What makes a community? (5×8 – 9/10/12)

Does ‘community’ matter, the things we do to animals, ‘boom’ times create ‘bust’ people, are you in there, and the Kluwe chronicles.

The Monday Morning Rouser:


We’ve lamented in these pages recently about the demise of one of the last drive-in theaters in Minnesota — the Cottage View in Cottage Grove, which will soon become a Wal-mart. Cottage Grove, like so many suburbs, whiffed on establishing “community” a long time ago; for the most part it’s a place like anyplace else. The things that make it distinctive are disappearing; and people would rather have a Wal-mart.

It’s too late for the drive-in, but in smaller towns around Minnesota, people seem to have a better appreciation of the sense of community and why it matters when it’s threatened by the forces that want to make towns Anywhere, USA.

Kayla Strayer, a reporter with the Worthington Daily Globe, recently moved to our fair state from the exotic land of Ohio, and found deeper traditions within the Palace Theater of Luverne.

At the end of the movie, they draw a name and that person wins $50. I guess this is to carry on an old tradition, which was fine by me and everyone else in attendance. Despite me crossing my fingers, an older man won. While he was being handed the cash he laughed and said, “Here just give it to my wife.” The saying, “There’s no school like the old school” is very fitting. (Someone once told me that and I’ve always wanted to use it.)

The lucky gentleman’s wife, crippled with age and walking with a cane, looked as sweet as she could be. As they headed toward the door, her husband walked right along her side. When they reached it, a few minutes later, I saw living proof that in fact, chivalry is not dead.

Pieces of the past — many of them symbols of the sense of community — are disappearing all over — Main Street coffee shops in small towns, for example. In Edgerly Edgeley, North Dakota, about 100 miles southwest of Fargo, the rural town lost its coffee shop this summer.

So a couple who owns a building across the street started serving free coffee.

“The economy is getting the best of everybody,” Gene Hanson tells the Fargo Forum. “Just because we lost a business on Main Street doesn’t mean we’re giving up.”

Not like some communities.

Discussion point: What makes your community different?


It was the sound that might’ve instantly given people pause to reconsider zoos. On RadioLab on MPR on Saturday, a howling tiger in China reached listeners the way words never could.

“My heart still hurts when I think of that wild cat meowing behind bars. Thank you so much. RIGHT NOW I am going to research wild cat charities to see how I can help them. Thank you for a brilliant show!!” one commenter on the show said.

Said another:

“The yowling of the tigers in the one portion of this episode brings me nearly to tears, and I’m not sure why. I’ve listened to this episode twice now, and each time this is the part that gets me. I’m not necessarily inclined to tigers, I find their future grim and that’s horribly sad, but I don’t stay up at night worrying about it (I probably should). So why it affects me I think is the whole production of the show and the way it’s presented- it really makes you feel for the animals- the dichotomy of the circus music going on in the background the laughter and such, clashing with this horrible image of metal bars and the sound of giant cats just agonizing in an everlasting prison of boredom and neglect. It’s horrible. Frightening. It makes me want to do more to protect wildlife, makes me wish I was more conscious of my environmental decisions- and that is why Radiolab is so great. It makes you want to act, makes you want to share, and it’s not just entertainment- it truly enriches your life. “

Here’s the show. The segment that’s drawn the reaction begins at 37:30. Brace yourself.

Related livestock: A farm where everyone knows your name…

Even more: If you don’t like the way farms operate, don’t move next to a farm…


The Fargo Moorhead area has been spared the worst of the economic collapse. Even during the worst days of the recession, the economy of the region was far better than the rest of the Midwest. The more that got publicized, apparently, the less it was true.

The Fargo Forum reports homeless shelters in the region, which usually thin in the summer, are turning away record numbers of people — many of them people who heard about the economy in the region.

But one official says the other problem is people who were forced out of their living situation in the oil fields by the arriving oil workers.


