The week in commentary
We can't ignore rhetoric that would deny jobs to gay people
S.J. Schwaidelson, a Minnesota writer and blogger, expresses alarm that a conservative radio personality would claim credit for getting a gay staff member fired from the Mitt Romney campaign.
"Now, no matter how you feel about homosexuality, you should be disturbed by what Bryan Fischer said about Mitt Romney. ...
"We the people — who, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — were just told by some guy that his organization controls a major party candidate for president of the United States.
"Now, I'm sure Romney will say otherwise, but the damage is done. This radio guy just told America that his organization, small as it is, is so powerful that presidents will bow to its will, and that we should all fall in behind him. ...
"We the people do not have the luxury of standing idly by while this kind of rhetoric is making it onto the airwaves. We the people need to stand up for the rights of all American citizens."
"You can ignore the rhetoric of that person you mention. I have never heard of him, and I follow politics pretty closely. We the People must ignore all kinds of fringe rhetoric from a wide range of folks. ... Gays will be safe with Mitt Romney as president." -- Terry Franklin, Minnesota
"Unfortunately, it is perfectly legal to practice invidious discrimination on the basis of perceived sexual orientation in many states, as there is no federal law against it." -- Marco Luxe, Los Angeles
"Well said, S.J. It's frightening to realize how willing the Republican Party is to fall in line behind extremists who would have no qualms about denying civil rights to certain people." -- Lesile Martin, Mendota Heights
After cancer diagnosis, talk came more easily on Roller Coaster Road
Alexandra Sobiech, a journalism student, writes about her relationship with her brother following his cancer diagnosis.
"For some reason, though all us siblings were close, my father said I was the one who would have to get Zach used to the idea of cancer — as if it were a cold pool. I'm still not sure why he said this. All I know is that I took it in and eventually took it on.
"The venue became the road. Despite the cancer, Zach was determined to get his driver's license. He would always ask me to drive with him. I always went. ...
"Winding curves, hills and bumps, a little ice, trees passing in a blur of black silhouettes -- it was all very clear to me that he did not have control. But I would always stay calm, hold my breath and let him go. I was, after all, the cool older sister, the inspiration, the one he could talk to about matters of life and death, God or nothing, fear and strength, keeping it in the present. The drives were excursions in risk, in life."
"Your words were perfectly chosen, and the result is an immensely powerful reflection. Thank you for sharing it with us." -- Bev Petrie, Stillwater
"The article is very poignant and comforting in a way. I can understand why you are all loved. Hold tight. Bless you." -- Robert Smith, Harwich, Mass.
"Thank you. It's touching to get an honest glimpse into such a rarely talked about experience. Our thoughts are with you and your family." -- Amy Browning, Stillwater
Gambling expansion would increase peril for some Minnesota families
Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, objects to an expansion of gambling as a revenue source for stadium funding.
"Who should pay for a new Vikings stadium? Minnesotans with gambling problems and addictions?
"It sounds preposterous, yet that's the effect of legislation seeking to fund a new Vikings stadium with a massive expansion of gambling. It would place tens of thousands of electronic pull-tabs and bingo machines in bars and restaurants throughout the state in order to underwrite the state's contribution to the stadium. ...
"Expanding electronic pull-tab and bingo machines targets problem gamblers, because video or electronic gambling is the most addictive form of gambling. (Some call it the crack cocaine of gambling, because the gambling high compares to the high from crack cocaine.) No doubt that's a reason for the projected increase in gambling receipts. Studies of video slot machines in casinos find that a third to a half of video slot gambling revenues come from 1 percent of the gamblers. These are, of course, problem gamblers. Without compulsive gamblers, the reliance on expanding video or electronic gambling won't work. ...
"These Minnesotans have families and employers who will suffer the consequences of their gambling problems. Just ask the spouses or ex-spouses of problem gamblers. Such gambling breaks up marriages and families. And when families break up, more children are thrown into poverty, putting added burden on our social welfare system, which is called upon to pick up the pieces."
"After the spread of those slot machines takes place, we are bound to see the deleterious effects you mention ... . Many solutions will be proposed to the emerging gambling epidemic, none of which will be to simply get rid of the slot machines. It will take many years of trying and failing while many families and children suffer." -- Hani Hamdan, Burnsville
"This idea that we can protect families from the evils of gambling by not allowing new forms of gambling is just so ... 1892ish. That cow has left the barn, and she isn't coming back. Gambling is here and flourishing, in all its forms. The question is: Will Minnesota get the revenues from the gambling activities of Minnesotans, or will those monies go to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and the tribes?" -- Terry Franklin, Minnesota
Is the criminal justice system as good as you think it is?
John Radsan, a professor and director of the National Security Forum at William Mitchell College of Law, argues that the civilian justice system is not a pristine alternative to the kinds of abuses that are thought to occur at Guantanamo.
"Sure, you've heard a lot about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists being arraigned in Guantanamo. We continue to fret about them, but for some reason we don't care about daily errors in criminal justice. ...
"Consider the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School. That project has freed more people than are currently held in Guantanamo. Some of those freed were on death row. And the disparity in numbers between the two systems only gets bigger. "Criminal justice is supposed to be the gold standard for due process, the shining alternative to military commissions, extraordinary renditions, drone strikes and other things on the dark side. But is it as good as you assume? ...
"In criminal justice, identifications are notoriously bad. Cross-racial IDs are even worse. Think of the parallel to an intelligence agency that's fixed on a view about Iran's nuclear ambitions. ...
"Face it. We can't do much about Guantanamo. ... But we can do something about criminal justice. Right now."
"Our legal system is broken at both ends: too many innocent people are railroaded into jail, while too many real criminals are ignored or let go free. The system seems to be failing at all levels, from police, to prosecutors, to judges, to those writing the laws. Is it any wonder that people don't trust the police and the rest of the system, instead choosing to try to protect themselves?" -- Mark Snyder, Bolivar, Ohio
Toward the end, the best way to reach Grandma was with flowers and a song
Writer and performer Dylan Fresco offers a remembrance of his grandmother, a woman who stood tall, walked fast and loved flowers.
"When she was 75, the family threw her a surprise birthday party. My mom had spent all this time buying flowers, and all this effort arranging them just so. The first thing my Grandma did? She went to each and every table and rearranged the flowers.
"I grew up and moved away. Whenever I got back to New York, I'd visit Grandma Becca and I would always bring flowers. One time, I showed up with a bouquet from the nice shop around the corner. Grandma thanked me, and before she took the flowers to the kitchen to mercilessly snip them down to size, she went to the lower cabinet to get just the right vase.
" 'Grandma, please, please,' I said, 'will you please just let me get it for you?' She turned her head and snapped, 'What do you think I do when you're not here?'
"My mom says it was just that determination to keep moving, to keep active, that kept Grandma still here."