Minnesota state policies and our quality of life were for many years touted across the country. But this is no longer the case. Many social indices, especially those that unpack outcomes by race, show that Minnesota’s social pathologies (poverty, homelessness, chronic disease, violence and abuse, human trafficking) are growing and our racial disparities are much worse than national averages.
Minnesota’s generous and enlightened spirit is no longer a spigot ready to be opened. We’ve undergone several budget cycles of public budget retrenchment and we’ve watched partisan acrimony spoil our policy agenda. When it comes to public innovation and good governance, we’re losing ground to other states.
We can’t rest on past laurels. Leaders who are interested in solving problems and correcting injustices need to argue directly for greater civic involvement and make the case for social causes to new audiences, new immigrants, transplants, and a population that contains dwindling numbers from the civic-minded WWII generation.
JRLC knows that faith communities are key institutions in civic and community life. While religious congregations are probably best known for mutual assistance and emergency relief, we are also one of the few institutions asking essential public questions: What is a good society? What makes for a healthy community? What is my obligation to my neighbor? How do we govern ourselves for the common good?
During this election season it’s really important to remind each other that underneath the annoyance of too many campaign commercials there is still something noble about the whole enterprise of elections, government by the people, and our pursuit of social justice.
Brian Rusche, executive director