Lori Sturdevant’s interview with retired Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Anderson (“Would packing the court save it?” Opinion Exchange, Oct. 18) made fascinating reading. But I could not help thinking that Anderson seemed to be awfully muddled about who the good guys are. He blames Senate Republicans for “creating an idea in the minds of many people that the courts are just another bunch of politicians.” But, if Anderson followed last week’s Senate hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination, he can’t have failed to notice that it was the Senate Democrats who insistently pressed Barrett to take political stands. In reply, Barrett sweetly and patiently swatted away those suggestions, and she repeatedly told senators that she declined to state her political views because: “I think that is a question for the political branches” or “I can’t express a view on that, as I’ve said, because it would be inconsistent with the judicial role.” Anderson’s hopes for a judiciary that doesn’t act like a bunch of politicians rests entirely on the elevation of people like the estimable Judge Barrett.
Ian Maitland, Wayzata
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Sturdevant’s column citing Anderson’s worries about the “dangerous” current politicization of the federal Supreme Court was extremely helpful for public understanding of the important issues involved. Unfortunately, she once used the loaded phrase, “court-packing,” echoed by the headline writer. The phrase is a hot-button Republican talking point contrived to distract the electorate from its own in-plain-sight chicanery. What the column describes is a legal and, according to Judge Anderson, possibly necessary step to rebalance American democracy given the undemocratic nature of gerrymandering and the partisan structural defects of the Electoral College, exacerbated by Republican nomination hypocrisy openly denying a hearing to Democratic nominee Merrick Garland, then rushing Amy Coney Barrett’s Republican nomination during an election for the first time in American history.
Once the voters have spoken, and if Democrats win control all three federal branches, the nation can then have an honest discussion on the appropriate number of justices, as Minnesota has had in its past, reducing the number from nine to seven, as Sturdevant helpfully reminds us.
James P. Lenfestey, Minneapolis
The writer is a former Star Tribune editorial writer.
RACE IN MINNESOTA
A new local columnist, and for his readers, much to learn
Last Sunday, the Star Tribune welcomed both Myron Medcalf, a new columnist in the Minnesota section (“To be Black in Minnesota is to constantly barter for acceptance”), and Cathy M. Kolwey from Norwood Young America, whose commentary “Barrett should admit her unfitness ...” appeared on the Opinion Exchange page. Both have taught us a great deal about implicit and explicit bias in America, and especially in Minnesota. I have much to learn yet, as do many friends and acquaintances. Here in Minnesota, we also have “Minnesota Nice” working against us — yes, against. A friend who moved here from Ohio described it this way: Minnesotans will be friendly to your face, but will never invite you to their home or cabin. Given a choice, would you stay here?
Medcalf, who comes from the sports world as did Doug Grow, Jim Klobuchar and other greats, teaches today that Black people are undervalued in our society. To his column, I might humbly add that we also undervalue Black people because as a demographic group they make up less of the economy. I hope this lesson is permanent, but as we all know, attention is temporary, while value can be stubbornly persistent.
My children attended integrated public schools and have thanked me several times for that experience, for they are comfortable with all races and disabilities, and in our society, that is increasingly an asset. That experience was both priceless and valuable — and that’s not an oxymoron.
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
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Thank you for sharing your experience, Mr. Medcalf. While disappointed that we as Minnesotans have not done better at ensuring all feel welcome and included, your comments remind us that we can do better. The Minnesotans, the Minnesota, I know does indeed want to be “nice,” as in treat each other with dignity, respect and kindness. So, I appreciate hearing that not everyone feels that way.
I think that at times the desire to be seen as fair and kind actually blocks us from acknowledging some of the basic human biases that all of us hold and that, unfortunately, manifest in subtle, unintentional ways that are nonetheless perceived and felt. While many of us were to varying degrees aware of these dynamics, something about George Floyd was a gut-punch wake-up call that, unfortunately, racism is alive and well in the city and state we love. So, again, hearing your personal experience and those of our friends and community members furthers our understanding that biases can in fact affect our fellow Minnesotans in hurtful ways.
I, for one, have come to see bias as inherently human, which actually makes it much easier to acknowledge, and, in the process, let go. With this empathy, I want to emphasize that I care about your experience and that it is a good one. I look forward to your commentary and continuing a dialogue that further enhances how Minnesotans understand each other, and to working to ensure that all feel fully valued every day.
Eric Bartz, Minneapolis
THE PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The effects of risk and caution that you perhaps haven’t considered
I read Gov. Tim Walz and company’s heartfelt appeal for food donations for the 1 in 8 Minnesotans struggling to put food on the table (“Minnesota’s hardest winter may lie ahead,” Opinion Exchange, Oct. 18). It states that there are 200,000 households on SNAP (food stamps) right now.
I would like to help, too. However, it pains me to realize this crisis was brought about by our governor’s restrictive policies regarding churches, restaurants and businesses in general. Sure, there are concerns about COVID-19, but to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “If all the health experts were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.” Wouldn’t it be better for our fellow Minnesotans to get back to work and buy their own food?
Donald M. Pitsch, Eden Prairie
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In a recent debate, First District U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn advocated loosening safeguards on young people and students, as the risk of dying from COVID-19 is low in that age group. Such policy ignores the very serious risk posed by young people as vectors of disease spread to their elders.
As a hospital physician, I recently completed a rotation on the COVID ward. The most commonly cited source of COVID infection in the hospitalized patients I treated was transmission of the disease from their children. Also, mortality rates alone do not tell the full story of COVID. It is not only those who pass away; there are also those who are seriously debilitated. I have witnessed patients without significant prior health conditions as young as their early 40s suffer cognitive deficits and weakness so profound they have to be moved with a mechanical lift months after getting the infection, others leaving the hospital on oxygen with lung scarring, and others on blood thinners for the blood clots caused by COVID. These patients do not show up in the mortality statistics, but the devastating side effects they suffer are real, and the question as to whether these side effects are permanent remains to be determined.
Stanley Woolner, St. Paul