“John Angerame says when you love someone with advanced dementia — like his father has — you can’t help but wonder: Are they still in there?”Related: Support is flooding in for a 27-year old baseball player in Massachusetts who has ALS. Pete Frates, ESPN says, has become a one-man public relations machine to raise awareness of the disease.


Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a profanity-filled letter to a Maryland Republican official who criticized a football player for the Baltimore Ravens who donated to a gay marriage fundraiser.

Via Twitter, I stirred up the question of whether the profanity in a highly-publicized missive does more harm than good? Does it distract from the message? Does it prevent wider distribution? Does it make it easier to dismiss? Hey, Churchill didn’t need an f-bomb.

Kluwe responded on his Pioneer Press blog…

Secondly, I heard from quite a few sources (including my dad) that the letter would have been more powerful and delivered the message better without the swearing. That those who would refute the point could seize upon my colorful insults to dismiss the main thrust as little more than childish antics and egotistical displays of temper.


The swearing is there for a reason. What Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote, what I responded to, was far more disgusting and foul minded than any simple scatological reference or genital mashup. His words degrade the very essence of the English language with their barely hidden venom and intolerant hate; drag it screaming into the muck of

iniquity by wrapping a mantle of seeming reasonableness around corruption and control; masquerade as discourse while screaming their very lie to any Heaven you care to name – I could go on.

Kluwe reprints his letter without the obscenities, substituting phrases that mock those who raised the point in the first place, ignoring the fact that many raising the point are sympathetic to the underlying issue.

Well played.

Bonus: How children don’t succeed.


The role of fact in a political campaign has been a subject of controversy this year, as illustrated by a Romney staff member’s declaration that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Today’s Question: How do you sort out fact from fiction during a political campaign?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Understanding fact and fiction in the campaign. Guest: Jim Fallows.

Second hour: Black holes.

Third hour: Student loans and bankruptcy.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Congress goes back to work this week. Today, congressional experts Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who’ve written a new book about Congress titled “Its Even Worse than it Looks,” and former senator and vice president Walter Mondale offer his insights.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Five years after the bubble burst, finally some good news on housing: prices, and sales, are up. But the story isn’t the same in every market. Economist Robert Shiller is the guest.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Confusion over state voter ID laws. Two months until Election Day, and it’s not clear what new voter identification laws will be in effect. Some states now require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. But those new requirements are tied up in the courts.

  • andy

    5) Kluwe rocks. That is all.

  • Sue

    Bob, all of these stories are wonderful and so very touching. You have me crying on a Monday morning.

    Also to Kluwe’s point – I appreciate his courage to question the Maryland politician as well as his comparison of profanity to intolerance and hate. Well said.

  • BJ
  • davidz

    Chris Kluwe’s letter is utterly unprintable in the newspaper, but yet extremely literate, well thought out and well reasoned. It’s not just a case of ‘F* Y*’ or even the polite ‘F* Y*, Sir”.

    I think there is a time & place for diatribes like Chris’, and I think that this particular instance may well have been a perfect time & place. Sen. Burns attempted to use his position (in government) to further a particular cause (almost certainly out of the bounds of that position). Chris is using his position, as a member of the church of the people (football) to respond.

    All of the high-falutin’ “civilized” talk found on the op-ed pages won’t come close to changing the minds of the majority of the people in the way that Chris has done.

    The letter spoke in the terms of real people, sitting on the back patio grilling burgers or having lunch at work, and not in academic language. The language of politics, where your friends are your friends and your enemies are your “very good friends” [*], can cloud the issue. No one can say that Chris is hiding his viewpoint.

    Chris Kluwe: you rock!

    *: viz. Gov. Dayton in the MPR Day interview from the State Fair.

  • Pat Fair

    Kluwe. Well played, indeed.

  • BJ

    OMG just saw a comic in reference to Kluwe. Had to share.

  • Jess H

    1) Sad to learn about the Cottage View. You may be surprised by this: a community in Texas used the shell of a Walmart to house their new public library.

