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Mark Dvorak of the American Legion (“Why we must protest national anthem protests,” Opinion Exchange, Sept. 16) insists on what he calls “unity” during performances of the national anthem. He and all members of the American Legion deserve respect for their service, in uniform, to the nation. The need for uniformity among those serving in that way is clear.

Yet uniformity is not unity, at least not in a nation whose founding documents, Pledge of Allegiance and anthem all declare freedom as our common value. Unity for the nation as a whole goes beyond uniformity in service. If we value freedom, we must value the freedom of individuals to choose how they show respect.

I stand for the anthem in public (and sometimes in private, in front of my TV). But I stand for the freedom it proclaims — the freedom that allows others to kneel, if they choose.

Remove that freedom, and you remove the meaning of the anthem and the flag. A flag that no longer stands for freedom may look the same, but it won’t be the flag to which I have pledged my loyalty. Its meaning will be sacrificed to the insistence on uniformity over liberty.

Hal Keen, St. Paul

POLICING

More than one metric for racism

A retired Eagan police chief and recent letter writer criticizes journalists for “join[ing] in lockstep to the Black Lives Matter agenda” when discussing whether systemic racism exists in policing. (“What happened to digging deeper?” Sept. 10.) The writer goes on to suggest that systemic racism in policing is not a problem because African Americans constitute a high percentage of murder suspects, police killings make up a small percentage of African American death rates, and police rarely use lethal force in arrests. Even assuming these statements are true, they do not disprove the existence of systemic racism in policing — that argument assumes that lethal use of force is the only way of measuring systemic racism in policing.

But systemic racism in policing manifests itself in ways that do not involve lethal use of force. For example, the Star Tribune reported that police records show that from June 2019 through May 2020, Black and East African drivers accounted for 78% of police searches arising out of moving or equipment violations in Minneapolis, while white drivers accounted for only 12% of such searches (“MPD searches Black drivers more,” Aug. 7). Of the Black and East African drivers stopped and searched in Minneapolis, only 26% were arrested, while 41% of the white drivers stopped and searched were arrested.

This suggests that Minneapolis police should be searching white drivers more often than they do. It also demonstrates that lethal use of force is not the only metric to consider when determining whether racism plays a role in policing.

Terrance Newby, Roseville

JUSTICE

A different approach is possible

What might have been different if officers responding to a call about a counterfeit bill had begun with de-escalation?

“Sir, the store owner says you gave him a counterfeit $20. Would you be willing to return to the store to return your merchandise and apologize?”

One of my seminary classmates was first a police chief. He set up a program in which the victim and perpetrator met to discuss the crime and establish a path toward reconciliation.

Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. captured the value of such discussions in one sentence: Conversations lead to conversions. Conversations can lead us to understand “the other.”

Sharing stories can change the way we approach situations. Last year we were hit by a distracted driver in Wyoming. After receiving a “total loss” insurance check and repairing our car at significant added expense, we were surprised by a call from a victim-witness advocate in the county attorney’s office in Laramie. I was invited to testify by phone at an upcoming penalty hearing about the collision’s effect on us and my thoughts on a penalty. I proposed a remedial driving class and asked to be compensated for our out-of-pocket expenses.

The court ruled for us. More importantly, I was gratified to have been consulted and supported by the program.

Rather than jumping to conclusions during stressful situations, it is important that both sides of an issue have the opportunity to discuss an appropriate outcome from a rational perspective.

The Rev. Maryellen Garnier, Eden Prairie

DISTANCE LEARNING

Might we mention the positives?

I have heard all of the negatives about remote learning for our children and grandchildren. How about listing some of the positives? There is the relief from bullying that most children will experience during their school career. There is relief from the often unpleasant bus rides of 45 minutes to go 10 minutes from home. There is the relief from peer pressure to have the right kind of shoes, the right brand of jacket, the right color nail polish, the right likes in food, music, and on and on to infinity. And you know what? Previous generations of children lived on isolated homesteads with very little opportunity for socialization. They coped and thrived.

There will be a time again when mandatory in-person school attendance will give our children and grandchildren the opportunity to face the bully, cope with the monotony of the bus, learn how to either “fit in” or be comfortable with their uniqueness and to learn in-person from a teacher. In the meantime, my grandchildren at least are exploring new avenues of interest, socializing with friends on Zoom and other social media, learning self-discipline at home and spending a lot more time with parents. And they are proud that they are doing their part to combat the pandemic by staying safe themselves and preventing spread to others. I would encourage others to change the negative conversation, realizing this is temporary.

Anita Root, Bloomington

CLIMATE CHANGE

This could be the tipping point

Years from now when people look back, they may point to this week as the inflection point when the United States’ attitude toward climate change shifted dramatically. In the last few days, two extraordinary events have occurred.

First: Scientific American, one of America’s oldest and most prestigious magazines, felt compelled to break a 175-year policy and for the first time endorse a candidate for president — Joe Biden. “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science,” its editors wrote.

Second: Indicative of how corporate attitudes are changing, the prominent Business Roundtable, composed of over 200 CEOs from America’s largest companies including the oil and gas sector, supported broad-based measures to slash greenhouse gas emissions, going as far as proposing a tax on carbon.

With its unprecedented action, Scientific American placed an exclamation mark on the scientific community’s disdain for President Donald Trump’s rejection of its discipline in his haphazard approach to solving America’s problems. In the past, Republicans could usually count on the support of the business community when they ignored concern over climate change. Thanks to this week’s courageous about-face by the Business Roundtable, this is no longer true. Trump and his party now stand alone.

The times they are a-changin’.

John Fochs, Duluth, Minn.

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