Americans are slipping into a social and political whirlpool. Crowds rush about with ropes and paint to pass judgment on our history with no apparent idea of its complexities. Government, corporate America, entertainment and the academy have followed along with unseemly ease. And under it all, free speech has become socially perilous if it does not conform to the trends of the moment. This tyranny of mindlessness, unchecked, promises to drown all human rights as it did in the French Revolution.
The French Revolution began with “liberty, equality, fraternity” and ended with the Terror as the mob indiscriminately guillotined. Now the Black Lives Matter revolution is beginning to adopt the chant “toxic, racist, colonialist” while invoking an intellectual “Terror” even to the toppling of statues of Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus. Elsewhere Washington, Ulysses Grant and numerous other historically impure actors are toppled. This parallel should alert us to the mischief potential of mob-thought.
We have never been a perfect people. Nor have we ever been an especially evil people as trendy revisionist historians assert. What makes us unique is our commitment and dedication to the process of obtaining liberty and justice for all. Jefferson said it, Abraham Lincoln said it, and our constitutional amendments say it. The essential thing is the process, and it defines American exceptionalism set in motion by the framers.
Good people of courage everywhere need to discard the slogans of the moment, call out the taint of the mob for what it is and have a meaningful conversation on the history and ideals of the American political process. The action that follows would certainly reflect more wisdom and efficacy than President Donald Trump’s tweets or the mob’s rampaging.
Louis Lavoie, Plymouth
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In conversations about race in America, the voices of white supremacy have sometimes used bullhorns and sometimes used dog whistles. Concerning the debate about removal of Confederate monuments and renaming military bases, the subtlety of dog whistles has been abandoned and the bullhorns are blaring. Those who decry renaming these bases and decommissioning these monuments as attempts to “erase our history” and “defame our heroes” are quite clearly not speaking to all of us. And they quite clearly do not care.
Most of the monuments at issue were erected between 1890 and 1950 and many of the military bases named in the World War II era. It was the era of Jim Crow and in many cases the decisions to honor leaders of the Confederacy, who seceded from the Union in order to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, were openly acknowledged to have been made in furtherance of white supremacist ideology. In any event, with no exception of which I am aware, the Confederate “heroes” were not honored despite their support for the institution of slavery but because of it. Treason to the United States was not, for these men, a blot on their records but their principal claim to fame.
The Civil War ended over 150 years ago. The Confederacy, and its goal to preserve and expand slavery, lost. The price paid for the Union victory should never be forgotten, and the men whose treason exacted that price should never be honored. They belong on the ash heap of history and cannot be consigned there too quickly.
BRIAN KIDWELL, Bloomington
Reform education even earlier
I applaud the effort Neel Kashkari and Alan Page are making for an amendment to have all of our kids get a quality public education (“Education amendment is even more relevant,” Opinion Exchange, July 14). But in addition to the K-12 experience, all should have the benefits of a quality pre-K experience. The rationale being, this foundation will ensure they are ready to learn and be take full advantage of their next 13 years. The evidence is quite clear: Those with a quality pre-K experience are less likely to drop out of school, be a teenage parent or have anything to do with the criminal justice system. What they will do is graduate from high school, obtain postsecondary education and become a part of the skilled workforce we need.
Bud Hayden, Minneapolis
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Kashkari and Page ask in their commentary, “What is an adequate education system?” I have to ask them, what is a quality education system?
The lead character in Robert Pirsig’s novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was a high school teacher who was asked by another teacher, “Are you teaching quality?” Contemplation of this question led him to madness — what is quality? And in order to dig deeper in the values of the question the character embarked on a long cross-country motorcycle journey that again ended in madness. Quality is not something you can define in legal terms but is an objective term that can only be answered when considered alongside one’s personal values. Quality in Edina is not the same as quality in south Minneapolis or Blue Earth or in the Arrowhead. Changing the Constitution to use the term “quality” will just open a slew of lawsuits as legal experts go down the long road to insanity trying to define quality.
Richard Crose, Bloomington
We gave her a shot, but no more
It was quite a surprise to open my newspaper on Monday morning and see the claim that the campaign of Antone Melton-Meaux is supported by big-dollar Donald Trump supporters (“Big money is behind challenges to Omar,” Opinion Exchange, July 13.) My wife and I are among the donors to Melton-Meaux’s campaign. We have never given a dime to any Republican candidate or cause in our lives, but we donated to Paul Wellstone, Walter Mondale, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Marion Greene, Al Franken, R.T. Rybak and Lisa Goodman, among others. Our support includes the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Planned Parenthood, Simpson Housing, People Incorporated and the Page Education Foundation — hardly a list of Republican favorites. We donated to the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment that would have denied the right to marry whomever one chooses.
There is a reason why Rep. Ilhan Omar has drawn a stiff challenge, and it is not because she takes progressive positions, or because she is a woman, or because she is a Muslim, or because she immigrated from Somalia. I voted for Omar in 2018. She lost my vote when she took the coward’s path and voted “present” rather than condemning the Armenian genocide. She lost my vote by being absent from the House while never missing a chance to get in front of a TV camera. She lost my vote by never communicating to me except in e-mails asking for money. I want a representative, not a publicity seeker. Omar was sent to Congress to represent her whole district, not just herself and her pet causes. She had her chance, but now I’m with Melton-Meaux.
Kent B. Hanson, Minneapolis
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