The case for civil commitment of sex offenders now decided by federal Judge Donovan Frank (“Judge axes sex offender program,” June 18) raises a question of constitutionality. I was the principal author in the Minnesota House of Representatives in the 1991 revision of the sex offender law. That law has a careful parallel to laws in Kansas and Washington that had already been found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and included a requirement for due process. The wording of the treatment clause was approved by the director of the St. Peter sex offender facility.

Later, Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered all offender releases stopped after Dru Sjodin’s murder. Judge Frank’s suggested periodic reviews sound like an improvement for legislators to do now. It is time for some changes, but Frank’s order should be appealed.

Dave Bishop, Rochester

The writer was a member of the Minnesota House from 1983 to 2002.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

Yes, take it down, but remember the Civil War era’s complexities

I would like to applaud the Star Tribune Editorial Board for its measured approach to the issue of the Confederate battle flag (June 24). The adaptation of St. Andrew’s Cross carried by the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia has been used extensively for the past 75 years as a symbol of segregation, hate and exclusion and should be removed from South Carolina’s capitol.

However, as a student of history, I must remind my fellow progressives that the legacies of antebellum America and the Civil War remain mired in shades of gray. While the institution of slavery defined the conflict, it did so within the context of westward expansion and opposing nationalisms. Not every Rebel soldier went to war with the intention of oppressing African-Americans, and many Yankees had little interest in liberating them. By and large, the slaves freed themselves, mustering courage and creativity to secure their fundamental rights in the midst of a bloody and confusing war. Attempting to erase or sugarcoat the reminders of this crucial era would be a disservice to those who experienced it.

Moving forward, we should remember that remembrance does not necessitate reverence and that character can be distinguished from cause.

Ian Iverson, Northfield

• • •

This week’s frenzied rush on the part of politicians, businesses and ordinary citizens to eliminate display (and sale) of the offensive Confederate flag is laudable — and overdue by about 150 years. Nonetheless, it must be stated that the nine victims of the shooting in South Carolina were not murdered by a flag, but by a handgun wielded by a 21-year-old. It seems to me that it’s high time for the nation to unite in an effort to reduce access to the mechanism for murder by finally placing real, stringent, rational constraints on the acquisition of guns.

John Lauber, Minneapolis

 

CHARLESTON SHOOTINGS

There is no failure, no culpability in the field of psychology

Gary Davison’s article about the Charleston hate-crime murders (“So you want to know why?” June 24) stresses why knowledge of factual history and understanding of chronological sequences are so crucial to making sense of current events. His insights are valid and intelligently written. As a retired psychologist, however, I disagree with his holding the entire field of psychology “culpable” for its failure to offer a compelling explanation for human behavior — why people do what they do.

Davison reduces psychology to its most superficial form — behaviorism — and offers us a platitude disguised as an explanation: “There is no such thing as free will.” Ah, if only it were that simple. Hard determinism, whether biological, behavioristic or some combination thereof, is a dead end that leads us nowhere.

For the past century, psychodynamic depth psychology has grasped the complexities of human behavior and explained it well — even more elegantly during the last several decades as it has evolved and been refined. Even a rudimentary understanding of the defense mechanisms explains human behavior in a systematic framework. But how many of us have the time, desire, intelligence and discipline to study, much less come to understand, psychodynamics? Those who report the news skim the surface and continue to use words such as “unthinkable, unspeakable, incredible, inexplicable, unbelievable,” to describe newsworthy events, thus assigning the truth — factual reality — to a cloud of unknowable mystery, too awful and frightening to be faced, much less comprehended. To anyone with an understanding of psychodynamics, such words are nonsensical and meaningless.

Everything that humans do, everything that happens in this big, messy, imperfect world is believable — by definition. To anyone who knows depth psychology, the entire range of human behavior — including our capacities for good and evil — has been studied, grasped, written about and discussed within the field for a long time. Davison is correct — we have fallen short in terms of communicating our understanding to the general public — but perhaps, too, the general public isn’t listening or interested in what we have to say.

John McClay, Edina

 

LAKE CALHOUN

It has its own persona

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of Lake Calhoun, I don’t think of the man John C. Calhoun or the history behind it. In fact, other than reading other letters from those wringing their hands over the situation, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about him. No, when I think of Lake Calhoun I think of one of the most beautiful urban lakes in the nation, if not the world. Period. And come to think of it, I’m sure it’s not just me. In fact, I’m sure the vast majority would tell you the same thing, including those who the letter writers feel are the ones who should be the most offended. Time to move on.

John G. Morgan, Burnsville

• • •

A new name for Lake Calhoun couldn’t be more obvious. You see, after 30-plus years, I’ve found myself walking around our city lakes again. And I thought to myself: If local apathy toward the current condition of these once-exquisite lakes is any indication of our global stewardship of this planet we call home, Mother Nature had better figure out a way to heal herself. Scratch Lake Calhoun. I vote for Lake Milfoil. Or Lake Cesspool.

Laurie DeLaittre, Shorewood

 

MINING

DNR document in support is business as usual

Mines have never been good neighbors, never will be. They take pay dirt and leave ruin and a poisoned environment behind. I am ashamed that our state Department of Natural Resources supports it (“PolyMet plan clears major hurdle,” June 24), but when did the department ever care about our natural resources when big business was involved?

Chuck Wolf, Long Prairie, Minn.

 

MINNESOTA STATE FAIR

Let’s talk about obesity

With the risk of putting a wet blanket on the whole affair, I would love to see the Minnesota State Fair put much more emphasis on the issue of the epidemic of obesity. True confession: I, too, enjoy the goodies offered there.

Mary Ann Anderson, Hugo