I saw a photo a few weeks ago of one of the end-the-shutdown rallies in Michigan or Ohio. In it, a young woman held up a sign that read: “NO we are NOT in this together.” It absolutely broke my heart. How is it, I wondered, that an American would, at a time like this of so much suffering, express that sentiment?

But then I read this quote in Jennifer Brooks’ May 10 column: “If you can help at times like these, take the initiative. People are in this together, and everybody wants to help each other out. What better way than to collaborate and solve a problem one step at a time?”

That was Malcolm Pithawalla, a University of Minnesota student who, along with other students and a professor, stepped up when hospitals were running out of gowns. The students, the article pointed out, “gave up nights, weekends, free time and class time to work on the project.” They developed multiple designs; they, amazingly, found materials and vendors to make it happen, and in just three weeks, were set to fabricate 10,000 gowns each day for six to eight weeks. My heart “unbroke.” Then, to further disabuse me of my negativity, the next page featured an article about high school robotics teams who’ve been enlisted in the fight against COVID-19.

I’m done paying any attention to the “NO we are NOT in this together” crowd and will focus instead on all the hospital, clinic, EMT, university, high school and other heroes who are apparently doing the same so they can focus on doing the real work to heal the people and the nation — together.

Luke Soiseth, Lake St. Croix Beach

• • •

We Minnesotans take care of each other. I was heartened to read of the efforts by University of Minnesota students and high school robotics teams.

Maybe we should enlist students to help the Legislature figure out how to support our workforce — both people working in dangerous situations, such as large retail establishments, food-processing plants and medical facilities, and those laid off and suffering financial hardship. It takes imagination and cooperation to do things a different way so that all our workers can be safe, productive, and have what they need to care for themselves and their families. Students are modeling that imagination and cooperation. May the Legislature follow their lead.

Leota Goodney, Northfield


Necessary but a disadvantage to the hearing-impaired

The May 10 commentary by Sharrona Pearl, telling of the cultural history of covering faces, is of interest in these days of wearing masks to protect people from the coronavirus. Pearl mentions the inconveniences of everyone wearing them, such as glasses fogging up. But when she also notes that “voices are muffled,” these words speak to me, someone with a hearing disability. It is nearly impossible for me to hear someone who is speaking from behind layers of fabric. Not only are voices muffled, it also is impossible to read lips, essential for many hearing-impaired people. I know that this is not as severe a problem as contracting the virus, but I am writing to suggest that people make an effort to speak loudly and clearly, especially in crowded spaces.

Rita Speltz, St. Paul


Struggles at middle age give rise to thoughts on Medicare expansion

The story about Gary and Liz Stigen was disheartening to say the least (“Joblessness not part of plan at 60,” front page, May 10). Losing one’s job is horrible, but losing a job post-middle-age is even more terrifying.

Among the Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders advocated Medicare for All. Elizabeth Warren pushed for Medicare at 50, and now Joe Biden is saying Medicare at 60. I believe the best thing we can do for people like Gary and Liz would be to lower the Medicare age to 50. These people have paid into the system their whole working life.

With the ability to access Medicare, workers who have lost their jobs could either retire, work part time or start a business. Younger workers could then step into the jobs vacated by more senior workers — or, should I say, team members. Younger workers could hopefully enjoy better wages and benefits, and older workers with affordable health insurance could continue to contribute to society.

Chuck Justice, Woodbury


At the expense of jobs, or at the expense of Minnesotans at large?

The May 10 letter from leaders of the trades about the proposed Twin Metals mine was absolutely wrong. (“Vet, but don’t gratuitously delay, job-creating proposal.”)

Minnesotans do have veto power over their public lands. While I believe the letter writers are not asking for jobs at the expense of the environment, that is not how copper-nickel mining works. The goal of Antofagasta, the foreign mining firm behind Twin Metals, is to create social license so we the people pay the damage deposit. Why? Because every one of these mines has created toxic water pollution that is effectively impossible to clean up.

The red flags regarding Twin Metals regulatory interference only add evidence. If you follow the social license money, you will find it in our trade unions, our local and state politicians’ election campaigns, in youth hockey arenas, and in Washington, D.C. Why? Because this route is much cheaper than guaranteeing that toxic waste won’t escape containment and cause liability.

The May 10 letter writers argue that multiagency environmental review processes and “valuable public input” will reveal what the Legislature and the public need to know about Twin Metals’ plans to protect the beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. However, what mining companies — and the people they deceptively encourage with promises of jobs — need to understand, is that when it comes to our cherished and few remaining wild public lands, we can absolutely deny a toxic polluting industry from operating near them. Minnesotans can say no any time we want. That is what they are afraid of.

Paul Danicic, St. Louis Park

The writer is the former executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.