“Do Something” to make a difference right now! Contact your State Legislator and ask them to support these commonsense reform proposals now!

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Recently, a number of individuals I respect, admire and look up to, gathered for over 3 hours to talk about what we could do to be a part of the solution in the debate over needed reforms in law enforcement in Minnesota.

We looked at other’s proposals and discussed them.  We agreed there were many good ideas and that we didn’t need to invent new ones, but to find ones that we believed had the best chance of passing the current Minnesota Special Session.

At the end of our meeting, and after several days of work we agreed to the following document that we have been sharing with State Legislator in our area, as well as those in leadership positions in the Minnesota Legislature.

Are you struggling to find a concrete thing you can do to make a difference?

Here’s your chance.  Feel free to copy and paste this document and email it to your State Legislator and ask him or her to act now to support important reform initiatives before the Special Session is done.

If you don’t know your legislator, go find him or her at:  https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/

An historic opportunity exists to increase transparency, accountability, and professional development for our peace and police officers in Minnesota and by doing so increase public trust in law enforcement for all Minnesotans.

Minnesota has an historic opportunity to elevate and enhance the confidence of all Minnesotans in their public safety professionals

In doing so it can recognize that the actions of law enforcement professionals who violate their Oath of Office do not only bring dishonor to their profession, but diminishes the confidence communities of color and immigrant communities have in law enforcement agencies.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers are dedicated public servants who are asked to do an increasingly complex and emotionally challenging job and most do their daily work with integrity and compassion.

We believe there are many important reforms that must be considered and acted upon.

We also believe that any reform proposals cannot be unfunded mandates but have the financial commitment from local, state, and federal entities to be successful.

Our personal commitment is to work with anyone focused on getting reform legislation passed in the Minnesota State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

Doing nothing is not acceptable.  Future generations of Minnesotans will hold us accountable for the choices we make in this moment.

Both political parties have an obligation to work in a spirit of compromise and pass meaningful and systemic reforms during the current Special Session.

Both political parties have an obligation to continue this work into the next regular session and beyond.

All Minnesotans have an obligation and responsibility to hold their elected officials accountable for what they do to be a part of the solution as well as what they do to continue to be a part of the problem.

The work we do today will make a difference in the lives of all Minnesotans tomorrow.

The first step to bringing Minnesota together is for Minnesota to work together.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Encourage all police agencies to adopt use-of-force policies that make sanctity of life a core organizational value.

  • Require law enforcement agencies to implement an Early Intervention Program (EIP) for officers and dispatchers that is designed to identify problem behaviors at the earliest possible stage so that intervention and support can be offered in an appropriate manner.
  • Expand resources and increase statewide awareness of existing resources, to improve the mental health and wellness of first responders and dispatchers.
  • Require law enforcement agencies to adopt data practices that promote transparency, openness, and accountability. This includes collecting, analyzing, and publishing data about the nature of police-community interactions, use of force, and police-involved deadly force encounters
  • Create an independent and specialized investigation unit within the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) with the authority to investigate all officer-involved shootings and uses of force that result in death or severe bodily injury.
  • Work with the Attorney General and the Minnesota County Attorneys Association to enable the Attorney General’s Office to be supportive and engaged around deadly-force encounters in terms of expertise, resources, conflicts, jurisdiction, or other issues.
  • Direct the Department of Public Safety to work with law enforcement associations, police unions, local officials, and community leaders to promote more effective models of community policing.
  • Increase state-provided law enforcement training funding where appropriate. • Increase police training on interactions with African Americans and people of color and immigrant communities who arrived in America from all over the world.
  • Increase police training on interactions with people with disabilities, and people experiencing a mental-health crisis during interactions with law enforcement.
  • Explore the non-disciplinary use of body camera video and simulator scenarios to identify training to improve officer performance through proactive coaching/mentoring and training in de-escalation tactics.
  • Encourage local law enforcement agencies to work with community partners to engage them in the standards, expectations and recruitment of officers that know their local communities and increase the diversity of their workforce.
  • Ensure that all law enforcement agencies are trained in de-escalation tactics and skills in order to reduce use-of-force, especially when responding to persons in crisis.
  • Repeal the state law that mandates binding arbitration for law enforcement officers accused of misconduct.
  • Change laws governing collective bargaining agreements that impede discipline of officers who seriously betray the public trust.
  • Enhance screening to prevent unacceptable applicants for positions in law enforcement from being hired and ensure clear and enforced guidelines that define acceptable and unacceptable behavior and policing tactics.
  • Require the POST Board to adopt a Duty to Intercede model policy to be distributed to all Chief Law Enforcement Officers, and to empower them to ensure compliance with a model policy.
  • Provide necessary funding to ensure that 100% of all Minnesota law enforcement officers are equipped with body cameras
  • Strengthen the power and authority and responsibility of the Minnesota POST Board to strip officers of their license when they commit acts in violation of their Oath of Office.

