The Week in Commentary
Minnesota statutes on sexual activity need an overhaul
Former state Rep. Dee Long takes issue with the contention that the participants in a recent sex scandal had "broken no laws." The laws may be archaic, she says, but they do exist.
"Minnesota Statute 609.36, contained in the Crimes Against the Family section of the chapter, along with prohibitions against incest and bigamy states that When a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband, whether married or not, both are guilty of adultery and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both. In the matter of enforcement, however, the law limits prosecution to complaints brought by the offenders' spouses — an approach that might be characterized as, 'If they don't care, why should we?' ...
"Also, adultery carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine, while fornication carries only a $1,000 fine with no time served. Evidently complaints can be brought by anyone. The fornication statute resides in the Sex Crimes section of the chapter, along with prostitution, bestiality and other offenses.
"One might wonder why these laws remain on the books, since they haven't been enforced in anyone's memory. Even in the face of court decisions declaring similar laws unconstitutional, they are still the law in Minnesota. ...
"The senate staffer recently dismissed following the alleged affair is charging gender discrimination. He states that numerous female staff members kept their jobs despite having affairs with male legislators. It appears to this observer that legislators need to clean up their acts, clean up the statutes, or, preferably, do both."
"Enforcing these laws would be the quickest way to get them repealed." -- Lily B, Minneapolis
Racism in the neighborhood
Shannon Drury, a writer, mom and former president of Minnesota NOW, reflects on the way racism can affect neighborhoods over time.
"Last fall, I attended an event sponsored by Building Bridges, a community organization that, according to its mission statement, 'seeks to understand how race and racism impact our communities and to build the future of our neighborhoods together.' ... Held in Minneapolis' Field neighborhood, the event featured remarks from Minneapolis native Michele Norris, former co-host of NPR's All Things Considered and author of the 2010 memoir 'The Grace of Silence.' Norris grew up in a two-story Tudor on a corner lot only three blocks away from where we feted her, and her book describes not only her Minneapolis childhood but also the painful legacy of racism in the silence and secrets carried by members of her family and, by extension, members of her hometown and nation. ...
"My kids were thrilled when they learned that 'the lady on the radio' once lived on the block. But their joy turned to confusion when I shared that Norris' white neighbors put their homes up for sale as soon as the block's first black family moved in. Next door, Norris wrote, 'the forlorn For Sale sign sat in front of the house for weeks. At one point, someone attached a flyer that read BEWARE NEGRO NEIGHBORS.' ...
"Though the discussion that evening was fascinating, heartfelt and honest, I had to admit later that I had attended in hopes it would immediately thaw my own anxiety about discussing the thorny issues of race with my children and their friends. It's melting, but like most parents, I am impatient; I want to fix ugliness for them now."
New FDA measures on opioids are a good start
Marvin D. Seppala, chief medical officer for Hazelden Foundation, applauds new federal rules to discourage the misuse of prescription painkillers.
"When the deaths caused by opiate addiction eclipse those caused by car accidents, it's time to take action. And that's what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did Monday when it introduced new safety measures to reduce the risks associated with misuse of prescription painkillers (without interfering with their legitimate use for people in pain).
"The measures require more than 20 manufacturers of extended-release and long-acting opioids to contribute funds toward education and training programs for doctors and consumers, helping them to weigh the benefits and risks of opioid therapy and providing information on the safe use and disposal of the medications.
"At Hazelden, we see over and over again the deadly continuum of opioid addiction. It starts not on the mean streets but right at home in your own medicine cabinet: Painkillers left over from a tooth extraction or a hip replacement are free for the taking, and no one's looking or counting. Opioid addiction progresses rapidly, and a naive experimenter soon finds himself or herself in a frantic race to stave off the miserable withdrawal symptoms.
"When the pills run out, heroin is the much cheaper and more powerful alternative. For example, it costs $40 for one OxyContin on the open market, and $20 to maintain a twice-daily heroin habit."
Still a strange land, but strangers no more
Haddayr Copley-Woods, an author and blogger, explains why science-fiction conventions are so appealing to the people who attend them.
"Many people called me a nerd back in seventh grade, when I played Dungeons and Dragons and got picked last in gym. Now the word feels like an embrace.
"It took me a while to get there. Somehow I missed out on conventions. Instead I wandered the cold face of the earth alone, being the weird girl at work, always the odd man out, bewildered. "Then I sold my first short story to a small fantasy magazine in 2003. The editor told me I should 'come to a con' — by which he meant a gathering like the CONvergence event last week in Bloomington. ...
"I did, and made some of the best friends of my life: local people. Friends from far away who stayed true over long distances. Friends who remember what it was like to be outcasts in high school and then to stumble upon an entire hotel of people happy to see them. ...
"There is something about nerds and our glorious, enthusiastic participation in what we enjoy that I cannot resist. Do you still secretly read your old comic books? Do you spend time thinking about Joss Whedon's take on female sexuality? Then you should come to a con."
"Thanks, MPR. We love you too." -- Alice Marks, St. Paul
"We are the scientists, tech support, fire fighters, teachers, librarians, delivery drivers and MPR supporters. And that's just some of the people I met at CONvergence." -- Amy McInroy, Rosemount
"Yay! To understand what SF/F fandom is, you have to have been an Outsider. You also have to have a sense of wonder, an appreciation for the odd, magical and absurd. ... As one of the rowdy Klingons, I raise my mug of Bloodwine and wish you a hardy Qapla'!" -- Bill Hedrick
"I had the wonderful experience this weekend of walking down the hall and bumping into one of my clients dressed up in costume. There was the momentary beat of awkwardness, and both of us realizing that there is more to people than just the work facade." -- Reuben Herfindahl, River Falls, Wis.
We could use another Woody Guthrie right about now
Atom Robinson, a musician and community organizer in St. Paul, considers the influence Woody Guthrie has had on his life.
"As we approach the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth this Saturday, I've been revisiting his music and thinking about the world in which he wrote it and the world we live in now. ...
"It's easy to take his music for granted. Schoolchildren know the words to 'This Land is Your Land,' and most folks would recognize the sing-songy chorus to 'So Long, It's Been Good to Know You.' As Pete Seeger says, Woody's songs 'are deceptively simple... Any fool can get complicated. It takes a genius to attain simplicity.' ...
"If you listen to 'Do Re Mi' now, you'll hear the plight of today's economic refugees, migrant workers who cross into the United States from Mexico. The place names are different, but the message is the same. ...
"His songs seem fresh and real to me, but I worry that they're becoming cultural and historical artifacts. We need new artists to step forward and raise their voices against injustice."
"Thank you very much for putting this important holiday on my calendar and for a great piece. We need another Woody Guthrie, for sure, but we have so much from him we can make do for now." -- Erik Hare, St. Paul
"If Woody Guthrie was alive today, he would be singing in support of Scott Walker, standing by him, helping to stop the unions from using the state government to rob the middle class citizens. The struggle of the people has always been the struggle against big government." -- Terry Franklin, Minnesota