Monday, March 23, 2009


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota may not need a second United States senator when we already have a self-described "foreign correspondent behind enemy lines" in Washington to keep us informed and to look after our interests. Her name is Michele Bachmann, and she represents the people of our state's sixth congressional district, having been elected to her second term last November. This past weekend she used the airwaves of WWTC 1280 AM to make one of her periodic reports to us on a number of issues. About the administration's cap-and-trade proposal to reduce carbon emissions, she had this to say:

I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.

Some of the folks reading this will find these and others of Bachmann's comments perfectly lucid and reasonable, while some will think she is totally nuts.

A similar divergence of perspective has been occurring lately at the University of Minnesota's dance program where an anonymous protest has attacked "institutional racism and white privilege." The protest was chronicled in a posting on the tcdailyplanet website, which includes links to a blog started by the anonymous protesters and a Facebook page set up by some not-anonymous students.

After reading the manifestos, comments, and meeting minutes, it is clear that the protesters have cut the ground from beneath their efforts by insisting on anonymity and failing to cite specifics to which anyone can respond coherently. (Feel free to dispute this conclusion in the comment section below.)
Everyone, including students, who seeks desired or justified change can benefit from learning certain basics about effective dialogue and strategy. Hopefully, for students, that learning can occur while attending a major university.

The protesters – and all of us – might take a cue from Jay Smooth and his upbeat, three-minute video of advice about "How To Tell People They Sound Racist." His pointers might even be applicable to some of our political and public policy dialogue.

No comments: