The friends we don’t know we have (5×8 – 4/10/12)


Today’s observation is the diverse ways that people reach out for help, and the tools that work and the ones that don’t.

I was on the bus yesterday afternoon when a woman behind me hopped on her cellphone to confess her inadequacies to a — I presume — friend. She had been, if I understood the one side of the conversation correctly, on an “introspective journey” and found she doesn’t measure up. She is, she said, confused about her life. She was clearly in pain, and was encouraging her “friend” to offer her own criticisms in the interest of helping her becoming a better person. It was also clear from the conversation that the person at the other end blew her off and she hung up quickly.

I never turned around, but I imagined her middle aged and wondering where she’d gone wrong in her long, difficult life of rejection. She finally got off in a suburban development and I got a look at her. She was just a kid — high school perhaps. Heading home, my mind said, to parents who would ask how her day was and she’d say, “Fine.” And that would be that. She would suffer her confusion alone for as long as she could.

She set me to thinking about the ways we reach out to make things make sense. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled across this video (language warning):

Their story is substantially different but they’re still people in pain. They’re kids who lived in the house in Virginia Beach that was destroyed by a falling F-18 jet last week.

They’re reacting to the reaction on Reddit after she posted about the crash:

Hi my name is Devin and I’m 21 years old. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what has happened. Who thinks they’re gonna wake up one morning then have their house destroyed by a jet?? My brother was the one who saved the pilot (Colby Smith) The amount of support I have gotten has been incredible. I decided to turn to reddit since I knew it was such a new and weird story. It’s even crazier that no one died. But I guess I wanted to see how many people have had anything similar….tornado, fire, etc of their house and how did you feel? When did it get better? How was it seeing your house?

People who lost things in fires talked them through it. People who were tornado victims offered advice, and over the course of a weekend, they found whatever solace they needed to find from a computer and people they never met.

Meanwhile, a girl on a bus wasn’t finding it from someone she had.


How many people do you think have ever read a Supreme Court decision or even followed Supreme Court arguments?

That question springs from a Rasmussen poll that’s out showing that 41% of likely U.S. voters rate the Supreme Court’s performance as good or excellent. That’s up 13 points from 28% in mid-March and is the court’s highest ratings in two-and-a-half years, the law blog, Volokh Conspiracy reports. What happened? The court held health care law hearings and has yet to issue its opinion, although the experts — that is, the media — think they’ll kill it.

The partisan turnaround in views of the court is noticeable. Three weeks ago, 29% of Republicans gave the Supreme Court positive marks for its job performance; now that number has climbed to 54%. Similarly, among voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties, good or excellent ratings for the court have increased from 26% in mid-March to 42% now. Democrats’ views of the court are largely unchanged.

Among all voters, 28% now think the Supreme Court is too liberal, 29% say it’s too conservative, and 31% believe the ideological balance is about right. The number who view the court as too liberal is down five points from a month ago.


Some Catholics in Duluth are asking the University of Minnesota Duluth to cancel a play because it criticizes the role of Pope Pius XII in the Holocaust. UMD, however, is standing firmly behind the play, part of a week of events to raise awareness of persecution of Jews, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

But it’s not just the play that’s caused the upset. The postcard invitation mailed out for the Baeumler Kaplan events depicts a faceless bishop and a Nazi officer standing on a Holocaust victim on one half. It’s an image of the painting “The Concordat” by Fritz Hirschberger, a Holocaust survivor critical of Cardinal Pacelli, who would later become Pope Pius XII, for his negotiation of the 1933 “Concordat” agreement with Hitler that outlined which religious freedoms would be allowed in Nazi Germany.

The other half of the postcard shows an image of Pope Pius XII above a death camp crematorium.

Kunst called the play and the postcard “nothing more than hate speech against Pope Pius XII and Catholics.”

“All of the allegations raised in this play have been debunked by scholars. … This has little or nothing to do with history and more to do with attacking the church,” Kunst told the News Tribune.


Can a same-sex couple get a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage? The highest court in Maryland is considering the case of Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan, who have been denied a divorce in the state.

The case represents just one of the many blind spots in the legal infrastructure of same-sex marriage in America, the Washington Post says. The irony, of course, is that in their zeal to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, some states are forcing them to stay married.


Reader Jessie Sorensen alerts us to Music & Memory, which is creating a program to put iPods in nursing homes and health care facilities in order to bring personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirmed.

Bonus I: Will there ever be a major sporting event again that isn’t preceded by a display of military muscle? What does a bomber have to do with baseball?

Bonus II: Want to have lunch? Give Us Wings — I profiled the founder Mary Steiner a few months ago — is having a silent auction as part of a fundraiser this Saturday at International Market Square, in Minneapolis.

The money will fund microfinance loans under the program in Kenya and Uganda, “Building Business for Family Sustainability.” According to a press release:

Loans under the “Building Businesses for Family Sustainability” will be repaid within a time determined by the business groups, which will be working with a professional business consultant. The new businesses will be monitored and the borrowers will be assisted, as needed, to ensure success. The loan program has four stages. In the first stage, the borrower receives both a grant and a loan. If the loan is successfully repaid, the borrower moves to the second stage in which he or she may receive a larger loan and the amount the grant is reduced. This process is repeated in the third stage, provided that the loan is successfully repaid. In the fourth stage, the borrower receives only a loan. Members of the business groups will be trained in village banking as part of this program, and the business groups will manage their own loan portfolio. If each of these stages is successfully completed, the business groups will be given a grant to increase the funds available for lending. The business consultant will continue to monitor the village bank until the business groups are ready to operate it on their own. Give Us Wings’ “Building Businesses for Family Sustainability” will build sustainable businesses that will allow the business owners to support their families and build for the future.

