When President Joe Biden brings up gun control in relation to the hostage crisis in the Texas synagogue, he isn’t wrong. This is part of the equation. When a clearly disturbed individual seemingly can purchase a gun off the street, no questions asked, we’ve got problems. We do need commonsense gun reform. But we’ve got other major problems, too — problems many won’t discuss. Imagine a white man taking a Black church hostage and demanding release for, say, Dylann Roof, the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting. Then imagine anyone on either side claiming (either by direct statement or even omission of discussion of the subject) that his actions were somehow not those of a white supremacist or that the victims’ race had nothing to do with the chosen target. Unthinkable. But that’s what’s happening now with Jewish victims and an Islamic supremacist perpetrator. And those calling this out are already being chastised for “Islamophobia.”
Anyone playing the Islamophobia card needs to be challenged: Exactly how are you defining Islamophobia? Are you defining it as attributing the actions of radical Islamic supremacists to the entire religion — thinking most Muslims are of that breed? If so, you’re right. This is disgraceful and unacceptable (though no one of actual significance is doing this). But if by Islamophobia you mean simply calling out 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, and that we need to do much better at rooting this out than we’re currently doing, then that’s a major problem. Our misguided sensibilities on what constitutes “bigotry” or “-ophobia” are preventing us from asking hard but necessary questions. Unchecked, this will cause one of two results, neither remotely good: continued refusal to acknowledge that reality, which will beget more attacks and worse, and, no less frightening, ignorance that Barack Obama’s refusal to call a spade a spade on this topic led directly to Donald Trump’s election. Trump wouldn’t have been taken seriously as a candidate if his predecessor had been honest about the nature of the threat. Obviously Trump took it (and everything else) to the extreme, but he was responding to a legitimate problem large quantities of this country had with the previous administration.
If Biden is now going to double down on his old boss’s mistakes, we’re likely in for Trump 2.0. It’s time to properly define our terms when discussing Islamophobia and related pathologies. The left continues to cut off its nose to spite its face on this matter.
Alexander Adams-Leytes, Minneapolis
While reading the editorial “Fresh ideas needed in fight against crime” (Jan. 16), I reflected on the lessons taught to me over my 35-year career by young people in the Twin Cities with whom I worked, many who had been involved in crime and/or had grown up in families involved in crime. My fear is that the majority of crime-fighting responses will be punitive in nature and thus will not best serve the community nor the people committing the crimes. While I support detaining people who commit violent crimes, I know from experience and research that reliance on such an approach will not reduce crime rates, no matter how harsh the punishment. If one is brought up in an unpredictable and dangerous environment, one learns to not be afraid of punishment and is not swayed by the threat of it. Instead, we need programming, both preventive and post-crime, that focuses on the factors that lead young people to lives of crime.
The No. 1 thing I 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 who also typically weren’t given the skills for healthy relationships and successful vocations. This also often held true for their families, most of whom had experienced multigenerational trauma. Accordingly, a combination of skills-based and therapeutic approaches was the recipe for a successful future. An example of this was a program run collaboratively through the Wilder Foundation, Ramsey County probation and the St. Paul Public Schools. Teenagers who committed crimes were bused after school to the program, where they addressed the impact of their crimes on others, practiced cognitive skills such as impulse-control, learned relationship and vocational skills and, most important, addressed their sense of shame in order to develop hope for their future. They ate dinner with the culturally diverse staff and were driven home later in the evening. Not only were the young people removed from the streets during a time when they were likely to get in trouble, but they developed positive relationships with nurturing adults and gained the skills needed to turn their lives around. While the research conducted on the program by Wilder showed highly positive results, the program was eliminated due to funding issues, much to the dismay of the referring probation officers and all involved in 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 empirically based interventions can go beyond punishment to best serve youth, their families and the community. Otherwise, money and time spent on solely punitive responses will be ineffective and inhumane.
Lynn Strauss, Plymouth
I have 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, in the past five decades I have seen, heard and experienced quite a lot walking down the street and playing in the park down the block from my home. The latest robbery and shooting incident at the Bryn Mawr Market happened across the street from my job, and I must confess my co-workers and I were quite upset when we realized what had just happened in front of our shop. The police stopped by to ask us a few questions, and their visit was calming to me. Immediately upon hearing the police had caught the boys responsible, I had such a feeling of happiness and felt so proud of our police force for acting so quickly and providing our city and neighborhood with the assurance that they serve and protect us.
As I looked out my front window recently I saw my neighbors walking their dogs as usual and making the trek to our local coffee shop. As we are all experiencing these ups and downs in our beloved Twin Cities and suburbs, let us continue to pray for one another and support everyone who is working and risking something to make our cities better and safer. Thank you, Minneapolis police.
Henry Dougherty, Minneapolis
Thanks to Rick Nelson for the fine write-up on the new life given to the Pillsbury Hall building on the University of Minnesota campus (“Poppin’ fresh,” Jan. 15). There is so much worrisome news and commentary today that it was a joy and pleasure to read about the wonderful repurposing and extended use of this fine old campus landmark structure. It would have been so easy to take the wrecking ball to it and win 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. Nice job.
David Lingo, Golden Valley
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