 

20,805 mornings later I am still restless

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Today is my 57th birthday.

I woke up at 3:48 a.m. and have been staring at a wall since then wondering what to say to mark this personally historic day in my life.

It’s not that I don’t have a great deal to be thankful in my life.

I am alive.

I woke up, after all.  That’s a remarkable feat and one for roughly 20,805 mornings I have been fortunate to be able to do.

I have a roof over my head.  Food in the pantry.  Surrounded by people I love and ones who tolerate me.

A snoring dog has her butt up against me as I write this, the sound of the rocket propelled air conditioning unit in our townhome has kicked in and I can hear the sounds of my fingers against the keyboard of my computer.

I have a job and work to do.  My colleagues are genuinely good people who I miss working with in person and a meeting yesterday with genuinely good people at LendSmart mortgage to plan a fundraising event for Spare Key filled with genuinely good people reminded me of all the genuinely good people in my life.

Roughly three months of quarantine have thickened my belly and I know I need to do something about that.  The number of miles I have run since quarantine is stuck at 107 miles and I know I need to do something about that.

Still, I am restless.

And, I know I need to do something about that.

Contentedness is something I crave and fear at the same time.

Stability is an important word in my life.

I grew up in a household in which stability was erratic, uneven, elusive, and never taken for granted.

I’ve tried hard as a parent to give to my kids that which was fleeting in my childhood.

It’s no secret to anybody who pays attention that I spoil my kids.  I always have.  I have no regrets.

Despite their father’s adoration they have both grown into kind, generous, humble, giving adults who have never taken anything good in their life for granted.

They root for the underdog.  They reach out to the broken.  They stand up for the beaten down.

No greater epitaph to my life will ever be written than “He so loved his children that he gave them anything they wanted, and they helped everyone they could.”

If I could add after the word “wanted” the words “…and didn’t know they wanted…” without running off the side of the headstone I would.

So, I am content with my life.

The complaints I have are of my own making, and any of them are the kind of problems that billions of my fellow human beings on the planet would shame me for even bringing up in conversation.

Still, I am restless.

I can feel a stirring, though, an emerging pattern of taking that restlessness and lining up the parts that bring me to a place where I feel like I am doing something about it.

It’s the ordering of things that so often marks when I go to get things done.

It is the only routine I have ever had in my life.

It’s a mental checklist of what has to be done, how it has to be done, when it has to be done.

It’s taken me until the middle ages of my life to know that it is who and how I am.

There’s the compartmentalizing inside my head where I store things until I know where to put them and I’ve seemingly stored some things in there that have been dormant for far too long.

It is as though inside my is the kind of creaking sound of old machinery being brought back to life with the yawning stretch of morning to prove to me that I’m ready to begin again.

I am grateful that at 57 I haven’t forgotten how to do the things I knew so well how to do at 27, 37 and 47.

That despite how I went about doing those things at 27, 37 and 47 there are still friends, colleagues and peers who honor me with their willingness to work with me at 57 to get new things done.

The checklist that is my life is not yet done.

In the next 43 years that I am confident God has allotted to me, there will be more tasks to check-off on that list.

More problems to solve.  More opportunities to grasp.  More promises to make.  More promises to keep.

Today is my 57th birthday.

Still, I am restless.

My Inner Pollyanna: The Legislature can get it done right now. All of it done. Now.

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The Minnesota State Legislature has “returned” to the Capitol for what must be its 1,000th Special Session in our 162-year history as state.

Ostensibly the original reason for the special session was too address a massive bonding bill that neither party could agree upon during the regular session.

It used to be that the threat of a Special Session was so significant that lawmakers would, in the final hours of the regular session, literally cover the clock to try to shove bills to passage “on-time” so legislators could get back home.

Today, a Special Session has no longer found itself a unique species and the political ramifications of having one not nearly as dire in the mind of politicians who used to fear the outrage of constitutions demanding to know why they had to pay more to get the work done they elected their leaders to do in the time originally allotted to them.

This week’s Special Session has become more complicated, however, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis Police Officers who have been fired and now face significant criminal prosecution for his death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated Minnesota’s economy.  Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are out of work.  Thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as non-profits, face financial uncertainty, some already having been ruined, by the responses of local, state, and federal policymakers to battle the virus.

The murder of George Floyd led to massive peaceful protests that were usurped for days by violent riots, mayhem, and destruction of public and private property.

The aftermath of the looting and pillaging and fiery conflagration were thousands more Minnesotans left without jobs, thousands of buildings where they worked and were served by business and non-profits damaged, and the Governor mobilizing the state’s National Guard to stop the violence.

A Special Session which was to deal primarily with a bonding bill has now become one in which Republicans argue needs to focus on fixing the financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Democrats argue needs to focus on fixing the human devastation of racial injustice and inequality on communities of color.

