Category: Board Commentary

Little Man, What Now?

By Harlan Garbell The title of this column is from the famous novel of the last years of the Weimar Republic in Germany, Kleiner Mann, Was Nun? (Little Man, What Now?). Written by Hans Fallada in 1932, it is the story of a struggling family as they try to navigate the years after the stock …

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The Coronavirus: Experiencing History in Real Time

By Harlan Garbell

Like many of you I have a fascination with history. Even as a child, I was always curious about historical events and how the future, for better or worse, was shaped by them. For example, one of my favorite television shows in the 50s was “You Are There,” where each week there was a dramatization of an actual historic event, like the assassination of Julius Caesar. Somehow I intuitively understood early on that history was important to understanding the present. Conversely, as I have aged I have come to realize ironically that you can also better understand the past from living through events in the present.

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Onward Christian Soldiers: Christian Nationalists Are on the March

By Harlan Garbell

Many years ago when I started out as a young lawyer in Chicago, working for the state of Illinois, I had a supervisor who was always concerned that his political bosses in Springfield were seeking to replace him. He had an ironically witty saying about his predicament:  “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”  I remembered that saying recently after reading about Attorney General William Barr’s speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School last October. Barr’s address was noteworthy in that it was ostensibly a paean to religious liberty but, in reality, was a frontal attack on secularism.

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Getting ‘Educated’: Escaping a Harsh Religious Upbringing

By Harlan Garbell

I recently got hold of the bestselling book Educated by Tara Westover. It had been in my queue of books that I keep at the Hennepin County Library website, but something compelled me to read it at this time. Some of you no doubt have read this work or are familiar with its storyline.

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Are We Humanists ‘Virtue Signaling’?

By Harlan Garbell

A few years ago, the term “virtue signaling” was coined by a writer in an article in the English publication The Spectator. Essentially, it has come to mean how people communicate through language, or otherwise, to “signal” that they are virtuous. Or perhaps at the very least, more virtuous than you are. This term has caught on and has since been used in articles or discussions about social, cultural, or political issues—usually in a pejorative manner. 

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Fox News: Conspiracies R Us

By Harlan Garbell

Recently I googled the term “conspiracy theory” and the first thing that popped up was a definition that states “a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”
I have to believe that conspiracy theories have always been part of the fabric of human society.

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Trump May Be One of the Most Consequential Presidents in U.S. History

By Harlan Garbell

As young students, Americans learn that the most consequential presidents in our history were, generally speaking, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I believe there is a good chance that Donald Trump will also become one of the most consequential presidents in our history — albeit for dramatically different reasons.

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Anti-Semitism: A Personal Story

By Harlan Garbell

As some of my friends and colleagues in HumanistsMN know, I was born and raised in a Jewish household. When I was a child, my father, the son of recent Russian-Jewish immigrants, would often tell me stories of his own childhood in the mean streets of  Chicago’s West Side during the 1920s and 30s. Many of these stories seemed like they came from a different world. The recurring themes were things I fortunately never experienced: poverty, violence, and pervasive racial and religious discrimination. 

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HumanistsMN: The Way Forward

By Harlan Garbell

In our May newsletter, I set out my vision for the next two years should I be elected president of HumanistsMN. It was, simply, for HMN to become the leading secular organization in the metro area for “nones” — the growing number of people without religious affiliation — who are seeking a welcoming, ethically based community. This vision can only become a reality if the members of our community pull together to make it happen.

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To Audrey, With Gratitude

By Harlan Garbell

I first met Audrey Kingstrom at a bar in Uptown. (No, it’s not what you may be thinking.) Audrey was hosting a happy hour Meetup for Humanists of Minnesota and I overcame my inertia to go. The Humanists seemed like an interesting group and the venue wasn’t far from where I live.

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Secular Humanism Is the Foundation of Democracy

By Audrey Kingstrom

Audrey Kingstrom made the following remarks at the National Day of Reason in Minnesota breakfast at the State Capitol on May 2: We are here today to reassert the narrative that our democracy, our government, is rooted in secularism. Democracy is a social contract in which the authority to govern comes from the people – not some higher power.

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Humanism: Using Our Own Good Fortune for the Greater Good

By Audrey Kingstrom

Hardly a day goes by when the misfortune, violence, and tragedy that befalls people around the world does not hang over me like a dark cloud. I dutifully read the Star Tribune and listen to NPR and can’t escape the grim news.

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Spitting in the Soup: America’s Health Care Mess

By Harlan Garbell

When Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, he had a notorious reputation as a deal maker who would vigorously browbeat balky senators until he got the outcome he wanted. One of his favorite sayings to these senators was ,“Don’t spit in the soup, we all gotta eat.” Essentially, what he meant was that there was plenty of government largesse for everyone as long as no one objected too much to some other senator’s wasteful pork barrel project.

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The Times They Are A-Changin’ – for Secular Voters

By Audrey Kingstrom

The new, historic 116th U.S. Congress is in session. It is comprised of more women, more women of color, more openly LGBTQ+ members, and a lot more millennials – from just five to twenty-six. Wow! The times they are a-changin,’ to quote the iconic Bob Dylan anthem of the 1960s.

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Branding Exercise Aims to Help Bring Humanism to a Wider Audience

By Audrey Kingstrom

Thanks to everyone who completed the branding survey Humanists of Minnesota undertook last November with the design firm Imagehaus. The Board very much appreciates the participation of our members and friends. HofMN member Amparo Gonzalez won our participation lottery and will receive a $50 gift card.

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