Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bruce Peterson, Judge; and Now My Hero

A few weeks ago, the Star Tribune published a commentary called A Letter to My Liberal Friends by a small business owner named Rosemary Warschawski. The problem is free riders, as she sees it, and the government taking her hard-earned money to pay moochers, undermining the moochers' motivation to work.

I read Warschawski's thoughts, and while I appreciated her point of view because it did shed light on what I assume is the perspective of people in her political camp (some of whom I am related to, so thanks for that), it mostly made me tired. I hoped someone would write a response that addressed all of the assumptions she made but which I couldn't bring myself to gather.

There were a few letters in response, but finally today the paper published What Was Missed in 'A Letter to My Liberal Friends.' And even better, it's written by a guy named Bruce Peterson, who is a Hennepin County district judge in charge of the county's alternative courts that focus on chronic offenders (drug addicts, women charged with prostitution, and homeless folks).

The fact that Hennepin County has a judge in charge of this important work and who thinks like Peterson gives me hope. (He even cites some of my favorite books, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond and 1491 by Charles Mann.) Some of his best points:

  • "Warschawksi is understandingly proud of her successful business. But she fails to mention all of the people who have helped her — the sophisticated infrastructure and economic and social systems she relies upon, not to mention the food, clothes, services and other necessities often produced by people for low wages." (The Elizabeth Warren argument.)
  • "...it is time to recognize that the capacity for delayed gratification, planning and long-term perseverance is not a moral virtue but a gift provided to some by a stable, nurturing environment. I know a woman whose mother started lending her to a drug dealer for sex when she was 9. What would that do to your work ethic?"
  • "In his award-winning book 1491, about America before Columbus, Charles Mann reports that the earliest European visitors to the Eastern Seaboard found it thickly settled with people who were taller, healthier and better nourished than they were. Within a few years, 90 percent of them were dead from disease, and the rest were in deep trouble. And slavery was not some unfortunate ripple in the tide of American history; it was instrumental to the whole enterprise. By 1860, the capital value of slaves exceeded that of the entire country’s railroads and factories; slave-produced cotton was by far the largest U.S. export, and Northern business flourished shipping cotton to England and producing goods for Southern plantations."
Read the whole thing. Thank you, Bruce Peterson, for writing, and for your hard work.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read this op-ed piece this morning and it gave me hope too. I am so grateful for people like Bruce Peterson who are working on the front lines to help ALL of us do better. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful commentary, Pat.