Politically divided as we are these days, and predictably, neither side intends to work with one another to get any of these things done.

Which begs the question:  Why not do all of it?

After all, the stigma of a Special Session in Minnesota is no longer going to cost any member of the Legislature his or her seat.

To be honest, in the decades I have been involved in politics and government in Minnesota I can’t recall a single member of the Legislature losing an election because they were held “responsible” for a Special Session being called.

It’s already baked into the cake for most Minnesotans that a Special Session has become Summer School for Legislators who don’t satisfactorily complete the coursework they were assigned during the regular session.

So, let’s stop with the faux outrage and objections from both political parties and simply do all the things that we can and should do in this Special Session.

  • Pass a Bonding Bill
  • Embrace reforms intended to increase public confidence in law enforcement for communities of color and provide police greater training, resources and clarification to do the jobs we ask them to do
  • Provide Minnesota employers and employees the economic assistance they need to regain their footing from the trauma of COVID-19 and its impact on our economy

Minnesota used to pride itself on a state where we got things done.  Where Minnesota Commonsense trumped (pleased don’t be like that!) partisan haggling to let the greater good serve the common good.

We don’t have to devolve any further than we have in the bitter partisanship that has infected our daily life long before COVID-19 got inside our economy and wrecked it.

There’s nothing that says Minnesota can’t lead the nation in returning to a political and policy value system that is focused not on achieving the middle-ground but finding common ground.

Democrats want everything.  They won’t get it.

Republicans want everything.  They won’t get it.

There’s a word in the English language that we have all seemingly forgotten in this twisted world of social media where everyone believes their opinion is the ONLY opinion that counts.

Compromise.

The Governor’s raison d’etre for this Special Session should be simply to be an honest power broker and bringing Democrats and Republicans to the table to get these things – all these things – done.

He should resist the urge to be the additional partisan in the room.  There will be time enough for him to exact his pound of flesh in the next election.

Regardless of currently booming poll numbers the Governor’s political strength is not enough to vanquish the loyal opposition.

He can, however, use those poll numbers and his influence to call upon Minnesotans to call all their legislators – Democrats and Republicans – and tell them to get it done.

All of it.

Get it all done.

Now.

Hide the statue, hide the injustice: The failure of leadership to teach us a lesson

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A statue is toppled.  A law is broken.  A Governor and Lt. Governor do nothing to stop it or seek punishment for those who did it.

Not because it wasn’t wrong.

But because they agreed with the actions that resulted in it being taken down.

They supported people breaking the law.

I want you to think about that for a long second.

The same Governor who called out the National Guard, putting men and women in harm’s way, to uphold the law has now capitulated to those who, with his advanced knowledge, broke the law.

They, along with hundreds of law enforcement officers, put their very lives on the line to protect public and private property from being destroyed by those who claimed they had the right to do so, and those who simply destroyed it because they could and did.

Within days the Governor and Lt. Governor and their Administration dishonored every desperate hour they spent protecting people and neighborhoods – every hour and day they were away from their families – away from their jobs – away from their life to protect someone else’s life.

The Lt. Governor’s smug condescension that most people who follow the law should accept that she feels better that the statue is gone is a level of elitism that is simply breathtaking.

That the Governor now lacks the courage of whatever personal convictions he has to enforce the law by allowing that condescension to go unchallenged is an indictment on him and his Administration.

I don’t care whether the Christopher Columbus statue is or isn’t on the capitol grounds.

If enough people want to go through the legal means and effort to remove it, more power to them.

The same should be true of any statue on public grounds whether it is Christopher Columbus or Hubert Humphrey or Charles Lindbergh.

Yet, I want to be clear: I think the idea that you can eliminate history – the good or the bad – by tearing down statues is meaningless.

If you want people to know of oppression, repression, and tyranny you don’t hide it – you make sure people know of it – and that they never forget it.

Do I believe we should remove the celebration of the Confederacy from public and private life?

Absolutely.  I consider every Confederate leader who led troops during the Civil War to be a traitor.

Those who willingly followed them into battle as nothing more than traitorous accomplices.

There is no glorious time of the Confederacy.

Nor should we ever celebrate it as though there was some laconic and genteel time when slave owners selling and torturing and murdering black people was the good old days.

The stain of slavery and our unresolved reckoning with it in America haunts us today.

I am weary of those who suggest that the Civil War solved the problem of slavery.  That when the war was done slavery was done.

It wasn’t.

And its impact on our life today isn’t.

The murder and lynching of black men and women.  The deprivation of their rights to vote.  To access public facilities.  Eat a restaurant.  Fight and die for America.

All these realities didn’t end in 1863.

In 1981 a 19-year-old African American man named Michael Donald was beaten and hung from a tree in Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2020, a 46-year-old African American man and George Floyd was choked to death on the pavement of Minneapolis by a Police Officer.

