The Week in Commentary
A newcomer can find welcome in Minnesota, eventually
Steve Harris, a Twin Cities YMCA executive and an innkeeper in Lanesboro, Minn., says Minnesotans can take a while to warm up to newcomers.
"Are Minnesotans welcoming to newcomers? Over the last four decades I've 'moved back' here four times, so I can offer an opinion. My answer sounds, well, Minnesotan: 'Yes, kind of.' ...
"The first Minnesotans I met seemed a bit ... arrogant ... about their weather. They talked about past storms and absurdly cold wind chills with a twinkle in their eye. It was a badge of honor to live here. They weren't going to quickly pin that badge on any newcomer. It had to be earned. ...
"Minnesotans are reservedly friendly to newcomers. They won't throw a party because you've arrived, but they'll drop by a few days (or weeks) later with a pan of bars. They're a bit stealthy, lurking on the edges of deeper friendship until they see if you're going to stick it out. To see what you're made of. Friendships in Minnesota are more crockpot than microwave."
"I am a native Minnesotan but I am happy to say I moved to California. After reading your piece about your time in Minnesota I would agree with most of your observations." — John Lane, San Jose
"You can be an 'outsider' even as a native Minnesotan when moving within areas of Minnesota. Having grown up on the Range, and living in the Cities, Duluth, and now central Minnesota, I see that each area is different and has its own way of excluding or welcoming." — Ann Summar, Little Falls
If I told you what I think of you, would you still dig me out of a snow bank?
Jose Leonardo Santos, a cultural anthropologist and newcomer to the state, thinks Minnesotans are standoffish because they need each other.
"People are nice. Yet intimacy — and even more so, honesty — seem hard to come by. ...
"Aborigines hold parents-in-law in high regard. It is a relationship of absolute reliance. You can go to them under any circumstances and they are culture-bound to help. When you show up hungry, they must share a chunk of kangaroo.
"I'd expect that relationship to be intimate, but in fact it is notoriously detached. They avoid in-laws, and don't talk to them. Why? Because you would never want to accidentally insult them. Say the wrong thing, and you starve.
"Minnesota culture evolved with a need for help digging out of the snow. You want everybody's help. That means smiling and making nice. Brutal honesty would threaten that. Someone might leave you freezing because you once told him he was a jerk. Pleasantries and honesty-avoidance make allies. You want people close enough to help, but not so close they actually know what you think of them."
"I've lived in many parts of the country and overseas and Minnesota is the toughest place to break into. After 18 years here, we have good friends, but the majority of them are transplants as well." — Bonnie Carlson-Green, St. Louis Park
"Thanks for the wonderful truth. I transplanted to Minnesota in 1984 and still feel the 'Minnesota Nice' cold shoulder regularly. Don't get me wrong, I truly love living here. However, Jose hits the nail on the head." — Kurt Pennuto, Rockford, Minn.
"I could not agree more. We have lived here in Minnesota seven years and have not seen Minnesota Nice anywhere. It should be Minnesota Ice." — Stephanie Eaton, Oronoco, Minn.
Sleeping pills are another short-term fix with long-term problems
Anne O'Connor, a speaker, writer and editor, suggests that the recent alarming news about prescription sleeping pills should serve as a wake-up call. There are other ways to get to sleep.
"Whether sleeping pills are helping to kill people will continue to be a subject of debate. But this study underscores that medications often cause more problems than they solve. ... If we can't sleep, or we are overweight, or we are depressed, or something isn't right in our bodies, the first and most important thing to consider is what are we doing to contribute to the problem. And what can we do to help ourselves heal? ...
"There are many practical, simple things we can do to get a good night's sleep. We can stop drinking caffeine and eating chocolate. We can exercise regularly. We can nap during the day, which can actually help us sleep at night. ...
"Our bodies are sophisticated and miraculous. They will tell us when something we're doing isn't working for them. And when we give them the proper support, our bodies can heal from incredible pain, devastating disease, and problems that feel like a death sentences."
Should public money be used to fund a new stadium?
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and economist Art Rolnick appeared on Morning Edition to offer their competing views of the proposed Vikings stadium's financing plan.
Rolnick: "What's going to create jobs is educating your kids. Almost every economist I know will agree with that. We're missing an opportunity by taking dollars that we could spend on education and building more entertainment. That is not the way to create sustainable, strong economic growth. ...
Rybak: "I think we do have politicians who invest in early childhood ... Right now, the issue before the state Legislature is not that issue, as hard as we fight for it. The issue is whether they're going to fund this thing or not, and if we have a chance to put this many people to work and invest in a hospitality industry, I will support it.
"We need to deal with the art of the possible, which I believe is to pass this bill, and with the opportunities of the future, which I believe is to continue to work on the things Art and I agree on ... Almost everything we agree on.
Rolnick: "Almost everything, except this one."
"There should be no taxpayer money used to subsidize a private corporation. I will not support any politician who thinks otherwise." -- Richard Schulze, Walker, Minn.
"The problem with being opposed to a stadium is that the Vikings will come back year after year until they win." — Rick Johnson, Minnesota
"If Rybak thinks this is a good deal for the city, why does he not submit to a referendum?" — Peter Tobias, Minneapolis
On St. Patrick's Day, it's not about how Irish you are
Patrick Dewane, an author and performer, thinks that non-Irish people shouldn't feel left out on St. Patrick's Day. He wasn't Irish himself.
"I'll let you in on a secret about St. Patrick's Day — St. Patrick wasn't Irish. He was a Roman living in Britain. He didn't really drive the snakes off the island, but he did make Ireland his adopted home. ...
"St. Patrick was an outsider who fell for the charms of the Irish, much as my Czech mother fell for the charms of my father. Mom considers herself Irish on St. Patrick's Day — Irish by contamination is how she puts it. Before my dad died, the two of them threw a big bash every year on St. Patty's, inviting dozens of non-Irish friends who'd gladly wear funny green hats, eat corned beef and cabbage and listen to Dad's Irish Rovers records. ... It's sort of like getting a day sticker for a state park. You can have the fun without the obligation of becoming a full member."