I’ve donated lunch and a behind-the-scenes tour of the World Headquarters of NewsCut.

Bonus III: What did you do on your vacation?


It’s college acceptance season. Prospective students and their families are watching the mail, making choices and filling out financial aid forms. Today’s Question: How do you know if a college is right for you?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Trayvon Martin and the media.

Second hour: Big-box retailers 50 years later.

Third hour: Cuts in early-childhood education.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Iran and the Bomb. Iran’s nuclear ambitions have the world on edge. Because of its reluctance to admit international inspectors, and its progress in enriching uranium, the situation is increasingly tense. A nuclear Iran could lead to a Middle Eastern arms race and destabilize the world’s oil market. But are sanctions and other diplomatic efforts enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A peace plan for Syria.

Second hour: The rights and responsibilities of teachers.

  • JP

    While I completely believe that UMD should have the right to stage a play questioning the role of Catholics in the Holocaust. There is a serious question and on the surface, without seeing the script, I would say that it is unlikely to be hate speech. Your block quote includes a statement from “Kunst.” Fr. Rich Kunst is described more completely in the original article that you linked to as a Duluth priest and papal scholar. Rich is a year or so older than me and I went to school with him in the 1980s, including a couple of years in the big leagues: Minor seminary. He is now and always has been a very devout, earnest person and the Church is lucky to have him as a thoughful, scholarly spokesperson on this issue and as a leader with integrity. I have long abandoned the Catholic Church, disillusioned with the patriarchy and the ongoing disconnect between the teachings of Christ and the actions of the leadership. I just couldn’t stick around anymore and explain away things like the holocaust or clergy sex abuse or the Spanish Inquisition and its outgrowth, invasion of the Americas. There are arguments to be made in defense of the church in each of these cases – I’ve made them myself – but it’s alll hair splitting, it feels intellectually dishonest to do that rather than simply apologize and, more importantly, change. I’m personally very weary of the arguments against change and apology, but I admire those who have stayed true to the church and continue to breathe life into its seemingly dying bones. People like Fr. Kunst are the ones who will keep the American Catholic church alive if anyone can.

  • Drae

    Bob – I certainly hope the young lady you overheard finds her way. Her chances, imo, are positive as she’s already taken the first step by realizing something is wrong. Introspection is not something that everyone is capable of accomplishing. I like to say: if self-improvement were easy, we’d all be perfect. That “introspective journey” can truly be the hardest part. Kudos to her for having the strength and courage at such a young age. Hopefully those traits will get her the answers she seeks.

  • boB from WA

    RE Bonus #1

    Bronx bomber? Thanks goodness we don’t have to worry about that sort of stuff at hockey games.

  • Jim Shapiro

    JP – “Devout” and “Earnest” are also terms that could be used to describe many of the heel clicking guys depicted in the play that your pal Rich is so eager to disassociate his men’s club from.

    The thing is, regardless of how devoutly and earnestly the truth is denied, thinking people will catch on eventually, as you clearly have. OK, almost.

    Gosh, I’d love to hear your arguments in defense of the church and sex abuse by the clergy.

    Could there be a more perfect illustration of playing the Devil’s Advocate?!?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Regarding sycophancy for the military at Twins games: You know what would be really cool would be predator drone demonstrations.

    They could pick off opposing players with regrettable but minimal and acceptable loss of our guys, and almost no paying spectators would be harmed.

  • bri-bri

    On pre-game military pageantry:

    1. In my experience the flyover always coincides with the national anthem, a song inspired by, and about, war. On that basis, it seems reasonable.

    2. A significant portion of the population appears genuinely awed by such displays: sports are entertainment, and you gotta pull out all the stops on Opening Day, right?

    3. Whether or not baseball is still America’s Pastime, it clearly remains a prominent expression of American-ness in the hearts of most. Our military is the most respected American Institution available for a tie-in. I don’t think throwing live footage of Congress on the Jumbotron would go over quite as well!

    So, though I can see why it’s done, I ultimately agree that it’s just plain silly: noise pollution, blatant waste of fuel, and sycophancy (spot-on, Jim).

  • Josh

    The way the Twins are playing, that might be the only display of muscle at Target Field all season.

  • Aaron

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. Speech is hateful based on the intentions of the speaker.

    Hate speech can be done artistically. Art can be used in a hateful way.

  • JP

    Jim: The arguments against Catholic Church culpability are that these actions were done a) by individuals acting alone or b) in a historical context that excuses the behavior, and/or c) that the Catholic church was actually “progressive” on an issue ie. slavery or the conquest of the Americas where the clergy were holding back secular powers from even graver crimes. In the case of the Holocaust the argument that I heard was that Pius was trying to keep Germany in the fold to see if they could have more influence over Hitler than if they outright excommunicated him.

    But I am not prepared to argue any of these issues on behalf of the church. These are all arguments that I have considered and rejected. As for the abuse of children, Rich and I were both at school with kids that were being abused. It is not some kind of academic argument for me, it’s about real people in a real situation experiencing real terror and pain. And although I can’t speak for him, I’m guessing he views it through the same lens even if he may have come to a different conclusion than I am but I wouldn’t know. You’d have to ask him.

  • Jim Shapiro

    JP – Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    I would agree that some of the historical crimes of the church can be debated citing context and lesser evils, and that the abuse of children and the protection of rapists is inexcusable.

    I have know many priests who were or continue to be true followers of the gospel messages of JC – some of whom were murdered in the process.

    But the essential problem is that the organisation itself is corrupt and without external oversight – thus making it nearly impossible to affect any real, positive change.