Thank you for the Jan. 7 article “Minnesota monk leads sacred rescue,” about how a monk from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., is overseeing by photography the preservation of ancient documents in the Middle East that are in danger of destruction through various groups. These documents include Christian, Jewish and Islamic works. This reminds me of Thomas Cahill’s book “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” which told how Irish monks rewrote many pieces of Greek classic literature and preserved them against the onslaught of the Dark Ages in Europe. The works these monks saved were important later to the development of Western laws and culture. We do not yet know the impact of the pieces saved by St. John’s. It is nice to know that someone is taking the long view.
Margaret A. Wood, Bloomington
‘BLAME IT ON ’68’
Commentary misread the 1960s, misreads today’s America as well
Stephen B. Young says the U.S. was “coming apart” in 1968 (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 7). We were also coming to our senses. The Vietnam War, only the latest in a series of U.S. imperial adventures, was the first to be opposed by millions of Americans. We stopped believing that to love America you must love all her wars. I call that progress.
It was sad to see this newspaper print a piece that simple-mindedly equates fighting communism in Vietnam with fighting fascism in World War II. The “international communist conspiracy” had fragmented well before 1968 because of the Sino-Soviet rift. Unlike the Axis powers, our communist opponents in Southeast Asia sought only national independence, not global rule. Nevertheless, the hawks were persistently numbing the public’s minds with the boogeyman “international communism.”
And, yes, the Port Huron Statement said — correctly — that America had fallen short of the ideals of 1776. But its authors and their successors have also striven both to realize and to improve on those ideals by extending civil rights regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
As for the Old Testament values Young so fondly invokes, progressives have improved on these as well. To “Do not steal” and “Do not kill” we have added “Do not degrade, enslave, exploit or invade your neighbor.” Joshua at the walls of Jericho would have found that hard to understand, just like some Americans today. We’ll have to remain a divided country until they catch on.
Victor Urbanowicz, St. Paul
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Young cited 1968 as the point where our current problems were born. That appears to be the tired stance: that speaking up about problems — speaking the truth — is the problem. Instead, I see the problem as that, in all this time, mainstream America is still not listening. When whites (immigrants, all), men, the rich and cisgendered people start to listen, that will be the start of the solution.
Marynia Wronski, Minneapolis
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In the past months, the Star Tribune has published multiple articles (Young’s being the latest) that blame the civil-rights movements (dismissed as “identity politics”) of the mid-20th century for our current social turmoil and division. In other words, U.S. citizens experiencing injustice should have sucked it up and allowed those not experiencing injustice to continue in a bright bubble of “America’s great!” My question to people like Young: Why would you have wanted not to know? Why wouldn’t you have wanted to know that the black workers at the factory couldn’t buy a house because their neighborhood had been redlined and because all the others had racial covenants excluding them? Why wouldn’t you want to know that, say, your sister was regularly being beat up and raped by her husband but kept silent because she had no legal recourse? (The criminalization of marital rape started in the mid-1970s.) Why wouldn’t you want to know that, say, your kid brother was about to kill himself because everyone said boys who liked boys would burn in hell?
American citizens demanding the same rights and liberties enjoyed by other American citizens is not a radical notion, nor does it remotely look like a victim narrative. As a white woman myself, the only ones I see playing the victim card are whites like Young, hands pressed over their ears and eyes, complaining about the hardship of being exposed to other people’s pain.
Teresa Sutton, Minneapolis
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Young’s article asserted that all the ills we face today began in 1968 because of an uninformed press, President’s Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to run for another term and the end of patriotism because baby boomers were reluctant to serve in the military. What went before all this is how I and my generation of women lived at the time. White men were still in charge at home and in the world.
The supposedly jocular phrase then was that it was best to keep women “pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen” for peace in the home. Women teachers were let go of their jobs if they became pregnant. When I was at the University of Minnesota from 1943 to 1947, there were only two women in the law school, one of whom is a dear friend of mine.
The church and our country were the pillars that together set the norms for proper conduct, not only for women but for people of color. Our children became the baby boomers blamed for what happened after that. Yes, they were reluctant to go into the service, because they saw the horrors of war (many of them firsthand) and the futility of it. Yes, they were wild and hard to corral, but they opened our eyes to U.S. nation-building during the Cold War, which persisted into South America later.
In Young’s eyes, those who protest publicly today are unpatriotic, especially those of color. I am suggesting that our children and those today who protest do so because it is hard to reconcile the words of our pledge “liberty and justice for all” with reality. When those words finally ring true, maybe we will see that they are the patriotic ones. Real freedom based on equality of education, jobs that pay a living wage, and transparency and honesty in public service will do a lot to bring back the civility that Young and most of the rest of us long for.
Jo Youngren, St. Anthony
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Young tiptoes through the cliches of 1968 like he’s afraid of learning something, then ends with a snort of disgust at the irreverence of it all. Cliches are not insights, blame is not judgment and Young is no historian.
It’s always easier to blame the kids for dragging us out of Vietnam than it is to explain why the grown-ups dragged us in. Something about freedom; nothing about 58,000 Americans and 3 million Vietnamese dead. Of course the kids whose friends were dying were going to doubt the values that Young extols when those values were waist-deep in the big muddy.
If Young thinks the ’60s flipped the lid of academia, then he doesn’t know what a university is. The job of a university is to think anew, not to cut more cookies of cultural complacency. The students of 1968 marched to save their country from the patriotism of death. The pseudo-dissidents of today march to save the N-word from speech rules.
If Young understood America’s history, he would know that the greatness he prizes comes from our persistent discontent with the status quo, not from the pious plod on the treadmill of tradition. In that light, the 1960s were the greatest decade of the 20th century.
Charles Jolliffe, Edina
Here’s a role model
In today’s world the corrupt and egotistical have the loudest voices, so it was refreshing to read about Karl-Anthony Towns in the Jan. 7 article “A walk in KAT’s shoes.” He is not only an outstanding athlete, but he’s using his platform to speak out on social injustice and using his wealth to help the less fortunate. Mr. Towns is a giant in the sports world, but his actions off the court are just as towering. I am in awe of this young leader.
Doran Schoeppach, Minneapolis