The Week in Commentary
During campaign season, maintaining serenity is a good trick
The Rev. Gordon Stewart, a pastor and essayist, ponders the good it does him to visit people in a nursing home.
"This morning I've watched too many campaign ads .... I'm all stirred up.
"The 12 people from the nursing home have been drawn here by their desire for light. 'Rejoice!' says the reading for the morning. 'I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation ....'
"I ask: How do you rejoice in a nursing home? What is the secret of being content when your body and your mind don't do what they once did?
"Listening to their reflections reminds me of how small our footprint is on the larger world. They share my distress about the news, but their years have taught them to recognize light wherever it meets them and to relish the little things of daily life: a smile, a kind word, the cardinal and the squirrels playing outside their windows, a sense of inner peace, a strange contentment. I hope to be more like them — to pay more attention to the things that are beautiful, admirable and lovely."
"I try to look for those things that are encouraging or beautiful. What frightens and depresses me is that so much of nature is under assault now." Carolyn Kidder, Wayne, Pa.
In Ely, a wilderness issue divides neighbors again
Steve Piragis, proprietor of a wilderness-oriented business in Ely, Minn., offers his concerns about new proposals for mining near the Boundary Waters.
"A new big debate is here now. It's all about what some call copper nickel mining and some call sulfide ore mining. With the reappearance of competing bumper stickers, we'll soon see how Ely handles this one. ...
"We believe that our continued success depends on the Boundary Waters remaining pristine. We worry about new mines harvesting minerals that are far more toxic to the ecosystem than the more innocuous iron ores of the past century. Large mining firms from Chile and Canada have discovered dense seams of precious minerals like palladium and platinum to go along with the copper and the nickel. Of course all are in high demand worldwide for the products we all use in our daily lives. ...
"The catch is: This mining is risky. No such mine operates anywhere in the world without some deleterious effect on the local ecosystem. In our region, the rich veins of minerals lie just outside the BWCA Wilderness, close to the Kawishiwi River and directly upstream from the famous Basswood and Crooked Lakes. ...
"As an outfitter who uses the BWCA, and the Kawishiwi watershed specifically, there is another risk. The paddling public is aware of what is going on. The perception in these folks' minds that the waters they so love could become acidified or polluted with heavy metals could be as harmful to our business as the reality."
"The characteristics of this Wilderness area are a highly, may I say, priceless natural resource. This value far exceeds the value of the metals that lie near it. The metals are finite in quantity. The wilderness qualities are without end only if protected." -- Kerry Donars, Duluth
"Steve makes a good point that the perception of those that love the BWCA is at stake here. I, too, believe that no one involved on either side of this issue wants to damage the BWCA. So let's stop spreading false propaganda that mining will destroy the BWCA. That is just not true! ... Let's work together to get these minerals we need, the exports our country needs, the jobs our area needs and the kids that our schools need. We can stop our dependency on foreign metals. We can protect our earth by making sure mining is done here responsibly. Copper/nickel/precious metal mines can and should exist side by side with tourism and our pristine wilderness." -- Albert Forsman, Ely
"I would not be against mining if I could get an ironclad guarantee that there would be no pollution. The current mining backers have a very poor record: 100 percent pollution." -- Jerry Cleveland, Spring Valley, Ala.
To those of us raised on 'Charlotte's Web,' pigs are what the fair is all about
Commentary editor Eric Ringham views the controversy over sick pigs at the State Fair through the lens of "Charlotte's Web."
"To us, pigs are what the fair is all about. The heroine of the story, a spider named Charlotte, uses the county fair to save her friend, a young pig named Wilbur. ... It's possible to adapt 'Charlotte's Web' to the new reality, while losing none of the charm in E.B. White's original text of 60 years ago. I've already started working on it ...
"Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into what he could see of their faces. His vision grew blurry, and he hoped it wasn't from fever. ...
"Everybody had a good word to say about Wilbur. Everyone admired the web. Those who didn't want to go near the swine barn admired the website. And of course nobody noticed Charlotte. "She was in a class by herself, and Wilbur loved her dearly. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and not at risk for species-to-species transmission. Charlotte was both."
"Mr. Ringham's adaption of Charlotte's Web for our 'new reality' was a heart-warming read. ... A blue ribbon recipe. Thank you! -- Deb Larsen, Waconia, Minn.
"SOME WRITER" -- Beth-Ann Bloom, Woodbury, Minn.
"Pigs are what the fair is all about, mostly when served on a stick." -- Mark DePaolis, Minnesota
BWCA gave her a chance to get reacquainted with her old self
Lucie Amundsen, a Duluth writer and graduate student, describes the effect of a trip to the Boundary Waters.
"There's magic in that treasured backcountry which Minnesota shares with Canada. ... To reach its pristine lakes, you must travel by nonmotorized means and carry everything you need to survive. In short, it's more endeavor than vacation. ...
"It had been 12 years, four moves, a marriage and two children since I'd last escaped to the BWCA. I wasn't sure I belonged here anymore. Over the next six hours, I felt the burn of our rhythmic strokes against the wind. My legs protested our challenging portages. ...
"By the third day of physical living and belly laughing, my mind was surprisingly quiet. And a part of me ground down by years of surface wiping (nose, counter, highchair, floor, repeat) emerged. This Lu, I remembered, didn't exercise as much as trained for the next bicycle trip or Teton climb. Even if Present Me is slightly more suited to her carpeted cubicle habitat, it's good to know that Backcountry Lu lives on, too."
Don't lump all the rich together in the same 1-percent boat
Brandon Ferdig, a blogger and writer, urges those who denounce rich people to adopt a more nuanced view.
"Tough economic times (caused in part by some rich people) have the less wealthy eyeing the more fortunate with a mixture of scorn and jealousy. When rich and poor are polarized, it's no surprise that all the rich get categorized as the enemy: the 1 percent.
"But while some rich get to be so at the expense of the middle and lower classes, and while they do pressure their governments to create the rules in their favor, this doesn't define the majority of millionaires out there.
"For most rich people, wealth is an indication of how hard they work, of what they do with their money and the resulting growth they generate in the economy and the job market. ... These folks are the lifeblood of an economy. And as they increase the size of the pie, they should be rewarded, and we should be thankful for them. Without them we couldn't work our eight-hour work day in an air-conditioned office, have enough extra money to buy iPads or the resources to provide education and a social safety net."