When President Joe Biden brings up gun control in relation to the Texas synagogue hostage crisis, he’s not wrong. This is part of the equation. When an obviously disturbed individual can apparently buy a gun on the street, no questions asked, we have problems. We need sensible gun reform. But we also have other major issues – issues that many will not discuss. Imagine a white man taking a black church hostage and demanding the release of, say, Dylann Roof, the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting. Then imagine someone on either side claiming (either by direct statement or even by omission to discuss the subject) that their actions were somehow not those of a white supremacist or that the race of the victims was not had nothing to do with the chosen target. Unthinkable. But that is what is happening now with Jewish victims and an Islamic supremacist author. And those who call it are already being reprimanded for “Islamophobia”.
Anyone who plays the Islamophobia card needs to be challenged: how exactly do you define Islamophobia? Do you define it as attributing the actions of radical Islamic supremacists to the entire religion – thinking that most Muslims are of that race? If so, you are right. It’s shameful and unacceptable (although no one of real importance does it). But if by Islamophobia you simply mean denouncing the glaring facts that this was, indeed, an attack motivated by radical Islamic supremacy, that this is a much bigger problem than many on the left will admit it, and that we need to do a lot better at rooting that out more than we’re doing right now, then that’s a major problem. Our mistaken sensitivities about what constitutes “bigotry” or “-ophobia” prevent us from asking difficult but necessary questions. If left unchecked, it will lead to one of two outcomes, neither good: the continued refusal to acknowledge this reality, which will breed more attacks and worse, and, no less frightening, l ignorance that Barack Obama’s refusal to call a spade a spade on this subject led directly to the election of Donald Trump. Trump would not have been taken seriously as a candidate had his predecessor been honest about the nature of the threat. Clearly, Trump took it (and everything else) to extremes, but he was addressing a legitimate issue that large swaths of this country had with the previous administration.
If Biden is now going to double down on the mistakes of his former boss, we’re probably for Trump 2.0. It is time to properly define our terms when talking about Islamophobia and related pathologies. The left continues to cut its nose to blame itself on this affair.
Alexander Adams-Leytes, Minneapolis
As I read the editorial “Fresh ideas needed in the fight against crime” (January 16), I reflected on the lessons taught to me during my 35-year career by young people from the Twin Cities with whom I worked, many of whom had been involved in crime and/or grew up in families involved in crime. My concern is that the majority of crime-fighting responses are punitive in nature and therefore do not best serve the community or the people who commit the crimes. While I support the detention of people who commit violent crimes, I know from experience and research that using such an approach will not reduce crime rates, regardless of the severity of the sentence. If one is brought up in an unpredictable and dangerous environment, one learns not to be afraid of punishment and not to be swayed by the threat of it. Instead, we need programs, both preventive and post-criminal, that focus on the factors that lead young people to live in crime.
The #1 thing I’ve learned from young people is that the vast majority of them are “good kids” who share a sense of shame about themselves and their future, and don’t have also generally not given the skills needed for healthy relationships and successful vocations. . This was also often true for their families, most of whom had suffered multigenerational trauma. As a result, a combination of skill-based and therapeutic approaches was the recipe for a successful future. An example of this was a program run collaboratively by the Wilder Foundation, Ramsey County Probation, and St. Paul Public Schools. Teens who committed crimes were transported after school to the program, where they discussed the impact of their crimes on others, practiced cognitive skills such as impulse control, learned relationships and job skills and, most importantly, addressed their sense of shame in order to develop hope for their future. They dined with the culturally diverse staff and were driven home later that evening. Not only were young people taken off the streets at a time when they were at risk of getting into trouble, but they developed positive relationships with caring adults and learned the skills to change their lives. While Wilder’s research of the program showed very positive results, the program was terminated due to funding issues, much to the dismay of referring probation officers and everyone involved with the program.
Hopefully there will be a MN HEALS 2.0, as suggested by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, through which meaningful, culturally relevant, and empirical interventions can go beyond punishment to better serve youth, their families and the community. Otherwise, the money and time spent on purely punitive responses will be ineffective and inhumane.
Lynn Strauss, Plymouth
I lived in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis for 55 years and walked to my job in the neighborhood for 26 years. As one can imagine, over the past five decades, I’ve seen, heard, and experienced a lot of walking down the street and playing in the park a stone’s throw from my home. The latest robbery and shooting incident at Bryn Mawr Market happened opposite my work, and I must admit my colleagues and I were quite upset when we realized what had just happened outside our shop. The police stopped to ask us some questions and their visit calmed me down. Immediately after hearing that the police had arrested the boys responsible, I had such a sense of happiness and felt so proud of our police force for acting so quickly and giving our city and neighborhood l assurance that they served and protected us.
As I was looking out the window recently, I saw my neighbors walking their dogs as usual and making the trip to our local cafe. As we experience all of these ups and downs in our beloved Twin Cities and suburbs, let us continue to pray for each other and support all who work and risk something to make our cities better and safer. Thank you, Minneapolis Police Department.
Henry Dougherty, Minneapolis
Thanks to Rick Nelson for his excellent article on the new life given to the Pillsbury Hall building on the University of Minnesota campus (“Poppin’ fresh”, January 15). There is so much disturbing news and commentary today that it was a joy and pleasure to read about the wonderful reuse and extended use of this beautiful historic structure on campus. It would have been so easy to take the wrecking ball and get approval for a new building, but more creative heads prevailed! Hats off to the U administration and the architects, engineers and contractors who made this a reality! Many students and faculty will enjoy campus life in this building for years to come. Good work.
David Lingo, Golden Valley
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