The Notre Dame Cathedral means something to me, as it does to many, yet the myriad posts and articles of people reminiscing about time spent there or lamenting the loss have prompted a strangely divisive response. Supporters of Notre Dame are being accused by some of valuing a building over more pressing social or environmental issues. It seems we live in an age where caring about Gothic architecture can somehow be construed to mean you do not care about climate change. To shame people because they haven’t also publicly acknowledged every other problem in the world only serves to silence self-expression. It creates a society where people are afraid to talk about what matters to them in an authentic way, which is no society to aspire toward.
Go ahead and question the very large sums of money coming from a handful of specific donors; it’s fair to ask if the dollars could be better used elsewhere. But don’t belittle the rest of us for expressing concern and compassion. Don’t circulate memes implying we’re ignorant for loving art, architecture or history.
When Nipsey Hussle died, sorrow spread through social media just as it’s doing now. Yet most of the people posting didn’t know him personally; they knew his music. To mourn the loss of a musician and his or her artistry is quite similar to mourning the loss of architecture and its experience. For many of us, there is a sense of being and a spirit to buildings — something that can’t just be rebuilt any more than a musician can be replicated by a hologram. At its best, great art unites us and inspires us to care about humanity more, not less. It should be celebrated and protected.
A defining aspect of Gothic architecture, in simple terms, is that many structural members work together for the building to become taller and to let in more light. Just think of it — each different piece of stone supporting the next, and all of them supporting each other to reach incredible heights. Losing that from the world is something worth mourning.
Leanna Kemp Kristoff, Minneapolis
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The fire at Notre Dame literally tears at the heart because the cathedral is a physical representation of what many people need — a sense of community, ties to our past and shared experiences. It teaches us that we can achieve great things when we set aside selfish interests and work together on visions that may take more than one lifetime. That is why this tragedy ripples out to all who have been touched by Notre Dame — the congregation that worships there, the city that loves it and the visitors who marvel at its beauty.
It represents a form of community that is more important than ever in these increasingly factionalized times. It breaks boundaries and creates moments of shared wonder as people from all over the world and from all faiths stand on that plaza and marvel at the human story behind its construction. The work of 800 years of loving artisanship and inspired conservation.
I have personally been there twice in my life, and it was nothing less than awe-inspiring. You could feel the hearts that went into every carved stone, every span of oak and every pane of glass. It took the work of generations of human hands to build such beauty; it took the dedication of centuries of human hands to preserve it. Much of that gone in an instant. However, I believe in time, the community will pull together and eventually they will put those human hands to work once again and repair this broken heart. Je suis de tout cœur avec vous.
Wendy Menken, Minneapolis
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Legislators’ focus on diversity among regents goes too far
I was shocked and saddened to read the April 17 article “Diversity concerns threaten process to select University of Minnesota Board of Regents.” While my first reaction was that the Legislature should elect regents like it’s supposed to, I became alarmed that House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and other DFL legislators take the approach that only minorities should be considered to serve as regents.
A little research showed that the state reports that about 16% of its residents are people of color, which is growing, especially among schoolkids. Three out of 12 current regents are minorities, which is 25%. This hardly seems like underrepresentation. If those legislators get their way, five regents will be minority, for about 42%.
By the way, those same DFL legislators would leave only two women and 10 men as regents, even though the higher-education slate offered four female candidates. It’s pretty well-known that women were responsible for the DFL taking the House majority. Now we see where we really stand.
The DFL’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus has apparently stated that its members will not vote for any white candidates for regent. They also apparently put every minority person, regardless of immigration or ethnic background, into the same box. So all white people are unacceptable and all minorities are homogenous? Who is left to insult?
As a suburban mom, I want all Minnesota kids to have a chance to succeed and to participate in leading our state’s future, whether they are minority or white kids. I don’t want my kids told by our legislators or the governor that they can’t even be considered for a seat at the table now or later in their lives because of their skin color.
This is a sad day for all Minnesotans who want to put racism and bigotry behind us and pursue equal opportunity for all. At least the plan is now out in the open and we know who’s pursuing it.
Sheri Auclair, Wayzata
U.S. REP. ILHAN OMAR
Letter writer seemingly approves of only muted speech and diversity
In response to an April 17 letter writer’s comparison of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s words and actions to those of Jackie Robinson, what I hear is that we can accept someone who doesn’t look like what we are used to seeing on the ball field or seated in Congress as long as that individual remains demure and doesn’t rock the very boat in which that individual was denied entry just a generation earlier. Why was it OK for our founding fathers to cry injustice when we were taxed without representation, but our democratically elected person in Congress can’t cry injustice when people who look like her are being denied representation in places like Israel and she calls us out because we claim to be “a beacon of hope, liberty, and justice for the rest of the world”? Could it be that we prefer to hear such things from rich, white, male landowners instead of female, Muslim immigrants? If that is the case, perhaps the prescription is a healthy dose of honest feelings from someone who doesn’t have the preconceived appearance we’ve been conditioned to expect.
Paul Wichmann, Minneapolis
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Rep. Omar could not have known the extent to which her publicly spoken words could be hurtful to others and bring woe upon herself. As one who knows of her personal history and her generous heart, I humbly call on Minnesotans neither to needlessly condemn her nor to assume that we will not be seeing greater things from her. While others in the national spotlight seek to bring her down, may we be more measured in our response, granting her the latitude to overcome her imperfections in anticipation of the hard work she will put in on our behalf, and the national leadership of which she is consummately capable. A closer look at her short time on the Hill will reveal that she is diligently working across the aisle and seeking the synergy that comes from working with the sum total of her congressional peers.
John Darlington, Minneapolis