Thursday, July 17, 2003

Minnesota unbounded 

Mitch Berg has an excellent review of the obnoxious Doug Grow (a writer at the RedStarTribune) today discussing a consulting retainer Governor Pawlenty signed with a telcom company. One of the reasons I read Mitch and Lileks and Fraters regularly is that I try to understand Minnesotans (and NoDakians, in Lileks' case) as someone who didn't grow up here. My wife constantly tells me I'm not like the boys she grew up with, and I don't think she means that entirely as a compliment. So the end of Mitch's piece really caught my eye.
If you're [State Rep.] Tom Rukavina, it means talking in an accent that the Coen Brothers would have cut from Fargo as "too over the top", and acting no more literate or knowedgeable than the deadenders that stagger out of the bars at 1AM in Virginia, and waving your "roots" in people's faces, as if they, themselves, were a qualification. It means treating one's "blue collar roots" as a licence to be an ignorant buffoon, or at least to talk like one from the floor of the House.

If you're Pawlenty, it means that no matter how far one goes in life, one keeps some of the values of the place you came from. Including hard work, resourcefulness, and using your talents to their full extent.

Pawlenty left the neighborhood long ago. Now it appears he may have forgotten where it was.
One of the great glories of American Civilization is that one is not bound, any more than one chooses to be, to one's "neighborhood" or upbringing or social class, or much of anything else.

"It appears" Doug Grow has forgotten that.

Unlike the rest of the Northern Alliance, we're up in St. Cloud, a humble spot of about 60,000, mostly escapees of late 19th century Mitteleuropa which now confront immigrant waves from Southeast Asia and recently Somalia. Most came with very little and made their way. In my hometown of Manchester, NH, the south side of town was filled with these kinds of people -- mostly French-speaking refugees from late 19th century Quebec with a handful of Slavs and Irish -- and that's where I grew up. We see the same thing there -- there are so many of my old friends from there that never left, who wear their love of the Sawx and the Pats and the Celts around like badges of honor that make them privileged enough to know how to snicker at Whitey Bulger jokes. One of my uncles once said of San Diego, "Been they-uh once. Don't need to go they-uh again." He's a Rukavina (though he's nice enough to my children I shouldn't kvetch.) There are loads of Rukavinas here in St. Cloud and the rest of the world. What's refreshing is when you see someone who pulled themselves up and still kept their core values, which Mitch says is Pawlenty and Lileks says today about Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. But when they don't toe the line of agreeing to pay taxes whenever desired, they are decried for ruining Minnesota Nice. What's forgotten is that Minnesota wasn't Nice for them when they got here, just as it isn't always nice for Somali and Hmong immigrants today. You made it that way by being unbounded.