The news is so often about conflict that it can be a bit depressing; sometimes it seems there is nothing people won’t fight about, such as the two St. Cloud fellows who argued about who should move aside and let the other pass on the sidewalk. This question of etiquette was resolved simply, with a knife, which isn’t the sort of thing we recall Emily Post recommending.
So, in this sort of climate, it’s heartening to stumble across tales of people who would ordinarily be in conflict who are actually helping each other out. Let’s take atheists and Christians, as an example. And, to clarify, we’re not talking about the sorts of tolerant, genial Christians who never get mentioned in the press. We’re talking about the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sort who think the world will end with believers spontaneously evaporating and everybody else remaining behind to battle Michael York or Gordon Currie, depending on which post-Rapture film you prefer. You’d reckon these two groups wouldn’t have much common ground, but you’d reckon wrong, as a post on Minnesota Atheists points out. And that common ground is pets. After all, when the rapture comes, who will be left behind to take care of the companion animals of believers? A Minnesota atheist named Brad, that’s who, of an organization called “Eternal Earth-Bound Pets” — and for only $110 for the first pet. Some will say this is cynical, and some will say it’s meant as a joke, but we prefer to see it as comity.
And this may be the last we hear of comity for a while. After all, today is the special election in Massachusetts to fill the seat of the recently deceased Sen. Edward Kennedy; if a Republican picks up that seat, the Democrats will lose their not-really-used supermajority and the Republicans will gain a certain-to-be-used filibuster power. This could bode poorly for the health care reform bill that Kennedy worked so hard for, although Al Franken seems sanguine. In a story by Minnesota Public Radio’s Steven John, Franken says that the bill will pass “one way or the other” — specifically, the House could vote on the bill the Senate already passed, “which would make a Senate vote on a conference bill unnecessary.”
According to Eric Roper of the Star Tribune’s Hot Dish Politics blog, Michele Bachmann has been a bit gleeful about the special election, saying, “It is the ultimate political irony that the man who spent his lifetime trying to force socialized medicine on the American people would now see the seat that he occupied taken over by a free market Republican.” Let’s see what Emily Post has to say on the subject of expressing public pleasure upon somebody’s death … oh, here it is. She says you shouldn’t.
In the meanwhile, the gubernatorial race just keeps rolling along, and the campaign season is pretty much the opposite of comity — um, let’s go with tracasserie. And MPR’s Tim Pugmire confirms what we’ve all been thinking: Isn’t this all a bit early? Yes it is. The process has been pushed up, with caucuses in February, rather than March, and state party conventions in April, rather than June. Additionally, primaries may be moved up a month. There’s a variety of a reasons for these changes — to give overseas military personal time to cast absentee ballots, to give an endorsed candidate more backing from their party — but of particular interest is the reason political science professor Dan Hofrenning proffers for an August primary: “Those September primaries, when you had candidates criticizing each other well into the fall, I think were difficult for political parties.“
KARE11 offers up an especially metaphoric headline regarding the current state of the gubernatorial campaign: “Republicans reshuffle deck without ace card Coleman.” The story itself is sadly lacking any additional poker references, instead dryly discussing the remaining Republican candidates, showing that KARE11 doesn’t share with country music a love for extending a metaphor to absurdity — the classic song “The Deck of Cards” find a religious parallel for every numbered and face card in the deck, and it would have been interesting to see who KARE11 picked as their king or jester or jack of diamonds.
Oh well; at least the headline was keen, which is more than can be said for the original Web headline for a story by reporter Julie Pierce on KBJR-TV in Duluth, which was, as Hart Van Denburg of City Pages relates, “Black Male Victim Of Stabbing in Duluth’s East Hillside.” The headline caused some consternation — after all, news stories typically don’t report race unless it’s essential to a story, especially not in the headline. (One sometimes wishes they would include other extraneous details though, just to spice things up: “Area woman, Taurus, eaten by lion”; “Local man, very freckled, arrested for vagrancy.”) Worse still, it was Martin Luther King Day, which was especially bad timing for a headline that seemed a bit insensitive. To her credit, Pierce penned a lengthy apology on a discussion on the Perfect Duluth Day blog: “I forgot the power of the words we use and how they can so greatly change the context of a story for the better … or in this case the worse. Highlighting the victim’s race only perpetuated stereotypes that we certainly are trying to shed.” Further to her credit, her nickname is apparently “Jitterbug.”
Let’s move from headlines to letters. You may have already seen it, but, in case you haven’t, let’s take a moment to point to Lily Coyle’s letter to the Star Tribune in response to Pat Robertson’s assertion that Haiti is cursed due to a deal with the devil. Coyle ingeniously wrote the letter from the point of view of Satan, thanking Robertson for making “God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down,” but complaining that if a deal with the devil had been made, the Haitians would be rich and famous here on Earth, because that’s how those deals work. As City Pages points out, this baby is going viral.
And while we’re on the subject of things viral, excitement over the Vikings has positively blossomed into the feverish, and it’s starting to seem there is no popular meme that will go untouched as a result. It wasn’t enough that Brett Favre’s enthusiasm for Sunday’s win was punctuated by him chanting “Pants on the Ground,” the bizarre anti-droopy drawers anthem from “American Idol,” now a Vikings fan has taken the song “I Got a Feeling” by Black-Eyed Peas, which has been the soundtrack to everything from flash mob mass dancing to extended, awesomely complex “lipdubbing” videos, and has turned it into an ode to the Vikes. It’s worth watching for the unusual mix of bluegrass banjo, yodeling and autotuning.