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.

Is it art or hate speech?


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.