But confusing our obligation to address racism and the historical sins of slavery and oppression with tearing down statues and hiding our history isn’t a solution.

What better solution for those who want to continue to celebrate it than to be able to hide it in the darkness, away from the disinfecting sunshine of public display.

What if instead of tearing down the Christopher Columbus statue, illegally and with the full consent and acquiescence,  of the Governor and Lt. Governor, we had provided information at the statue sharing the story Columbus in the historical context that we now know to be true?

What if instead of removing the idolatry of Civil Rights statues and parks and memorials we gather them together in a museum, and allow Americans current and future to understand better the horror that tore our country apart, resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Americas, the murder of a President, destroyed the lives of untold black families, and has kept America from achieving its hallowed promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all?

How is that the millions of men and women who fought and died on beaches, jungles, hedgerows, cliffs, seas, the skies and in farm fields and pastures throughout our land and in distant lands from the beginning of our existence should sleep well in their graves knowing that our commitment to their sacrifice consists of burning our cities and tearing down statues?

Or allowing our state’s laws to be broken without consequence because the highest elected officials in Minnesota endorse the breaking of laws with their complicit silence because it has become fashionable in this moment of tragedy and despair?

The Communists of China, and the Soviet Union and every dictator and tyrant of past and current history have used the loss of memory through the destruction of history as a powerful tool to control their people.

When one forgets, or never knew, of the oppression, violation of civil and human rights, or the outright genocide of people because we removed their statues and memorials because we want to hide what they did then all they did continues without a reckoning that America is owed.

And those who suffered from the things that today we condemn are further denied their opportunity to ensure that the stories of their oppression and repression are never forgotten.

Shame on us.

Shame on us.

Hiding Tom Cotton’s Views Is as Wrong as The Views He Advocates:  Why the New York Times Editorial Board was right to publish his opinion on sending America’s military into American cities and streets.

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I read United State Senator Tom Cotton’s New York Times Editorial advocating the use of the Insurrection Act and sending federal troops into our cities to quell both violent riots, and the peaceful protests of civil disobedience.

I don’t dismiss Cotton’s service to American in our nation’s military.  He, like millions of men and women before him, and those who stand in the defense of America today, deserve our gratitude for their service.

Yet, I am at a loss to understand why a duly elected United States Senator, who put his life literally on the line to defend and uphold the freedom and democracy of America, would be so quick to take it away from his fellow citizens protesting across the country.

After all, if freedom, democracy and liberty was worth defending with his life and blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, should that sacrifice not be celebrated with the voices of protesters on American streets calling for freedom, democracy and liberty for all Americans?

As galling as Cotton’s views expressed in the New York Times editorial page may be, it would have been far more costly to American ideals if the protests of those who disagreed with his views won the day and prevented the piece from being published.

The New York Times Editorial Page lacks the impact it once had in American life.

Sadly, the paper itself has lost its moral clarity, as well.

Which is a problem.

And the forced resignation from the paper of those who were responsible for making the decision to publish Cotton’s piece should not be seen as a victory for the ideals being called for on America’s streets.

It should be seen as another nail in the coffin of America’s 4th Estate at a time when we desperately need our nation’s media to matter more than ever before.

Trying to hide Cotton’s views from plain sight is far more dangerous to the ethos and credibility of America’s media than the revolutionary act of publishing them.

After all, ideas inside the minds of powerful people that are hidden from the view of the American people are for more dangerous than publishing them.

In fact, we should welcome a wide dissemination of these views so that the American people can have a clear view of the thinking of those who lead America, as well as those that want to lead America.

Our nation’s media has become a microcosm of the unflattering reality of our country’s college campuses.

Once a place where ideas, popular and more importantly unpopular, could be argued and debated by young people from all over the world, we now see these debates stifled by those wanting safe spaces from ideas that make them uncomfortable when they collide with their personal worldview.

Now, our media, already saddled with a rapid decline in credibility and influence, is seeing its own version of diminishing space for unpopular ideas being aired in public.

Add to that the scourge of social media as a place where reporters claim to be exercising balance in their reporting while espousing personal views on Twitter and Facebook that belie these claims and it’s not hard to see why Americans have an increasingly dim view of their nation’s news media at every level.

In watching the coverage of COVID-19 and the protests and riots in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I have been struck by the news coverage.

Much of it has been hailed and celebrated – as it should be.

Unfortunately, too much of it has been media backslapping itself for doing its job.

A job that is important and necessary but does not endow it with special privileges and rights that permit it to act with impunity while law enforcement and Minnesota National Guard are in the middle of simply doing their job.

Which is what the media, and the New York Times, should endeavor to do.

When Tom Cotton proposes sending the U.S. Military into our streets and feels it is a matter of utmost national public policy, we should give him the space to share his views.