  • In Mound, we have lost a great little community asset recently as a Walgreens is to be built on the site. Just today, I decided to look at the financial factors at play, and was surprised to learn the city doesn’t really get better property tax revenue because of this redevelopment.


  • Suzanne

    I love Mr. Kluwe’s writing & his response to the Maryland legislator is no exception. I don’t understand why some people think that just because he plays football, he should be dismissed. Are we all just our professions? The guy got a perfect verbal score on his SAT (source: ESPN) for crying out loud.

  • allie

    RE: Dementia: My grandmother had Alzheimer’s for 10+ years, and left us last year. She loved to hum and sing throughout her life, and [naturally] preferred the old hymns of her church and her childhood. In the last week of her life, she was bedridden, couldn’t talk, mostly slept, and didn’t respond to her name or to conversation. I visited her during that week and sang hymns to her out of our old green Lutheran hymnal, and could hear her breathing slow and relax during her favorite hymns. It was remarkable, and unforgettable.

    So I can say, without reservation: My beautiful, funny, silly, sweet grandmother was definitely still in there, humming along as best she could.

    I know she’s not alone among dementia patients in responding to music when all else fails, but it was still pretty amazing.

  • Bob Collins

    // The guy got a perfect verbal score on his SAT

    The issue isn’t whether he’s smart or not. The issue is whether the profane detracts from the substance, and whether it turns off those he’s trying to recruit.

    I’m not speaking about the hard core anti-same-sex marriage, I’m talking about the people close to the middle who might be trying to reconcile their religion with their conscience. Does the profane — remember, these are people with ties to religion — enhance the appeal?

    Now, I know a lot of people will say, “ah, they’re going to vote against it anyway,” and maybe they’re right.

    But same-sex marriage has never — at least off the top of my head — won in a popular vote and I generally think most polls are incorrect because people hide their vote and lie to pollster, which tells me that there’s a group that’s not particularly proud of their position. In most elections, people are surprised to reconcile the results of these referenda with the pre-election polls.

    To me, the only logic behind it is if the “no” side thinks they already have enough votes to win on Election Day, and don’t need to change anyone’s mind.

    Maybe what Kluwe did was point out — in his view — the absurdity of the position of those people. I’m just asking why exactly the writing is enhanced by the profane and what is the underlying reasoning for believing the profane will make people reconsider their positions in a thoughtful way that the power of the argument itself would not?

    In other words: why did the argument need help?

    I guess I don’t feel particularly closer to Kluwe’s position because he chose to follow up what was a principled and thoughtful question and response to the use of obscenities by mocking the asking of the question or the thoughtful response. To me, it was invitation to a thoughtful discussion on the point and he went for the laughs. I get that. It was, indeed, funny.

    I’m just wondering when’s the last time that won someone over. You, for example?

  • Beth

    Just a small note of correction: It is Edgeley, ND, not Edgerly.

    And often pronounced something close to “Etchley.”

  • Cara

    Kluwe rocks. His argument did (kind of) irritate me in the use of profanity, much of which I use in my speech on a personal level. But never in a written letter released to the general public. So I see your point Bob. I can’t say whether it’d win me over or not since I’m already on the pro gay marriage side. But by using the profanity that he did he got a much wider audience, and that’s good. Sparkle pony-wow!

  • BJ

    in reference to Jess H – I could be wrong but the county where McAllen, TX resides is considered the poorest county in the country, my grandparents used to live just out of the county.

  • Heather

    Bob, I think the distinction is that Klewe’s letter isn’t meant to win No votes in MN in November. It’s meant to express outrage against a MD politician’s effort to get a football organization to silence its players on the issue of gay marriage. Profanity-level outrage totally fine with me!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – your points on Kluwe’s choice of rhetorical style are well taken. His strong language was powerful, but to what ends?

    Of course, ignorant bigotry is more obscene than words could ever be, but on the other hand, what about that “attract more flies with honey than vinegar” thing?

    Sometimes the goal is not so much to win over the opponent, but rather to rouse your own troops.

    Martin Luther King would not have been as successful as he was with his loving pacifism had it not been for the more militant rhetoric of Malcolm X.

    Of course both styles can be effective, but the combination is even more so.

    It’s called pushing the envelope.

    Kluwe’s use of extreme language will likely move other like-minded individuals to be just a bit more outspoken. Be they fellow high profile athletes, or people who are moved to comment about the issue on News Cut.

    If he can say so much so loudly about an issue that I agree is important, maybe it’s OK for me to speak up a little bit too.

    Most importantly, of course, is that Kluwe got me to be much more interested in the Vikings. 🙂

  • BJ

    “Most importantly, of course, is that Kluwe got me to be much more interested in the Vikings. :-)”

    I actually bought about $90 in vikings gear this weekend, and tivo’d the game (and watch it in under 2:30).

    None of which would have been done without the letter.

    How Kluwe gave up his number last year was cool.

  • David G

    Who did he imagine his audience was? I suspect he thought he’d be reaching sports fans or gamer types. Neither of which, I suspect, are likely to be bothered by the language, regardless of how they feel about same sex marriage.

    Does every message need to be vetted for the largest possible audience?

    Should a politician not run Spanish language ads on Univision or Telemundo because it might offend “English only” types?

  • Bob Collins

    // Does every message need to be vetted for the largest possible audience? Should a politician not run Spanish language ads on Univision or Telemundo because it might offend “English only” types?

    I think the answer is in your first question and also is in the answer to the question, “why supporters of same sex marriage have never won a vote?”

    Maybe it’s true that the answer is “because they haven’t used enough obscenities.”

    I think part of it, frankly, is the Internet generation that doesn’t really know how to have an intelligent conversation on the issue in a way that compels each side to rethink it’s position. I think Kluwe’s decision to mock those who raise the issue of how to have that conversation in a meaningful way betrays him.

    I’m not saying that it was possible for Kluwe to have a “meaningful conversation” with the recipient of his letter. OTOH, I’m pretty sure the recipient of his letter wasn’t the intended target.

    To many, obscenities are uncomfortable. To others, the very thought of constructively deconstructing why we have the opinions we have is something we want to avoid.

    In any event, I understand a poll on the amendment is coming out this week; it’ll certainly be an interesting one.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re The Things We Do To Animals:

    Human evolution happens slowly, be it biological or ethical.

    But we have a choice with the latter.

    Thanks Bob, for coaxing the ethical stuff to move just a little bit faster.

  • davidz

    Sometimes neither side is willing to engage in a meaningful conversation. I don’t imagine that Sen. Burns is open to a debate on the topic — his viewpoint seems rather strident and fixed.

    If this were J. Random Person who had made such a comment, the message from Chris Kluwe as written would have been out of line. But I don’t believe that Chris is really trying to change the senator’s mind. Chris is pointing out the ridiculosity of his position, in public, as a means of showing others what is really happening here.

    It’s not how I would have done things. But then again, I haven’t managed to get tens of thousands of people to see what I’ve written about the anti-gay-marriage folks either.

  • Kurt Nelson

    Sorry a little late to the party, but in regards to Kluwe and his letter to the Representative, I think his use of obscenity is effective in the same way having a guitar amp go to 11 is effective, because it is visceral. It is in your face, not pussyfooting around, but bombastic and not necessarily nice.

    To a great extent he was preaching to the choir by posting the letter online. His followers are certain to understand he is smart, opinionated and not prone to shying away from anything, this letter included. So in that regard he was effective, and the obscenities just reinforced his passion.

    To someone undecided on the issue, I doubt they would be swayed by his rhetoric, and I’m also sure he offended some, but that is the great thing about speaking freely, you can offend or not, but if that is your style, so be it.

  • Suzanne

    //The issue isn’t whether he’s smart or not: It is when you combine football player with profanity.