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Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy made opening remarks Thursday at Nancy Pelosi’s speech to the House of Representatives after she was selected to be the new speaker. It was a fine speech, but one of his remarks drew a particularly enthusiastic response from the conservative side of the audience: “There is one core principle upon which we will not compromise; Republicans will always choose personal freedom over government control.”

I considered those words, wondering if this truly defines the huge partisan divide we face. I like the words “personal freedom.” I don’t particularly like the words “government control.” And I’m a liberal Democrat.

A conservative may define a personal freedom as a right to bear arms, or the right to conduct oneself in the marketplace in a way that doesn’t contradict one’s religious beliefs. A liberal may define it as the freedom from fear of being killed while attending school or the freedom from discrimination based on race, religion or sexual orientation. A conservative wants to be free to conduct business without excessive regulations. A liberal wants to feel confident that the food supply is safe.

So isn’t it odd, then, that most conservatives and liberals would likely agree to the right to bear arms, religious freedom, safe public places and freedom from discrimination?

I guess it comes down to the adage that “with freedom comes responsibility,” and government steps in because people just aren’t all that responsible when left to their own devices. One person’s freedom without responsibility takes away another person’s freedom. We can’t drive drunk because it can kill an innocent bystander. Corporations shouldn’t pollute for profits because we all need clean air and water. Weapons designed for mass killings don’t belong in everybody’s hands just because they were invented.

Freedom is necessary to maintain our republic. Government is necessary for all of us to have freedom. One does not override the other.

Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake

PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Volunteers with good intentions, it’s better if you stand down

Articles in the media are beginning to showcase stories of volunteers stepping up to fill in for furloughed federal workers. For example, they are staffing park programs so that student groups won’t have field trips canceled, and they are cleaning park restrooms and trash bins (“National parks feel the squeeze,” Jan. 2).

As well-meaning as these people may be, they are essentially acting as scabs. By performing the jobs of furloughed workers, they are making it less of an emergency to solve our budget issues and return the federal workers to their jobs. They are making it possible to extend the unemployment of these workers and the hardships being experienced by their lack of paychecks. I doubt these volunteers would be happy to have someone else take over their jobs if they were laid off.

Volunteers, please do not make it easy to keep the shutdown going by negating its effects on the public; let the public be upset. Instead of volunteering, petition your members of Congress and the president to end this budget faceoff. Tell them they need to work together and do their jobs. Make it hard for them to continue their intransigence. Offer to step in and do their jobs (of setting a budget) if they won’t do it. Propose that they all not be paid until they do their jobs. Make it hard on Congress and the president, not on the workers who are being hurt.

Eve Stein, St. Paul

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

U violated its own policies with business school social events

As an emeritus professor with experience teaching courses that addressed sexual harassment issues, I was simply appalled by the Dec. 29 article describing the Carlson School’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program’s recruitment of undergraduate women to socialize with rich Chinese businessmen (“Lawyer blames U in Liu case”). This included off-campus socializing in events that involved substantial amounts of alcohol.

The key issue for the university is not the legal suit by a woman who claims she was sexually abused, as important as that is. Clearly, the university has seriously violated its own policies and principles. It is outrageous that a program in the university would procure young women students for companionship to middle-aged men from a culture with very different attitudes toward women. Responsibility must be borne by all in the line of authority that produced this idea. This should be a matter of the gravest concern to President Eric Kaler and incoming President Joan Gabel.

James G. Scoville, Minneapolis

WOMEN AND ANGER

Contrary to today’s messaging, rage doesn’t become anyone

In response to the Jan. 2 article “Let girls get angry,” this is getting tiresome. We raised six kids, boys and girls, and they were all taught the same things in regard to anger and how to handle it. This type of article just succeeds in causing more division between the sexes. I didn’t grow up with this attitude, and my kids didn’t, either. I had five siblings, and we were all treated the same. Gender meant nothing, which is a good thing! I just wonder what kind of childhood these people had who talk about female anger. Let people be people, regardless of their gender. Stop trying to cause division. That’s the biggest problem this country has right now, and the people doing this need to step back and take a good look at themselves and their ideals.

Marilyn Mangan, Mound

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Between faith and certainty

As I follow the discussions about religion and faith, I think about my dad, who was a good and devoted Catholic and the finest person I have ever known. Many years ago, when I was a teenager and in college, I used to try to argue religion with my dad sometimes to his exasperation. I remember during one of our discussions about religion, my dad saying to me, “Mary, faith is a gift, and I hope you have it.” I’ll never forget that. My belief is that my human brain is only capable of understanding so much. There is much of the physical and spiritual world that I will never be capable of understanding. So in light of that, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty … .”

Mary Diercks, Minneapolis

• • •

“Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” Those are the words of André Gide, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. With that profound thought in mind, let’s be honest about this whole religion thing for a moment. The simple and absolute truth is that there is not a person on the planet who knows any of the answers to the great religious questions that have haunted humans ever since they began contemplating the cosmos and their own existence. The Great Mystery remains. That may explain why there are thousands of faiths being practiced on this planet and why they are called faiths. Just because you believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. There are no objective truths about the absolute validity of any religion. So imagine how the world might be if all religious people would adopt the habit of professing their religion in terms something like this: “I don’t know the answers, and I am not certain of any eternal truth. But I have found a set of beliefs that make sense to me and in which I have faith and they bring me comfort. I hope you have a set of beliefs that make sense to you and bring you comfort.” How different would the world be?

Mark Storry, Monticello, Minn.