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I must respond to Ellie Krug's approach to building bridges across a cultural divide ("Trans woman builds bridges in culture war," May 21).

I'm a lifelong Christian who's slogged through my own deserts of doubt. A tangible but inexplicable show of love and mercy when I most needed it — and other smaller miracles — keep me tethered to my faith.

The loving, grace-giving bridges Krug is building provide me hope in this time of such corrosive divisiveness. She seems to be appropriately and effectively addressing this era when "people like her are being pushed from society."

I'd suggest that those Christian leaders who would not welcome Krug's message might do well to consider their impact on the surging tide of "nones." Seems to me a logical outcome when we act as bouncers — rather than as fishers of men (women, gay people, transgender people, etc.).

Cory Gideon Gunderson, Lakeville


Strong-arming us out of proper care

Evan Ramstad's ignorant defense of the Mayo Clinic's coercion of the Legislature compares Mayo to Disneyland and nurses to flight attendants ("Mayo Clinic was right to fight the Legislature," May 24).

At the corporate level the comparison is accurate to the degree that both companies are big enough to affect state economics and that they make more money than their competitors. Clearly he believes that "might makes right" even to the degree that a company can stymie state government (in spite of 133 years of antitrust legislation to prevent such tail-wagging-dog situations).

At the employee level, the comparison fails. While inadequate staffing briefly improves any company's balance sheet, that's the limit to accuracy in this comparison. How does waiting 10 extra minutes for your free cocktail in your first-class seat compare to the woman who is delivering a baby without the timely attendance of a nurse? How about the post-surgery patient waiting an hour or more for someone to answer his light so he can get a pain pill or help for a bleeding wound? Such events occurred more than 6,000 times last year in Minnesota.

I'm from a family of health care workers. I know for a fact that staffing on hospital wards in both Mayo-owned and other hospitals has sometimes been dangerously low for years. Fear of being forced to live with the catastrophic consequences of inadequate staffing has absolutely contributed to further loss of nursing personnel.

Control of the financing of health care has shifted away from the doctors and hospitals to the boardrooms of health systems and insurance companies, leaving many systems but Mayo losing money in recent years. Major changes are needed to maintain access to care as well as to avoid dangerously low staffing levels that threaten each of us when we must seek health care.

But Ramstad isn't worried about the patients who come to harm. He supports the "executives and boards of directors" in making purely financially based decisions — even to the point of blackmailing state government. When hospitals are run like amusement parks, it's lights out at the top of the Ferris wheel for patients.

Thomas Day, Duluth


Let us pray that Ramstad never needs nursing care in any hospital in this state, because it's increasingly hard to imagine who will provide this nursing care in the future. The win for Mayo means more burnout for nurses already in the field and is a huge disincentive to anyone wanting to pursue a nursing degree in the future. How ironic that what was passed instead is a bill to study nursing burnout. It does not take a genius or a study to answer this question: Low staffing levels and the inability to be involved in the decisionmaking process setting staffing levels are key issues leading to burnout.

Carol Witte, Minneapolis


A starkly different reading

Stephen Young's essay about the responsibility of Henry Kissinger for the loss of Vietnam ("The man who lost Vietnam," Opinion Exchange, May 21) asserts that after the French were defeated in Indochina, "two independent nations were created by agreement — North Vietnam for the Communists, and South Vietnam for the nationalists."

Young was referring to the Geneva Accords of 1954. These accords never referred to North Vietnam or South Vietnam as independent nations, but repeatedly and intentionally used the words like "two zones," "the zones" or "regrouping zone."

The accords specifically forbade foreign alliances or foreign military bases and called for a free and internally supervised election to unify the nation by 1956. The U.S. agreed to abide by the accords but did not become a signatory.

Young suggests that the decision of the Eisenhower administration to create the nation of South Vietnam in 1954 was a modest start to U.S. involvement. I disagree. It was the worst mistake in the long debacle of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Rather than Kissinger, Young should have blamed American hubris and ignorance for causing the United States to take over a doomed effort from the French. According to Chester Cooper, who began working on Vietnam policy in 1953, "When we started the war, there was no American in the embassy in Saigon who could speak Vietnamese. There wasn't even anybody who knew anything about Buddhism."

Henry Kissinger did not lose the war in Vietnam, he prolonged it.

Jeff Kolnick, St. Paul

The writer is a history professor.


Stephen Young in his commentary on Henry Kissinger once again tells us that the U.S. could have won in Vietnam had we not abandoned our allies. He argues that failure changed the culture of America by wounding our self confidence.

I agree that Americans changed, but I would argue they did not change enough. As a reaction to the Vietnam tragedy, Congress passed the War Powers Act of 1973 to assert that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the authority over war, except when the president has to act in an immediate emergency. Since then, Congress has given away its authority and allowed one intervention after another.

The American people are frustrated that these interventions have failed over and over. We have spent our nation to ruin or war. The reasons for failure should be clear: Intervention adds to the destruction of the economy of a nation, including its exports and agriculture. It creates a war economy, so that men have to join militias in order to support their families. We should not be surprised when they throw down their arms if U.S. support declines, and U.S. contractors who allow control of the air then leave. Interventions create dependency on the United States, which leads to corruption. The American people have watched billions simply disappear, as warlords abuse our support and abuse their own people. This analysis applies to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

So Young is right that Vietnam led to a loss of faith in our government. The idealism of the Kennedy years collapsed. It did so because people like Young told us war works, when time and again we see that it does not.

James W. Haefemeyer, Minneapolis