The Free Press of Mankato, June 27

Young adults need to do their part to stop virus

Thumbs down to young adults who are bar-hopping and spreading the coronavirus in our community.

Blue Earth County had 143 new COVID-19 cases confirmed over the last week. Contact tracing by the county health department determined most of the surge since June 20 is tied to young adults hanging out in two downtown bars the weekend of June 12-13. The confirmed cases in this recent uptick are in the 19- to 25-year-old range.

As has been stressed repeatedly by health experts during the pandemic: People should use masks and social distancing when indoors around others who do not live in their households.

This means everyone — young and old alike. Even if you have no symptoms, you could be spreading the virus. Especially troubling is that some of the people in the county who tested positive work in child care and health care.

We all knew that opening businesses back up would mean more spread of the virus. But the expectation still remains for everyone who is out and about to follow public health guidelines, which are crucial for protecting those who are most vulnerable.

Help the USPS

Thumbs up to those who held a pro-Postal Service rally near the downtown Mankato post office this week.

The U.S. Postal Service has had struggles for years as email and package delivery services greatly cut into their business while it was saddled with a requirement that it fund 75 years worth of employee pensions in just 10 years.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has hurt the Postal Service even more.

While other important sectors of the economy were given financial bailouts, aid to support the Postal Service was derailed in Congress by the GOP and President Trump. Some argue the service should be taken over by private business.

Yes, the USPS inflicted many of its own injuries. But throughout American history, it has served the country well and continues to hold an important role. A privately owned Postal Service would not deliver letters to every single mailbox in America, be it in remote rural areas or inner cities. A private entity would only cherry pick the most profitable delivery.

The USPS is clearly worth protecting.

Publish away

Thumbs up to two court rulings that denied prior restraint attempts against two books that cast President Donald Trump in a bad light.

A week ago today a federal district court judge in Washington held that the Trump administration could not block John Bolton’s memoir of his stint as Trump’s national security adviser.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s ruling specifically said that Bolton may be liable to criminal prosecution and/or losing his $2 million advance. But the government cannot silence him.

On Thursday a New York state judge declined to block the publication of “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump.

We agree with the author’s attorney: “Democracy thrives on the free exchange of ideas, and neither this court nor any other has authority to violate the Constitution by imposing a prior restraint on core political speech.”

Cub rebuilds

Thumbs up to Stillwater-based Cub Foods to committing to rebuild and reopen two stores damaged during civil unrest in Minneapolis. They will also open temporary locations in the meantime.

Food deserts — areas that are often low income and lack grocery stores — are a real problem. Without grocery stores, people who often lack transportation rely on convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, paying higher prices for less healthy food.

There is concern that the damage done in May to businesses in South Minneapolis will lead to many not opening again, bringing long-term harm to area neighborhoods.

Cub Foods’ decision to rebuild and reopen is a positive sign for the area.


Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 27

Duluth and city job titles: The ‘chief’ difficulty

The limits of sensitivity are on display.

Duluth’s mayor, Emily Larson, has proposed changing some of the titles in the government she leads. The “chief administrative officer” would become the “city administrator,” and the “chief financial officer” would be the “finance director.” Commendable notions. Why use three words when two will do?

That’s not why Larson seeks the changes, though. “We are dropping the name ‘chief’ with intention and purpose so we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in the hurt and offensive and intentional marginalization,” she said, using 30 words when half could have communicated the idea. Which is this: Some people believe the word “chief” is racially insensitive, and we want to fix that.

The problem, however, is that chiefs abound in the English language. The term implies power and significance but not necessarily appropriation.

There are chief executives. Bureau chiefs. Police chiefs and fire chiefs (two titles Larson hinted could also come up for reconsideration in Duluth, although alternatives are left to the imagination). And then there are Indian chiefs, although it was European migrants who called them that, overlaying their own, strictly hierarchical concept of leadership on a Native American social structure that didn’t precisely match it.

And then, also, there are chefs, a similar appellation with a similar meaning. (Both “chef” and “chief” are derived from the Latin caput, which means “head” — head of the kitchen, head of the organization.)

Finally, there are many ways the word “chief” can be used as a modifier.

There are, in fact, thousands of homonyms in the English language — words that are spelled and spoken the same but have different meanings in different contexts. That’s not to say alternatives aren’t worth considering. They might even be easier to understand, as with Larson’s suggestions above.

And it’s not to say “chief” is always used well. For instance, football has nothing to do with Native American culture, yet the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs make the symbolic connection and distort it through activities like the “tomahawk chop” cheer. And certainly there are ill-mannered people throughout society who call others “chief” unthinkingly or even as a pejorative.

The City Council has tabled Larson’s proposal, but this isn’t the last we’ll hear about name changes, in Duluth or elsewhere. (Did you know before this week where Albert Lea got its name?) It’s good to think about how language affects perceptions. It’s also good to keep these impulses grounded.