In the same way we should give the majority of the Minneapolis City Council the opportunity to share their views that dismantling and disbanding their entire police department is in the best interests of public safety for the citizens of Minneapolis.

I find both policy positions to be abhorrent and an anathema to a civil society.

But I also want those views shared far and wide so that the people of our country, and our state, can understand what those in positions of power propose to do in their name.

The New York Times Editorial Board didn’t err in allowing Cotton’s opinion to be published.

They did the right thing.

The wrong thing would have been to hide what Tom Cotton thinks from America.

We don’t need to know less of what people in positions of power and influence think and have to say.

We need more of it and we need it in their own words.

For better or for worse that is how democracy survives in an era in which far too many know far too little about what those in power wish to do in our names.

Mike Max: “This guy is reporting his heart out!”

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Mike Max has become a fixture at our home as we have watched, riveted actually, to his live reporting for WCOO television on the civil unrest that has been taking place in Minneapolis since the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

I won’t lie to you.

My first review of his initial reports from I35W I was not impressed.

In fact, I was mortified.

As protesters began to assemble a tent on the freeway Max seemed utterly befuddled by what it could be.

That it was a tent appeared to be obvious to me.

But, in his effort to understand what it was all about he offered up no guile or expert opinion.

After reporting that a UPS truck had been robbed of its packages and a fire was raging on the freeway, he mused that everything was peaceful and that there wasn’t any “looting” taking place.

What has become somewhat of a tagline of his was this:  “I have no idea.”

As he continued to report, trying to make sense of it all, one could literally see a transformation.

Not from a guy who didn’t know what was going on to a guy who was an expert with all the answers.

But from a guy who genuinely wanted to understand what was going on, why it was happening and, more importantly, the people who were involved with it all.

Mike Max reported.  And has kept on reporting.

As my son, Owen, exclaimed, “This guy is reporting his heart out!”

And he has, and he is.

In doing the important work of journalism he is doing he isn’t trying to educate us by espousing his personal beliefs, ideology, or bias.

He is taking a side.

The human side.

We have seen a man who most know as a sports reporter evolve into a reporter who is bringing us what I think we all need to know:  Who are the people in the streets, why are they in the streets, what are they thinking, what do they believe and what do they want to happen.

He’s letting them tell their story.

He’s not telling us their story.

He’s not telling his story.

He’s letting them be the story.

Watching Max report has been a combination of fascination, joy and now, as we have grown fond of him as a person, we have grown appreciative of his earnest and candid desire to let us know who these people are by letting these people tell us who they are.

By our count he has been tear gassed three times.

Last night he announced, “Here we go again….it’s in my eyes.” as he received another dose of tear gas.

The night before, attempting to reposition himself and his cameraman he explained that “We will have to go this way because it’s the only way to get over there.” as he began to grunt and groan his body over the cement obstacle.

Seconds later, as the cameraman panned to an opening between barricades a few feet away, Max chuckled and said, “Or, I guess we can just walk through there.”

He has been attacked by a guy with a cane.  Interviewed two young women from the University of Minnesota and immediately knew the small town where one came from, and the town where her Dad had gone to high school.

He simply stopped people and asked them questions.  Directions.  He also asked them what they thought was going on.

He thought out loud as he tried to make sense of it all.

Yet, last night, Mike Max showed, without equivocation, what America needs from its journalists now, more than ever.

After running into a garage filled with dumpsters to get out of the way of rubber bullets and tear gas, Max emerged to cover the resulting arrests of protesters who had violated a citywide curfew.

It was clear that he was enamored with the process that led up to the law enforcement action that ultimately cornered around 150 protesters who, realizing that they were no longer in a position to run, accepted the fate they knew was coming:  Being arrested.

Max didn’t cry out that the protesters were peaceful and why were they being arrested.

He didn’t complain that he and his cameraman were being teargassed along with protesters because he was a member of the media.

When a State Trooper asked him to move, he simply moved.  He didn’t complain.  Didn’t protest.  There was no “Do you know who I am?” moment from Mike Max.

Mike Max wanted to know what was going on.  Why it was.  What was happening.  What would happen next.

And, then, he did something that this morning brought tears to my eyes.

He reported.

I urge you to watch this story:  https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/31/at-least-2-groups-of-protesters-remain-in-downtown-minneapolis/

In it you will understand, more than anything any other reporter has brought to us this week, who the protesters were that wanted to be .heard.

You will see shared humanity between protesters and law enforcement and a reminder that we are all, in the end, the same human beings.

I have great respect for the men and women in journalism I know are committed to being the best journalists they can be.  There are many of them.

There are also far too many today who think they are the story.  And, that their story should be on equal footing as those they are supposed to be covering.

We read, see, and hear their perspective and opinion.

The story, far too often, becomes a side note to their analysis and commentary.

For three nights we have seen Mike Max share with us a form of journalism that has been filled with facts, with information, with insight, with conjecture tempered with a healthy dose of “I don’t know” added to inform the viewer that he doesn’t know any more than we know.

