By Peggy Hanson
About 60 people gathered in Lanesboro on January 31. Why did all these people come together on a cold dark night in January? It wasn’t the rhubarb cake. The group appeared united in the belief that more understanding and positive community dialogue is needed right now. They wanted to have a conversation and share ideas for positive ways to keep America great.
It was a diverse group – male and female, town and country, old and young, gay and straight, Christian, Jewish and secular. (I am pretty sure no Muslims were present. There was maybe one Buddhist. No one was asked to identify themselves by religion.) As you might expect in Fillmore County – though this is very slowly changing – everyone was white.
Each person spoke to the group and gave their own reasons for coming. Here are some of them.
• One parent said he fears for his disabled children and their future. Will there be adequate resources to meet their needs? Will they be marginalized?
• One veteran said he was worried about the future of the VA, which in Minnesota, at least, provides great care to veterans. Others were worried about whether the repeal of the affordable care act will hurt individuals who have come to rely on it.
• Several people expressed concern about irreversible harm to our air, water, and earth. Others mourned the lack of attention to the issue of global climate change.
• Some people wanted to know they were not alone in their feelings of fear about the future of our country and the damage the administration could do to the peace and security of both America and the world.
• Several people were worried about hatred toward refugees in general and Muslims in particular. They fear that American values such as the separation of church and state are threatened.
• One person was concerned that the Minnesota Legislature is talking about changing the law to make it easier to charge protesters with crimes.
• One person who works for Mayo was concerned that current policies will hurt Mayo’s ability to attract the best physicians and scientists from around the world as well as their ability to treat patients from many lands.
• One local business owner said she is feeling overwhelmed by the daily chaos coming out of Washington. What can one concerned person do to preserve America’s freedoms and values?
• Several people spoke to the issue of outside influences on the administration. There was concern about the rise of white supremacy and about the empowerment of billionaires who have no experience in governance. Some people fear that voters “have been played” by a global elite (maybe a few Russians?) interested in expanding their own power and influence.
• One person reminded everyone how important it is to study history, saying that you have to know where you have been before you can know where you are going. Many agreed they needed to read more – about history and current events – from credible sources.
• Many present said they plan to initiate more conversations with neighbors or even strangers about public policies and threats to our freedoms. Everyone seemed to agree that it is important to try to understand where others with different beliefs are coming from. Some people stated their intent to become more politically active. Some people have participated in recent marches and are looking for more ways to put their beliefs into action.
The meeting ended with no particular action plan except the intent to keep the discussion going. If you would like to be part of this discussion, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org Give your name, phone number, and email address. Please also include the city or township where you live.