Sunday, October 12, 2008

Land of 1,000 Lakevilles

It was just a short time ago, eons for elections, I guess, that Minnesota was a Democratic stronghold. The party of Hubert Humphrey rarely saw a TV ad during the latest episode of Diff'rent Strokes. I kinda thought elections were boring. Reagan never came here (well, maybe once), Walter Mondale was from here. We knew he was boring before the rest of the country did. I was ten years old when Reagan ran for re-election. The impressions I had of his presidency were companies leaving the state like Tonka Toys and factory layoffs that sent my mom to the graveyard shift. I was also a little scared of getting nuked from the Soviet Union after watching The Day After.

I wondered why Reagan did not come here on a regular basis. He was my president. Why wasn't he here? What are we, chopped lutefisk? I wished Minnesota would have the attention during elections like Florida had. As I got older and lived through Dukakis and Clinton, I realized Minnesota was considered a Democratic no-brainer and there was no point for a Republican president to hang around here and wizz into the wind. Turns out, eventually I got my wish. George Bush hung out here while John Kerry considered the state "safe". Although he would eventually lose Minnesota in 2004, Bush mobilized his base here. A base that should have stayed in their mobile homes.

Like many current battleground states, Minnesota is a diverse state. Possessing five professional sports teams and a revered theater culture, it is easy to dismiss the state as an urban entity. However, the majority of citizens live in rural, agricultural communities or in the northern iron range. Many do not have time to surf the infinite modern media and still rely on local papers and am radio for information. Many are religious and have gone to church on Sunday ever since the AWA went bankrupt.

There is a very quick geological transition from suburb to small town in the metro area in Minnesota. Like ten miles or less in some parts. When John McCain chose to hold a rally in Lakeville, a city that calls itself "the southern gateway to the Twin Cities", his campaign completely ignored the location of the city, which was 23 miles from Minneapolis but real close in bullet time from the airport. Like several Minnesota suburbs, Lakeville is a city with no similar neighbors. A town whose size has grown due to its close location to a major freeway enabling people with a quick commute to Minneapolis. Every town next to Lakeville is agricultural and small. All small towns (including my own) have a smattering of crazy people. They are people you live next to, go to church with and sit next to at high school football games. Good people, but their political views are a little screwy. People who think Barack Obama is "an Arab", a socialist or worse. People that should have been screened out of a town hall meeting.

The debacle from the Lakeville McCain town hall is an embarrassment not only for the city of Lakeville and the state of Minnesota, but for the McCain campaign and our entire country. By tapping into and promoting a "fear of the other", McCain not only highlighted the disparity of media communications but also the transparity of George Bush's "base". It's easy to rile people in defense of their country after the tragedy of 9/11 but it is despicable to convince these same people that a man who is running for the presidency is somehow in league with terrorists. To convince people that they should be called to arms against a decent American citizen, deliberately misinforming them to a point where they are comfortable shouting this garbage in a public setting being recorded my every major media outlet in the whole damn country.

The United States of America provides its citizens with the freedom to speak what they think and be protected by our constitution. However, there will always be disagreements. Arguments over the Cubs winning the pennant (not happening), fast cars (Granddad’s Buick) and who makes the best pumpkin pie (partial to Mom). However, there is absolutely no place in this country to abuse the freedom of speech to spout hatred. During the Lakeville rally, McCain reminded us that this part of our country will always exist. It is our right, but it is also our shame. The Lakeview rally should serve as a mirror to us all. We live in the greatest country in the world, but we should act like it. Not with hatred, but love. Not with anger, but hope. Never with fear, always with faith.

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