In times like these, when many are anxious and fearful, and our nation seems divided on many fronts, it is imperative that public officials lead and, in doing so, honor rather than circumscribe our basic freedoms.

Often that is not easy, since honoring our basic freedoms has a tendency to involve protecting those who seem least deserving, such as the "shameless" U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene chronicled in a recent commentary ("The Gaetz-Greene show must go on," Opinion Exchange, July 25). Neutral principles of free expression would suggest that the representatives have a right to speak their nonsense, but an Anaheim, Calif., city official decided he knew better, urging a venue in the city to back out of hosting the two and stating, "As a city we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does not reflect our city and its values."

Always be wary of anyone who says they "respect free speech but … ." As to "calling out " the disfavored speech, that is done by providing for counter-demonstrations or counterprogramming.

Perhaps it is time to gather city officials and administrators and educate them on avoiding content-based restrictions that result in viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

Maybe then they will stop turning clowns into martyrs.

Edward J. Cleary, St. Paul

The writer is a retired chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals.


He's as bad as all the others

State Rep. John Thompson has chosen to flout, skirt and break the law. He has not been honest or forthcoming about where he lives or his Wisconsin driver's license. He won't provide answers to accusations of abuse. In the latest development, he claims his recent conversation with the officer who stopped him for a traffic violation is "private" ("Thompson denies telling cop he's sorry," July 26). Really? He accuses that officer of racial profiling and then when he has a conversation with said officer, it's private? This is coming from an outspoken critic of the police who says he believes in truth and justice. And what does he do when the public wants answers? He does a favorite maneuver of those who abuse power — he hides behind lawyers.

It doesn't matter his party affiliation, his race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. He is just one more elitist politician who exploits his position and makes a mockery of democracy.

Yes, John Thompson has got to go.

Sue Rohland, St. Paul


Unfair punishment and confusion

Implementing another mask mandate whether people are vaccinated or not sends the wrong message. It truly says that it doesn't matter if a person has gotten the COVID vaccine! I totally realize that the vaccine doesn't mean that there's a 100% chance that a person won't get the virus or won't spread it to someone else. But, there's a high chance that won't happen, and that's very significant!

Scientists and infectious diseases experts say that this vaccine works. There should be a way to move forward without mandating that everyone once again wears a mask. I totally agreed with the mask mandate until the vaccine became available, but why should the vaccinated have to "pay" by wearing masks when it's the unvaccinated who are causing the health risks? The analogy that comes to my mind, as a retired teacher, is when a few students are not following the rules of the classroom and the teacher punishes the entire class. This is just not right! Finally, I think this would send the wrong message to those who do not believe in the vaccine. That message would be that evidently, the vaccine isn't working because everyone is back wearing masks.

Please don't go backward in this fight against the virus! The vaccine works!

Sylvia Goldman, Anoka


A year ago this week I suddenly lost my younger brother and only sibling, Jeremy, at 51. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken; it was in the midst of a pandemic. He passed away in Florida and was to be laid to rest in Ohio. I carefully arranged for burial, and I along with my children made our way by car from Minnesota and Washington, D.C., to the funeral. I would not allow others from out of town to attend due to the pandemic.

Fast forward to this past week, almost a year to the date of his death. All of our friends and family had been fully vaccinated and had essentially returned to the life we previously led prior to COVID-19. I in turn arranged for a memorial weekend where we could gather and pay tribute to Jeremy. It was a beautiful weekend.

When my daughter and I returned home, we both began to show the many classic signs of illness, got tested and were positive for the coronavirus. I believe the vaccine prevented the majority of those who attended from getting ill.

I had meticulously planned the weekends events to be held all outdoors to be on the safe side, but the virus didn't care.

I'm sounding the alarm. It's time to mask up again, Minnesota. Breakthrough infections are real and unpleasant, the virus is extremely aggressive, and we need to do all that we can to protect ourselves and each other.

Jennifer Berman, Wayzata


Faster, higher, sicker?

Since many countries have not had good access to vaccinations, I can understand the International Olympic Committee not requiring that all athletes be vaccinated prior to the Tokyo Games. However, I was surprised to hear that the United States allowed unvaccinated athletes to be on our national teams. My heart breaks for the vaccinated athletes who have worked for years, even decades, for their Olympic opportunity yet are now forced to sit out the games because they tested positive — probably exposed by one of the others who valued their "freedom" over their responsibility.

Rochelle Eastman, Savage


Healing through storytelling

Thank you for publishing "Healing a bitter past: the Canadian model" (Opinion Exchange, July 24). The author correctly points out the value of a transitional justice process in giving survivors of human rights abuses the chance to tell their stories. We at the Advocates for Human Rights witnessed that firsthand when we partnered with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission to make history as the first transitional justice mechanism to make a systematic effort to include participation by a diaspora population, starting with Liberians in Minnesota.

There have been transitional justice processes in more than 40 countries. Each has been unique, designed for the specific context and needs. Some have been national, while others have been local; some mandates have covered decades, while others have focused on one specific event. While the author focuses on the healing aspects of the Canadian model, transitional justice can also provide accountability and reform to prevent future abuses. It's time that we give serious consideration to developing a U.S. transitional justice mechanism to address our own painful legacy of systemic racism and other human rights abuses.

Jennifer Prestholdt, Minneapolis

The writer is deputy director of the Advocates for Human Rights.

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