David LaGrand’s commentary “Imprisoned by Poverty” (May 2018) calls attention to an issue with our justice system, namely how bail can create severe problems for people who cannot come up with the necessary funds. This leads me to a practical question. We often hear reports of model bills that the American Legislative Exchange Council is presenting to state legislatures, trying to get undesirable policy made into law. My question is: Is there a good alternative to ALEC? Once Michigan and other states have thought about the problem and come up with a solution, would it be possible to get model legislation that we could present to members of our state legislatures? Perhaps we could get advice about the most effective way to bring such issues to their attention.
I was fascinated to read Eboo Patel’s column “The Trouble with Identity Politics” (May 2018). To make the point as broadly as I think is reasonable, the problem is that identity politics can dehumanize individuals by painting them with the broad brush of a determined identity. Every individual has value, and it is important to avoid the lazy tendency to oversimplify people by clumping them together in easily recognizable groups and then simply assuming some stereotypical group ethic or belief will apply equally to all so clumped. There are Republican-leaning voters who are deeply concerned about poverty and the environment. There are gun owners who espouse stricter gun regulations in America. There are liberal Americans who are pro-life—and more, if you adopt Sister Joan Chittister’s broad definition of the term as embracing all lives and not just the lives of the unborn.