But then he sets out to find out.

He asks questions.  He talks to people.  He seeks out anybody who will talk to him.  He wonders aloud.

And then, he does what America needs now, more than ever from our journalists.

He reports.

Dear George Floyd: I owe you an apology.

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Dear George Floyd,

I owe you an apology.

I spent so many years doing what I thought was helping people with my work in government and politics and I was tired.

I was tired of the anger and meanness and conflict and the non-stop division and partisanship and ideological divide.

I saw you and I saw how much you were suffering but I was weary of your suffering and everybody else’s suffering.

I gave up.

I hung up any real engagement in the world around me.

Yes, I have been leading a non-profit helping a lot of people the past 8 years and for that I am grateful for my ability to help others who need help.

As for politics and government, I simply walked away from it.

After more than three decades of it all I felt I had done my part and it was time for others to do their part.

It wasn’t that seeing your video changed me.  I’ve seen other video of suffering.  I’ve seen pictures.

I have seen people in front of me, beside me and behind me who needed me not to walk away.

I see the poverty of communities all around me.

The lost hope.  The dying hope.  The never-had-hope.

What changed me wasn’t seeing you die.

What changed was I didn’t see you live.

What changed me was seeing that I didn’t do anything to help save you.

I could have.  So could a lot of others.

Long before you found your life slip away  under the knee of a police officer who was sworn to protect and serve you.

My white privilege isn’t that I didn’t see or hear your suffering.

My white privilege is that I chose to ignore that I had the ability to help stop it.

I don’t need to read books on racial injustice or listen to a podcast about how my white privilege doesn’t allow me to understand the suffering you experienced on the hard asphalt of a Minneapolis road.

I don’t need to shut up and listen or give space to the voices of the oppressed or repressed.

There’s not a meme in the world that I can post that will do anything other than make me feel that I spoke up and said something and now I can go back to doing what I was doing before I made that insincere gesture to act like I did something.

The worst part of white privilege is acting as though acknowledging it publicly and on social media is a badge of honor.

There is smugness in the white privilege acknowledgement.

That smugness should have died with your last breath on Earth.

Here’s the thing.

I could have done something.

Done.

Something.

I can apologize.

I’m sorry.

I can also stop talking and listening.

I can do something.

Do.

Something.

I am done standing on the sidelines of government and politics anymore.

I will find candidates to support again and work to help elect them to public office.

I’m going to get behind police and criminal justice reforms and find a way to make sure they are being implemented into policy and then executed by action.

I’m going to dust-off three decades of knowing how to pull the levers of power and influence and find meaningful ways to engage in efforts to create hope, restore hope and build hope in neighborhoods.

I’m going to remember that feeling nearly 40 years ago when I stepped into my first precinct caucus and walked out believing I had the power to change the world.

The feeling that I had the power to make a difference in the lives of people in my community, my country, and my world.

I will speak out.  Speak up.  Be heard.  Be seen.

When I need to listen, I will do so.

But the impatience of my youth has now been replaced by the impatience of a man who has been there and seen that.

I won’t heed the lecture that change takes time.

I’ve given that lecture myself too many times.

I know better.

Change doesn’t take time.

Change takes change.

Your death shouldn’t have had to have meaning that your life hadn’t already had on the world.

I want you to know that I will do now what I should have been doing all along to try to give meaning to your death that I should have given to your life.

And, I am going to remember your name.

George Floyd.

Not because buildings and property and lives were destroyed in your name.

But because the world can, must and has to be a better place in your name.

George Floyd needs more than protests and outrage: He needs an arrest.

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Justice delayed is justice denied.

Every minute of every day that those who contributed to the death of George Floyd remain free is a day that George Floyd is denied justice.

Even more than Floyd, it’s another day that America’s justice system’s credibility is at stake.

Floyd, who was denied his right to face a jury of his peers and the right of being considered innocent until proven guilty, is not the first black American to needlessly die while being arrested.

Whatever his alleged crime – even one that might have been as horrific as taking the life of another person — Floyd deserved to face his accusers in a courtroom and to be given the full rights accorded to him under the Constitution.

Today, the four officers who have been fired by the City of Minneapolis should, themselves, be behind bars.

Not to be be judged guilty by the media, politicians,  protesters, bloggers or any other outraged American citizen.

But to be given the full rights to the American justice system.

The same justice system that their actions deprived George Floyd from having access to while his life began to slip away under the knee of an arresting police officer.

It’s time to arrest the four fired police officers.

Not to make a statement.  Not to placate a community.  Not to seek revenge.

It’s time to arrest them in the name of justice.

My American experience with law enforcement doesn’t even remotely resemble that which took place during the last moments of George Floyd’s life.

But I’m not going to defend all police officers, or their profession, because that’s beside the point.

