I was born in 1951 — six years after World War II. My father fought in the Pacific. Stalin was ruler of Russia. Mao was newly ruler of China. The Holocaust was a fresh memory for people little older than me. Fascism was not fashionable. The first president I remember was the general who accepted the surrender of Nazi Germany. Can anyone imagine Dwight Eisenhower calling neo-Nazis “fine people”? Millions of people had died due to authoritarian regimes.
It is nearly three-quarters of a century since World War II — even longer since those regimes came to power. Are the lessons forgotten? Hitler came to power through constitutional means in a republic. Poland and Hungary have semifascist governments. A right-wing party in Germany is rising. France is not far behind. In the world’s oldest constitutional republic — which claims to be a light unto the world — Donald Trump, of all people, is president, with a solid base of followers and the full support of the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.
Can it happen again? Yes, it can. Synagogues are shot up. Neo-Nazis are here and elsewhere. They are not to be shrugged off. The National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazi Party) was a splinter of the nutty right — until it wasn’t a splinter anymore.
Evil has not been banished. The memory of what it does is fading. Many of us dislike what is going on, but do we understand how easily it can get much worse? Hatred is a powerful thing. Do not be too quick to think we are immune. We are not innately superior to the young men who fought in the Wehrmacht. Is our current president’s attitude toward Hispanic immigrants that different from Hitler’s toward Jews? Not quite as virulent yet, but still a minority to be feared and hated. The parallel should be sending shivers down spines.
Is it too late? I hope not, but I am not confident.
John H. Bristow, Columbia Heights
‘Malicious’ prosecution? No, just the investigative system at work
I am a contemporary of Steven B. Young, who is a longtime conservative/legal analyst with an impeccable academic background. Like Young, I have been a lawyer for a long time.
Young opined in an April 26 commentary that President Donald Trump is a victim of malicious prosecution, and that but for a “loophole” in the law, Robert Mueller (and presumably his entire investigative team) should somehow be held liable for the malicious prosecution of Trump.
Unless I was badly out of touch during my entire legal career, there is no such thing as a common-law or statutory-law principle that ever renders a prosecutor liable for conducting an investigation that does not result in a criminal charge.
Mueller did not prosecute; he investigated. Some persons he investigated were in fact charged with crimes, and those persons have been or will be prosecuted. But he found insufficient evidence to warrant charging Trump with a crime, and said so.
Young implies, but does not actually state, that Mueller’s investigation was tantamount to “prosecution,” that the very idea of investigation itself was malicious, and that the president ought to have financial or other recourse against Mueller.
If Young were right, prosecutors — and presumably law enforcement officers as well — would always be vulnerable to lawsuits for simply investigating possible crimes and then deciding not to prosecute.
There is and was no “loophole” at work here. Investigation is necessarily distinct from prosecution. This is how our system of law has always worked.
Wood Foster, St. Paul
BIKING AND HAPPINESS
As it turns out, commuting this way is pleasurable to more than men, 24
An April 27 letter writer (“Another unwelcome nudge”) mocked biking as a way for commuting happiness as “hogwash and propaganda” endorsed by this newspaper and others. If I remember political science correctly, providing opportunities and freedom of choice is in the conservative spectrum of values — and would apply to transportation, among other issues. It seems odd that biking would be seen as elitist, as it is actually one of the more affordable and accessible means of transportation available. Actually, the movement for more paved roadways began in the late 19th century — before automobiles — by bicyclists who wanted these improvements for safer travel by whatever means for everyone.
Investments in biking infrastructure provide more transportation capacity at much less cost than roadways for car commuters and the public in general; additional happiness for commuters is just an intangible. Any investment in transportation should be seen as part of a whole system, not just binary choices of roadways vs. bikeways, or highways vs. buses/light rail. And as someone who sits in the church choir next to one of the 24-year-old men hypothetically mentioned in the letter as being one of the few to whom biking to work is suited, I admire him for finding the best ways in our metro transportation system to travel crosstown for a snowy, commuter-snarled Wednesday night choir practice or Sunday service.
Craig W. Dawson, St. Paul
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This mother of three rode her bike to work back in the 1980s in her 40s. It was the best time for me to get exercise. I encourage those who can (not just 24-year-old men) to get on a bike — it really does contribute to happiness. Bike paths are not a zero-sum notion.
Deb Myers, Plymouth
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It was so nice of the April 27 letter writer to be concerned about me, a member of the “handicapped and infirm” community, when railing about bike lanes. I occasionally rode my bike to work until five years ago, when I had a tumor in my hip that left me with a bad leg. I gave my bike away and now drive to work every day, courteously and happily sharing the road with bicyclists. As for the writer’s contention (in which she graciously included me and my kind) that “we would like taxpayer money used on roads we can use, too,” in case she hasn’t noticed, that is the case.
Stew Thornley, Roseville
Understanding is in order
To the writer of the April 26 letter “Stop giving Irwin Jacobs a pass”: I firmly disagree! When I finished reading the April 25 article “Son: Irwin Jacobs struggled with health before shootings,” I commented to my husband that it was very generous that we were updated.
Elder care is growing much more prevalent, and these situations of older couples caring for each other are much more common. I would call the son’s update a public-service announcement to all of us of questions to ask and signs to look out for.
“Domestic violence” — seriously? Irwin and Alexandra Jacobs were married for 57 years, and by all accounts were happy and dedicated not only to each other but to their family as well. The family was very involved in the parents’ lives and in watching over them. Neither the medical examiner nor the Star Tribune glossed over what happened. It was a murder-suicide. What of that doesn’t the letter writer understand? This family is dealing with the fact that their father murdered their mother, then killed himself. Leave them alone and quit criticizing unnecessarily.
Julie Theiringer, Golden Valley