Local Government Meetings: February 19 to February 22, 2024
Justice─a powerful and important concept. The word seems straightforward enough, but just try to get three people to agree on what is just in a particular case! Pinning it down can be elusive. Justice means different things to different people, in different eras, in different cultures, by class, by race, by religion….
What we think of as just may reflect what we think about the structure of our society, but also how we think about human frailty, about personal and societal responsibility, about how to measure harm, about consequences and their functions.
The League of Women Voters Minnesota is so grateful to the excellent tribute shared by the Editorial Board of the Star Tribune. Our members are vital to our democracy, and we appreciate the great work our LWV teams continue to do to educate and engage our voters, even during local elections. Take a minute to read this Thank You to YOU - as our members and supporters!
This month I want each of us to create our own content by trying a couple of thought experiments.
It will be easiest to do these when you have some quiet moments. Some may want paper and pencil, but they are not required. Don’t judge yourself, just observe carefully. Try not to anticipate or predict; just observe.
Sit quietly. Close your eyes, if that helps you to focus.
I will never claim to be the most up-to-date on the evolution of the English language. New slang is constantly surprising or mystifying me. I will also admit to being a bit of a curmudgeon in defense of “good” grammar. Still, there are changes to terminology I see and hear used with diversity topics that seem positive.
This begins, of course, with the move from talk of diversity to inclusion and equity, and now belonging. This change in language reflects the realization that numbers or mere presence is not an accomplishment to be sought. What is needed is a truer meshing of groups.
One good source of teaching resources on DEI has long been the magazine, now providing online resources, for educators from the Southern Poverty Law Center. This was called Teaching Tolerance; it is now called Learning for Justice. This reflects the reality that tolerance is much too minimal a goal. Who feels good when just “tolerated.” It makes me think of a younger sibling tagging along with the big kids. They may be tolerated, but often are not truly included. Fortunately, society is now ready to be more attuned to a larger goal—justice.
Not too long ago there was a photo essay in The Atlantic magazine comprised of photos in which there was a single woman in a much larger group of men. The photos were excerpted from the book The Only Woman, by Immy Humes. Humes curates photos that span more than 150 years and crisscross the globe documenting a broad diversity of social, business, educational and cultural settings and reflecting multiple ethnicities, but there is always only one woman among the group of men.
"The crimes of rape, and of assault and battery were felonies in the slavery era as they are today in any civil society. They were seen then as wrong, immoral, reprehensible, and worthy of the severest punishment. But the country allowed most any atrocity to be inflicted on the black body. Thus, twelve generations of African-Americans faced the ever-present danger of assault and battery or worse, every day of their lives during the quarter millennium of enslavement.” Caste, Isabel Wilkerson, p. 153
We have all seen the effects of weathering on the landscape, from the beauty of dramatically sculpted canyons to the terror of coastal homes teetering on undercut coastlines. The forces of wind and water are powerful, working relentlessly to modify the environment.
But what about the figurative wind and water of stress, fear, abuse and other human-made forces that lead to poorer health outcomes? This concept is not brand new, but it is more in the news today.
Every time I try to cull the piles and files of clippings and quotes saved as possible starters for articles, I am only reminded of why I saved each one. They are funny, or ouchily true, or concisely stated outrage, or… well, you get it. My culling stalls. I offer here a selection of thoughts of others for you to ponder for your own Aha! Hmmm. Ouch! Yes! No way! Well, duh moments. And when you’ve found your favorite one, call another Leaguer for coffee and conversation.
John Brandl - In a 1997 op-ed piece John Brandl wrote about the overemphasis on individual preferences over community which made governing difficult. “Individual choice itself becomes the only moral absolute…No wonder government, which has largely to do with accommodating differences of opinion, is so difficult. We live in a time when the working out of differences is unrecognized as legitimate, much less noble. We reject the existence of a public realm where the good of the whole requires more than each of us doing our own thing.” 1997! [Underlining added.]
Much of the wealth of this nation is founded upon the unpaid labor of kidnapped and enslaved people, unwillingly transported to North America from Africa. It is an ugly fact. Uglier still, though, is the fact that more than 150 years after slavery was abolished, the descendants of those enslaved people are not equitably included in the wealth of this society.
For too long we have stumbled over the immense challenge of determining how, and to whom, reparatory payments or benefits should be distributed, but in recent years communities have begun to step beyond the search for the perfect solution to doing something good, rather than nothing.
After a painfully long time since the first incursion of Europeans onto North America we have entered an era of the Indigenous Land Acknowledgement. You have likely seen and heard them in many places, from the start of events for League, the Guthrie Theater, your place of worship, museums, restaurants…well, just about everywhere it seems, and this is a good thing.
LWVMN recently released the version shown on the right [https://www.lwvmn.org/land-acknowledgement]. When drafting this wording, LWVMN used many resources in the indigenous community, particularly the Native Governance Center. I encourage you to go to LWVMN’s Indigenous Land Acknowledgement page and read the interesting resources that accompany the statement.