The death of Vang Pao (5×8 – 1/7/11)

Larger than life, where booze and religion meet, return of the empty nest, after Keillor, and one day in the life of the world.


1) LARGER THAN LIFE

“Our father, the general, is to us very much like the biblical Moses who led his people from the Red Sea and saved their lives from persecution.” That was the comment a Hmong man gave to MPR’s Toni Randolph in 2007 at a Capitol rally to support Gen. Vang Pao, the man who led the Hmong in Laos against the Communist government during the American war in Vietnam. Pao had just been charged with plotting to overthrow the Laotian government, which is against the U.S. Neutrality Act. The charges were later dropped.

Vang Pao is dead at age 81.

There aren’t a lot of leaders in the U.S. anymore who can be considered “larger than life.” For many Hmong Americans, Vang Pao, who also had his detractors, was larger than life.

“For far too long, from when he was a young officer in the French army in Indochina to becoming a general of the Royal Lao Army, Vang Pao carried the burden of a proud people longing to be free and independent,” former Sen. Mee Moua said. “And today, in the United States of America, and as a proud American, Vang Pao has more than earned a well-deserved rest.”

“For my parents’ generation, he was the first political leader, as a George Washington or maybe a Julius Caesar, who is more of a military leader,” said Her at the time. “I think he’s really huge, that he has influence sort of over their lives and their destiny of coming to America.” Ilene Her, director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, once said.

In 2005, the Star Tribune produced an outstanding story documenting Vang’s covert war. Thirty-five thousand of Vang Pao’s followers died. The CIA later said his fight kept 70,000 North Vietnamese troops from entering South Vietnam to fight American soldiers.

2) WHERE BOOZE AND RELIGION MEET

“I often find the people in the bar are a lot more authentic than people in the church,” Chris Fletcher said. “If Jesus was in Two Harbors, he’d want to be with the people in the bar. He’d probably get kicked out of the church.” Fletcher is a part-time bartender and seminary student who has started up a church in a bar.

3) THE EMPTY NEST RETURNETH

You sent your children out in the world and you’ve finally gotten used to the quiet around the house and accepted the liberation that comes with the empty-nest syndrome. Then they come home for the Holidays. And then, Duluth News Tribune columnist Sam Cook writes today, they leave, again:

Sure, their schedules were a little different than ours. They might have left to play hockey at 10 p.m. or gone to visit friends about the time Letterman came on. And they may not have been the first ones up in the morning.

But I’ll tell you what. We couldn’t get enough of these little-people-grown-up. They require no custodial care now. They can talk economics and ethics and politics. They can tell stories from France and Spain and Switzerland. They’re bright and funny and kind to each other.

Is that the way the holidays worked at your house? Share.

4) AFTER KEILLOR

I have no insight at all into what transpires at A Prairie Home Companion, but others are seeing a deeper meaning in Garrison Keillor’s decision to bench himself in an upcoming APHC show. Sara Watkins is going to host the show, leading to speculation that this is the first “tryout” to find a host for the program after Keillor, who’s no spring chicken, retires.

Like it or not, Keillor’s program is now synonymous with Minnesota. But should it continue once he’s done with it? Or is it best to just remember the good times and leave it at that? If it were to continue, who would you recommend as host?

5) ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD

(H/T: Steve Sundberg)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Americans discard tons of electronic gear and gadgetry every year, and only a fraction of that e-waste is recovered through recycling. How do you dispose of your old electronics?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Two career counselors share their views on the creativity job seekers will need in a tight job market.

Second hour: The big science stories of 2010.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Award-winning author and University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman talks about the drafting and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Second hour: Gov. Mark Dayton’s speech to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Also comments by leaders at the Legislature.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Fun ways to volunteer for science

Second hour: A new report says a 1998 study linking autism with vaccines was “an elaborate fraud.” But will that change anyone’s mind?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - – The FBI is interested in comments made by a Dakota scholar and activist formerly known as Angela Cavendar Wilson, who made waves again with controversial statements she made at Winona State University in November. The speech set off a flurry of letters to the Winona Post editor, mostly critical of her views on reclaiming Dakota land. One letter writer quoted her as saying: “We are going to attack the infrastructure of the United States along with incorporating other measures to ensure that my people take back what is rightfully ours.” Now, the FBI is interested in what exactly she meant by that, and an agent called her this week to discuss her beliefs. MPR’s Laura Yuen will have the story.

  • Cara

    re: little people, grown up. I love having my eldest home for the holidays. I enjoy having a new adult to talk to. It’s terrifically entertaining when she invites her boyfriend over; they have enough youth in them to be weird, quirky, original, and funny. But then she helps clean up, without my asking, after dinner. Sometimes makes dinner, unbidden!

  • Cheryl Collins

    I would recommend that actress who played the cop in the movie”Fargo” That is Minnesota!!!