Voices

Windows and Mirrors - Education - Chicken or Egg? by Florence Sprague, October 2019

“Progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.” — George Eastman

I have always been a strong believer in and supporter of education and public schools. At times I have felt like the schools were expected to “solve” societal challenges that people didn’t want to deal with more broadly, bussing being a prime example. We don’t know how to address segregation and racial inequality so we put it all on the schools.

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Windows and Mirrors - Beyond Stereo by Florence Sprague, September 2019

True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it. —Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher (1902-1994)

My father loved music. Consequently, he often explored new technologies for playing it at home. We had stereo, then eight track tapes, then surround sound, with not just two, but four speakers amongst which you could sit. (A quick internet search shows that you can still get surround sound, with even more speakers today.)

It could be interesting to think about surround ideas, listening to a whole circle of ideas and opinions. The quote above appeals to me, but it does raise some serious questions. If I like this quote, who do I think is refusing to acquire knowledge? Is it the other person who disagrees with me, or is it me?

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Windows and Mirrors - Best or Worse? by Florence Sprague, July 2019

Do not compare their worst to your best. I do not recall where I first heard that statement; I only recall thinking that it belonged in a Windows and Mirrors piece. As I look forward to the Better Angels workshop in September (see the description on page 2 of the July 2019 Voter), this seems an appropriate time to ponder it further.

On the surface this may not seem like a diversity topic. It is not about race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation,
ability/disability, health, citizenship status, or, well, anything in particular. Except that it is about all of them.

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Windows and Mirrors - What Do You Need to Be Healthy by Florence Sprague, May 2019

Employer-funded, high deductibles, Obamacare, the ACA, pre-existing conditions, mandates, freedom to choose, high premiums, privacy, single payer, etc., etc. The debate over how to pay for healthcare has been tearing this country apart for years. The topic is a minefield of assumptions, misinformation, fears, and loaded language and seems to defy resolution.

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Windows and Mirrors - Some Things Never Die by Florence Sprague, March 2019

In contemporary Minnesota when the topic of anti-religious bias or discrimination arises it is commonly expected to be in reference to anti-Muslim prejudice, a serious problem which needs to be recognized and addressed. However, there is another type of prejudice which once again is rearing its ugly head—anti-Semitism.

As a non-Jew who grew up after the second World War, I had become complacent, assuming that the exposure of the vile horrors of the Holocaust had taught the world about the dreadful evils possible under intolerance and scapegoating. I believed that anti-Semitism, denounced and exposed so fully, was cleansed from our society. That was naïve.

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Windows and Mirrors - The Power to Help by Florence Sprague - February 2019

I attend church regularly. I see myself not so much as a person of faith, but more as one of need, and now and then it offers me a clarification that I find worth sharing. One of those moments occurred last fall when I first heard a hymn by British hymnist Brian Wren, “Spirit of Jesus, If I Love My Neighbor” (find the full text at hymnary.org/text/spirit_of_jesus_if_i_love_my_neighbor). 

It doesn’t feel good to feel helpless. It especially doesn’t feel good if the reason you need help is because systems and groups have put you at an unfair disadvantage. And what do people do when something doesn’t feel good? Sometimes they become angry and resentful and push back.

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Widows and Mirrors - White Fragility by Florence Sprague - January 2019

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. — Marie Curie

My list of what to read next just keeps growing. One book that has recently settled onto my pile is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo. The review of this book by Katy Waldman in The New Yorker (July 23, 2018, www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-sociologistexamines-the-white-fragility-that-prevents-white-americans-from-confronting-racism) has me intrigued. Waldman describes DiAngelo as presenting a “methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism.” I need to read this book to get a fuller understanding of her thesis. I hope that I do not misrepresent it.

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Widows and Mirrors - Music or Noise by Florence Sprague - November 2018

When does a sound, even music, become noise? Is it the volume, time of day, type of sound, location, relationship of the listener to the sound, personal taste, personal needs, race of the listener, race of the sound maker?

I well recall how the girl across the hall in my freshman dorm put a penny on the tone arm of her record player so that it played Bob Dylan singing “Lay, Lady, Lay” loudly over and over and over and over. And then there was the incident of a resident of a town blaring opera back across the street at a fraternity when disturbed by the loud rock music filling the neighborhood.

These are annoyances, matters of musical preference, and cases where one’s sound of choice spills over into the wider environment without sufficient regard for others. But loud music can uncover much more about how people feel about one another.

The music of others can expose or trigger instances of racism and discrimination and highlight a sensitive issue that has been called the sonic color line. Jennifer Stoever, Associate Professor of English at State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton and author of a book examining.

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Windows and Mirrors - The Burden of Being Black by Florence Sprague, February 2020

How do you express when something weighs heavily on your soul? Weighs heavily on your opportunities? Weighs heavily on your very existence?

In his searing memoir, Heavy, Kiese Laymon lays bare his experience of the immense burden of being black in the United States. Growing up, his mother surrounded him with an incessant drumbeat to be better than any white person could require him to be, by using perfect grammar, an expansive vocabulary and an extensive reading list. He did this while also living the life of a black boy in Mississippi seeking to develop a vocabulary of pride in blackness and solidarity with his peers. The immense toll that that these clashing stressors took on his psyche and his body often emerged in his weight. His life was heavy and so was his body. When as an adult he took control of his weight through diet and exercise, it became obsessive in the reverse.

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