government "engag[ing] in coercion through laws that interfere with individual decisions," something that John Locke would abhor, but Fuerstein argues that this is justified on the grounds that "the essential role of government has always been to manage ... social challenges" that require large-scale interventions, even if it takes some coercion of law to accomplish this.

Has Fuerstein forgotten that our founding fathers, many of them disciples of Locke, insisted in the Declaration of Independence that "governments are instituted among men" to secure individual rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"? If Locke would have abhorred such an intrusion on personal liberty, so would have Jefferson, Adams, Washington and all the rest. Rather than "missing the point" about freedom, Sarah Palin is, at least when it comes to this country's founding values, right on target.


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Oh, the irony! On July 4th, I read that Minneapolis will be adding a fourth year of math by cutting social studies in its high schools, and that this comes just as the state introduces new standards to improve civics instruction. So much for preserving our nation's heritage.


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Marriage amendment

Corporate pressure is a tool for both sides


In Thursday's letters about same-sex marriage, one writer says the $6 million spent by both sides of the issue could be better used for feeding the poor and housing the homeless. True as that may be, how about the millions that are being spent on the presidential campaigns? How many police and firemen would that hire?

A second letter bemoans the fact that some people are boycotting General Mills for being GLBT-friendly. He goes on to name a large group of companies (in alphabetical order, thank you) that also have gay- and lesbian-friendly policies. Among them I see Target, which changed its political-giving process following controversy over a check sent to a conservative candidate for governor. I think it was our GLBT community that made that happen. What is that old saying about people who live in glass houses throwing stones?


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I cannot fathom the headline "Married 25 years, they see the impact on children," published as part of the ThreeSixty Journalism Workshop presentation on July 5. The story, about a couple opposed to broader definitions of marriage, cites an interaction with a child who has two homosexual parents and a fear that he will never know what motherhood is, but there is no indication that this concern is grounded in anything but religious views, nor is the supposed impact ever directly addressed or discussed. We are to presume it is negative, but we cannot consider an argument that is not articulated.


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Education's key role in metro-area disparities


"Twin Cities still worst in U.S. for black jobseekers" (July 3) -- at least, that is how the headline interprets the fact that the unemployment rate for blacks in Minneapolis-St. Paul is three times the rate for whites. However, as detailed at the end of the article, fewer than half of blacks in the metro area have graduated from high school, compared with 80 percent of whites. It would have been more illuminating to compare unemployment rates for blacks and whites with equivalent levels of education. Perhaps the real story is that the Twin Cities is a tough employment market for people who lack a high school diploma, regardless of race. In turn, that would point again to the racial educational achievement gap as the real issue.


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Recent selections have been miserable, or ...


Why has the Star Tribune published so many anti-Obama political cartoons recently? What happened to the concept of balance in your paper?

I assume Steve Sack is on vacation, but aren't there less vicious cartoonists out there? Something's amiss when, during the hottest and most "patriotic" week of the year, the Star Tribune has chosen to publish some of the most malicious demagoguery I've seen in some time. Is this to placate your possible buyers?


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Thank you for the June 30 editorial cartoon about President Obama's case for re-election. It lends balance to the debate.