The point isn’t that there is a blue wall protecting cops at the expense of justice.

It’s that the legal system is facing a moment of truth.

If the actions of four police officers were so atrocious to result in the unprecedented speed of their dismissal from the Minneapolis Police Department then it should not be a stretch that their actions should result in an immediate arrest.

If the actions of George Floyd that initiated police action against him, ultimately resulting in his arrest and consequently the conduct of those arresting him contributed to his death, then the next step is abundantly clear.

Arrest the officers.  Charge them.  And, prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

Presumably Floyd would have faced the same criminal justice system once arrested and transported to jail and charged with a crime.

He would have been charged.  And, prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Why should we be waiting for the system to understand that the justice system Floyd was going to face is the one that the four officers involved in his arrest should be facing right now.

Justice delayed.

Justice denied.

For George Floyd.

For all of us.

Pandemic Truth: The Pope is not infallible. Neither is science. Nobody is.

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I spent nearly 6 years as an altar boy in Fairmount, North Dakota.  During that time, I helped to marry and bury many friends and neighbors in the community.

During those years I remember Father Schuh reminding me, often, about the infallibility of the Pope.

A concept that I found fascinating.

How cool would it be to never be wrong?

No matter what you said or did would ever be incorrect.

Even if what you said or did…was incorrect.

Or simply…wrong.

Decades removed from Fairmount, North Dakota and my youthful ignorance about the true extent and scope of the Pope’s infallibility, I find myself with my own family struggling to make the right decisions amid a pandemic.

In March, as the fear and darkness of COVID-19 began to consume nearly every aspect of life my family, like many American families, withdrew into our home, closed the door, and began to ride out the viral tsunami.

Scientists became front page news, the talking heads on cable television and the voices of knowledge and wisdom on the radio.

Before long we were shoving aside politicians and others who weren’t the scientists because, it was emphasized, we should trust science and not politics.

That many of the politicians cannot, and should not, be trusted is certainly a matter that has been debated since the beginning of humanity.

Science became the touchstone for virtually every aspect of our lives.

Before long the politicians, as they are wont to do, figured out that if people wouldn’t listen to them, they would listen to the scientists.

And, if they didn’t like what the “Scientist of the Day” had to say they went out and found another one that would say what they wanted them to say.

Scientists were everywhere talking about science.

Which, of course, is what a Scientist does.

The new celebrity is the Scientist.

So much so that the nation’s “top” Scientist Anthony Fauci humorously clamored for, and got, Brad Pitt to portray him, on all places, “Saturday Night Live.”

Scientists are, of course, people, too.

They know that this is their time.

Today, Scientists and their science are the ones, allegedly, directing the decisions of elected officials and others when it comes to their policies.

We are hearing it more and more, as well, on Social Media, as a new divide has been created in America.

Repeatedly we are told to simply trust “Science.”

Our own Governor insists that decisions he is making today are based on the best “Science” available to him.

Social media is filled with demands that we should listen to science in everything we do when it comes to COVID-19.

Just trust science.

While it has taken me less time than it took me to figure out that the Pope was not, on all things, infallible, here’s the hard truth about science.

Science is not infallible.

It never was.  Never has been.  Never will be.

The whole point behind science is to be wrong before it is right.

And, science changes. The outcome of science changes.  The findings of science changes.

Science is not infallible.

Science can also be manipulated, exaggerated, exploited, misused, mismanaged and yes, it can also be wrong.

Which isn’t to say that those insisting that science should judge our response to COVID-19 are completely wrong.

But they are also not completely right.

Anymore than elected officials – and average Americans – are as they try to figure out when life can return to normal.

Whatever normal will be in the short-term or the long-term.

I have a Daughter whose immunity is genetically compromised.  I have brother-in-law with disabilities who lives in a group home.  An 88-year old mother.

I also have a 19-year-old son who just completed his second of semester while sitting in his bedroom, and wife, who along with me, have been working from home for longer than I can recall.

My wife  and I have difficult choices ahead for our children, particularly our Daughter.

In all ways other than a compromised immune system she is a healthy, active, bright, and energetic young woman.

From the beginning of COVID-19 all of us, including her, have been mindful that the choices we made about how to protect ourselves could have a direct impact on her own health.

My Son worried that moving home from his college dorm might be a dangerous act until we assured him that the safest place for him, and his sister, was at home with his parents.

We cannot keep our Daughter locked in our home forever.  Nor will we be able to keep our Son locked in our home forever.

It is not possible and for our children it is simply not the right thing to do.

My Daughter must be able to go out into the world.  She must exist in the world.  She must live in the world.

In the short-term she will have to do so in conditions that will require her to do things that are not second nature to her, or most other American children of any age.

She will need to wear a mask.  Stand six feet apart from people. Constantly wash her hands.

And, perhaps most challenging for her, not hug those friends and family that she is always delighted to see.

