A Jan. 3 letter ("With special section, the Star Tribune veered into advocacy") presents a self-imposed knowledge of what journalism "should" and "shouldn't" write about, providing a classic example of systemic racism.
What is the letter writer saying? That we should not view George Floyd as a human until it is somehow "proven" to us?
That Floyd or any other person of color must "prove" their worth and innocence to us to receive due process?
The letter writer seems to see choosing people who speak of Floyd in a positive light or present different information on the alleged offense as biased. Why? Because he has already judged him to be guilty and not worthy?
As the police approached Floyd that day, did they have all the facts? Was it Floyd's job to present all the facts of his innocence, and his value as a person, before he had a knee on his neck?
Had the police viewed George Floyd as a human being worthy of life, liberty and justice that day, the outcome would have been very different, and that is the heart of this.
This is exactly where racism lives and breathes.
Betti Ingman, St. Paul
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I had set aside the Star Tribune's Dec. 27 special section on George Floyd to read when I had time. It was a long article, but I knew I wanted to know more about the man whose death woke so many white people like me to the depth of brutality Black people still face in America.
After reading a letter from a reader complaining about the article because it was not objective, I made the time to read it. I commend this paper for such a thoughtful and thorough portrait of the man behind the beautiful portrait. Over the last year of isolation, I have been grateful many times for the Star Tribune's careful and humane portraits of our neighbors. From couples dying of COVID together in nursing homes, to National Guard parents returning home, to interlocking stories of Minnesotans doing their part facing the pandemic, this paper has done us the great service of showing us each other's humanity. George Floyd was flawed, as we all are. Your portrait gave us an opportunity to see how he struggled, how he was loved and how he loved others. Please keep up these stories. They draw us together at a time when we really need it.
Jean Boler, St. Paul
• • •
Does the Star Tribune Editorial Board not understand that the trial of the four officers charged with the killing of George Floyd has not yet begun? ("George Floyd and a life that mattered," Jan. 3.) As such, fairness requires that the media refrain from taking a position on guilt or innocence in their pre-trial coverage. As a Jan. 3 letter writer pointed out, the Dec. 27 special section on Floyd was bad enough, presenting, as it did, only one side of his life, the side most favorable. And how does the Editorial Board react to such criticism? By publishing an even more biased opinion of its own, going so far as to render its own opinion on the ultimate issue the jury is to decide — the cause of Floyd's death. Without even considering what medical evidence the defense might present at trial, the board tells us that Floyd "experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer[s]".
The balance between the constitutionally protected right of freedom of the press and the equally fundamental right of the accused in a criminal trial to an impartial jury require an even hand from the press, not a press that has clearly taken sides.
Ronald Haskvitz, Golden Valley
THE OPINION PAGES
Human threads, from wonder to resistance to reevaluation …
I have just read for the sixth time Michael Nesset's exquisite Opinion Exchange essay of Jan. 1 ("Just what is going on here?"), and still experience what author George Steiner in "Real Presences" calls a "talismanic quickening." With each reading, a leap of recognition occurs, an almost aching embrace of the strangeness, lovely and fearsome, that inhabits me for this little while, and will perhaps forever. Thank you, Michael. You validate the wonder of each mysterious life in the midst of the knowledge that our planet "is an inconsiderable speck, lost in the glare of its star."
My gratitude for Nesset's writing leads me to also express thankfulness for the many Minnesotans, who, over the years, have revealed good hearts and clear thinking in their letters to the editor and opinion pieces. Louise Erdrich, writing most recently on the folly of Enbridge Line 3 ("Not just another pipeline," Jan. 3), follows any number of prophetic Minnesota voices on the topic. I am thinking, too, of the many offerings referencing the utter recklessness of copper sulfide mining in the Duluth Complex and near the BWCA, all of which beseech us to forgo the lure of short-term gain in favor of preserving our greatest resource: water, without which we cannot live. Again, these are written in the prophetic — and also poetic — knowledge of the web of relationships into which we are born.
Such is the quiet power of Nesset's writing that I must also mention the two letter writers of several days ago who move beyond the easy accolades accorded Norman Borlaug, creator of the Green Revolution that unleashed a water- and chemical-intensive agriculture, to write of Borlaug's own prophecy on the tragic consequences should the technology be allowed to promote human population growth at the expense of the health of soils, waters and other living creatures.
The prophetic voice is also the Biblical voice that cautions us to live humbly upon our Earth, turning on its head the usual ways we approach living. "In the fullness of time," the prophetic voice proclaims: care of the land is more fundamental than possession of the land, and I feel comforted — and less lonely — knowing that my fellow Minnesotans have showered me, in my own fullness of time, with the blessing of words beautifully conceived and elegantly written.
With sincere gratitude to the Star Tribune for keeping the written word alive,
Laura Raedeke, Nisswa, Minn.
Norman BORLAUG'S LEGACY, CONTINUED
Here's the flaw with citing overpopulation as a problem
Norman Borlaug's "Green Revolution" fed the world in recent decades, but was merely a temporary bandage for more fundamental questions about our relationship with the environment — as recent letter writers have helpfully pointed out. But to focus on "overpopulation" as the underlying problem is to miss the point.
Fears about overpopulation seem to implicitly blame the poor and have been used to create inhumane policies. But the main contributors to environmental destruction are not high-fertility nations in the global South, but instead the wealthy — both within each country, and internationally — whose lifestyles and politics are responsible for the vast majority of environmental destruction.
As Americans, this means us. Blaming the poor for having many children is unfair and cruel — the poor are the main victims of climate change while contributing the least to it — and having large families is often a rational choice in the absence of reliable Social Security-like systems.
Thus, if overpopulation is an environmental issue, it is only one if the poor of tomorrow act like the rich of today. The real issue is that our present way of life is profoundly destructive to the world. We will need to learn that the "good life" is not one of inequality, numbness to one's neighbors and overconsumption. From wildfires to COVID, 2020 should have taught us that the fight against climate change and inequality — and for health, justice and human rights — are all interrelated. Let's learn this lesson and first look at the log in our own eye.
D. Brendan Johnson, Eden Prairie
Surely not only for the wealthy. Examples in the paper, please?
On Sundays, I look forward to the Homes section of the Star Tribune. Articles featuring modern and energy-efficient homes — usually influenced by organic architecture — rightfully poke a finger in the eye of the ugly McMansion style that still manages to qualify for the federal home mortgage interest deduction which, despite recent reform, still provides perverse incentives during an affordable housing crisis. My enthusiasm for these articles dims slightly upon reading that the household includes at least one architect who has built his and/or her dream "downsized" house of 3,000 square feet on a wooded lot on the water. A back of envelope calculation would suggest an investment of a cool million.
Do not get me wrong — I love these homes! Please continue your McMansion-poking. However, would the Star Tribune occasionally throw a bone to the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker among us? Perhaps a series could feature one of those architects inspiring a middle-class family that incorporates modern design principles to make a bland rambler more visually appealing and functional? Maybe feature someone decarbonizing their home in ways that also increases their home's value? An energy-efficient pre-fabricated design for affordable housing, or a CEO's backyard meditation hut? Otherwise, it is indeed discouraging to think that good design and greener practices are only for the wealthiest.