Elizabeth Ellis

Recent Articles

A fistic dictum: Letting your guard down creates regretful ‘after’ moments







There are definite before/after moments in life. Before that flat tire you should’ve checked your air pressure; after, you wish were on your way without this setback. Before the car died you could’ve pulled in to that gas station, but you passed it up and ran out of gas. After, you are forced to pull over. Before, you thought, “I can make it to the next exit.”

In his book Cut Time(Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2003) Carlo Rotella examines lessons in life through boxing and boxers, and the before/after impact of blunt trauma they receive in the ring. Continue Reading →

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Defense Dept. attorney on service, military reforms, counter-terrorism




By Elizabeth Ellis

Contributing Writer


Attorney Jeh Johnson has worked as a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer, and in a speech he gave in St. Paul, he gave a comical anecdote of how his first trial as a defense attorney was affected by his previous work as a prosecutor, slipping into the old habits that had been drummed in to him. He told the jury in his opening statement, “First, listen to the evidence; second, listen to the law as the judge explains it; and then use your common sense to find the defendant guilty.” “Er, not guilty!” the court reporter hissed in his ear. Continue Reading →

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Acclaimed journalist on civil rights and politics, past and present




By Elizabeth Ellis

Contributing Writer


Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Washington Post newspaper election coverage of President Obama and a National Association of Black Journalists member, spoke at House of Hope Church in St. Paul this past January, courtesy of the Weyerhaeuser Foundation. If Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were still alive today Robinson believes King would “still agitate, still fight;” that King was a “moral force who changed a nation forever, who represented the conscience of the nation; that King would say, “Push on,” and that even advanced age “would not prevent him from holding feet to the fire, from holding folk accountable. “

He also believed that King (“Absolutely!”) would still have been an activist for economic justice. “After all, jobs and freedom was what the March on Washington, D.C., 1963, was all about. Continue Reading →

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Denial, delusion run deep in political and personal matters



What Republican Herman Cain’s presidential hopeful bid, former President Clinton’s Lewinsky affair, O.J. Simpson, and Clarence Thomas have in common is you asking, “What were they thinking?!” The French call it Mauvaise foi — “lying to oneself.” The teenager Ricky Fitts said it in the movie American Beauty: “Never underestimate the power of denial.”
In her book, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), author Carol Tavris calls this lying to oneself “cognitive dissonance.” You might call it self-delusional when we think we can get away with something. Right now someone is lying, hurting, betraying, and they think they won’t get caught or that what they are doing is justified. Tomorrow, we’ll read about it in the newspaper. When we want something too badly, Shirley Maclaine says, we can be corrupted. “How do you get an honest man to lose his ethical compass? Continue Reading →

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On civility: Our shared space requires respectful speech, behavior



While walking down the street last week, I heard a young man behind me on his cell phone using sexually explicit language. I turned and looked at him. “Wha’?” he said. I tried to explain that in my opinion this is a public place and that his was a private conversation that needed to be in sequestered space. Novelist Amy Tan says linguists tell us, “We are what we speak.”

In his book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (NY: Basic Books, 1998), Stephen L. Carter’s says fellow passengers on a train need courtesy in order to get along in deference to each other in such a small shared space. Continue Reading →

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