My hope is that those around her will do the same.

I hope Americans who can and are able to will wear a mask.  Stand six feet apart from people.  Constantly wash their hands.

Because, for now, that is about the only thing that science seems to be able to agree on that is going to keep the vast majority of us safe.

For now.

With the creation of a vaccine to prevent infections, and medicines and medical procedures to help those recover who are infected, science will eventually develop the tools humanity needs to beat this pandemic.

And, hopefully, the next one that comes in our lifetime.

I can’t keep my kids at home forever.

There isn’t a Scientist, a Pope, a Governor, or a President who can tell me with 100% assurance how much longer is long enough.

So, here’s what I know we, as a family, will be doing:

  • We will assess the risk of the actions we will take over the days and weeks ahead on our personal health and safety.
  • As we do this assessment, we will also discuss what impact our own actions could have on the safety and well-being of others
  • We will do our best not to judge the choices and decisions of others to remain at home, or to go back into the world, as other families try to navigate the future ahead of them
  • As we have tried to do from the beginning, we will try to find the most current information available and try to be wise consumers of it to make decision and choices that we, as a family, believe are the best ones for ourselves without compromising the health and safety of others.

Here is what we won’t do.

  • We won’t be bullied or shamed by those who insist we stay in our homes because if we don’t it will threaten the lives and safety of someone else in society.
  • Nor will we be bullied or shamed by those who insist we get out of our homes because if we don’t, we are nothing but lemmings doing the bidding of an overly burdensome government.

The Pope is not infallible in all things.

Science is not infallible in all things.

Politicians and the media are most assuredly not infallible in all things.

The only thing I will trust to be infallible right now are parents who will make decisions and choices that not only don’t threaten the safety and security of their own family – but don’t threaten the safety and security of their fellow Americans family.

I am confident that if all of us behave and act accordingly there’s not a pandemic in the world that can beat us.

That truth is infallible.

 

 

COVID-19: I want to blame somebody for all of the pain and suffering. All of it!

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When reports of COVID-19 began to surface I was focused on other aspects of my life so I paid little attention to it.  As the news media began to provide more coverage of it I found myself thinking it was little more than over-hyped speculation.

For a time I also rationalized my lack of concern by sharing posts of diseases that were making far more human beings sick and dying than what COVID-19 was doing in the world.

Then, as my Daughter and I made our way back from Pennsylvania from a re-routed trip to the Minnesota Twins/Boston Red Sox Spring Training, I began to feel the gnawing concern that maybe this was going to be more trouble than I had assumed.

As we pulled into the driveway of our home it was almost as a living fog rolled over us and the two of us, along with my wife and son and our smelly dog, found ourselves, like millions of Americans, living in an isolation that was intended to protect us from the disease.

In the matter of weeks, literally, the world economy came to a near standstill.  Seemingly overnight millions of Americans were suddenly out of work, companies shuttered and all we saw and heard for days and days were headlines blaring out the number of sick, the dead and the dying.

Analysts and experts predicting a dystopian future, a permanent “New Normal”, offered little in the way of hope for a way forward.

As the angel of death has passed by more American homes than had been predicted — guessed– imagined — America has begun to find its balance.

We have also begun to look for somebody to blame.

Anybody.

Everybody.

It is human nature, to be sure, to place blame somewhere for our pain and suffering.

In the smoldering heap of lost jobs, dreams, income, savings, homes, businesses, school years, graduations, proms, weddings, and funerals there will come a raging fire of recrimination and blame.

Who is responsible for all this pain and suffering?  Who failed to take care of all of this?  Who didn’t do their job?

Who caused the world to stop?

Which is where I need to stop.

I can’t.  I really….can’t.

What will it do?  What can it do?

If all I do is find somebody to blame, I won’t find somebody to work with to make sure all of this doesn’t happen again.

Blame isn’t going to repair the economy, bring people back their job, restore hope and confidence in the future for my children.

I didn’t know better than anybody else what to do, or should have been done, and if I claim now that I did, I am a liar.

People we elected to lead did what they thought was the right thing to do, made the decisions they thought were the right ones to make, chose the direction they felt we needed to go with the best information they had available when they made those decisions.

Oh, it is so, so tempting to second-guess all of it.  So easy to say, in the growing moments of hindsight, that they shouldn’t have done this and shouldn’t have done that.

I so badly want to do that.  I want to point fingers.  I want to scream out “Why?” and “Why not?” and “Why did you?” and “Why didn’t you?”

I find myself falling into that river of blame and the current is fast and furious.

I have to swim hard to get back to shore and get out of the water before it sweeps me further downstream.

It’s so easy, though, to let the current carry me along.

Somehow I have to find the courage to get out of the water and get back on my feet and focus on what matters now, more than anything else, and that is:  “What do I do next?”

The blaming is easy.

It’s the “What’s Next” that’s so much harder to do.