Thursday, August 30, 2007

We Support U of M Workers

Yesterday about 50 of us showed up at one of the major intersections of the University of Minnesota campus to hold up signs in support of the clerical and technical workers who will be going out on strike next week.

It was a lovely sunny day and traffic was extremely heavy. With the 35W bridge collapse, much of the downtown traffic is diverted to the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi which leads right through the middle of the West Bank and East Bank campuses of the Uni.

I've done a lot of "bannering" -- holding up signs for a particular cause -- on street corners over the years, and this one was fairly successful. I hold the sign up high and try to make contact with people driving by. Some are confused, many wave, honk or give a thumbs up. Only two shook their heads negatively. They were white men in fancy cars. Fuck 'em.

There is an on-line petition I urge you to sign here.

We call on the University Administration to avert a strike by the clerical, technical and healthcare workers, represented by AFSCME. The University can stop a strike by offering a wage increase that puts real money on the table, and stops the downward slide in standard of living for the University's lowest-paid workers.

Money was allocated from the state legislature to pay for staff and employee wage increases. Other employee groups have gotten their raises, all of them bigger than what has been offered to AFSCME workers. Now is the time to extend a real wage offer to these workers, before a strike leaves the University to start the new school year understaffed and in a climate of labor unrest.

Moreover, we urge the University to stop attempts to eliminate the value of annual step increases by giving smaller and smaller across-the-board increases. Step increases are compensation for accumulated skills and long-term commitment to University jobs. Employees wait years to reach the tops of their pay scales, which represent the true value of their work. Given turnover among employees, and the number of employees at the top of their step ranges, there is no significant cost to the University for step increases.

Leave steps out of the discussion, and offer University AFSCME employees a general wage increase that maintains a quality standard of living, catching up and keeping up with inflation.

Again, if you care about low-wage workers, please sign the petition.

For information about the community strike support group, read more here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

If it works, does it still suck?

Today I witnessed a plea to help fund aid to victims of domestic abuse that really rubbed me the wrong way. The woman, I’ll call her Ms. Precious, spoke without notes from a memorized speech. She smiled a lot and made sure to make eye contact with all parts of the room. She had poise, was well-groomed, was the perfect little speaker.

She talked about her first job, making malts at a drive-in. Ms Precious learned her job from an older woman who also worked there. I’ll call this woman Ruby. Ruby was very kind. The more they worked together, the more supportive Ruby became and Ms. Precious began to see her as a mentor. When Ms. Precious finished a five-mile race by remembering how much Ruby supported her and hearing Ruby’s voice in her head telling her she could finish, she couldn’t wait to see Ruby again.

But when she got back to work, Ruby did not show up. So Ms. Precious figured she’d see her next time she worked or the time after that. But a few days went by, and still Ruby did not show up.

Finally, Ms. Precious was told the reason Ruby had not come to work. Ruby had been murdered by her abusive husband.

Ms. Precious attended the funeral and looked into the casket. Ms. Precious said, "That’s not Ruby!" She said this not only because she didn’t want to believe Ruby was gone, but also because Ruby’s face was so bruised and swollen that she was unrecognizable. Ms. Precious cried and cried at the loss of her friend and mentor. Ms. Precious looked at Ruby’s swollen eyes and realized Ruby had seen the horror that eyes should never have to see.

Later, Ms. Precious began to volunteer at a shelter for women escaping abuse. Ms. Precious learned a lot more about the horrible reality that is domestic violence. Ms. Precious became a spokesperson for the shelter and began speaking and raising money for the shelter. During one stop she met a little girl, I’ll call her Stacey, and really made a connection. They exchanged addresses and agreed to keep in touch.

Then one day Ms. Precious heard some horrible news. Stacey’s father had come home with a gun. He had shot Stacey’s mother and then shot himself. Stacey was lying in the same bed as her mother when this happened. You see, Stacey’s eyes had seen the horror that eyes should never have to see.

Ms. Precious mentioned a few statistics and gave a pitch for more funds. And she ended hoping that we could one day be a world in which no eyes would ever have to see such horror.

It was a pretty little speech, I suppose, and perhaps it had a good effect on some of the people in the crowd. Maybe they opened their checkbooks a little more and dug a little deeper. Maybe it will raise enough money for one more bed for one more woman escaping violence. If so, that’s a good thing, right?

I’m certainly not going to talk about this to other people who were at the same meeting. Maybe I should just ignore the way her talk made me feel. But, you know, fuck that.

First thing, Ms. Fucking Precious, what kind of friend were you to Ruby? It took you several days to find out why she didn’t come to work? I suppose that’s because you never exchanged phone numbers. You never visited her house. You used her as a mentor and a help to fulfill your own goals, but you never once tried to be a friend to her?

Survivors of abuse are some of the nicest and kindest people in the world. We get trained to be that way by our abusers. We get trained to never think for ourselves and to never focus on our own needs. We get taught to give and give and give and never take. We get taught to read the signals and to know when you want attention and when you want to be left alone. We read your moods intensely and constantly. We respond to your needs immediately.

And you didn’t see that. No, Ms. Precious, you are not an abuser and you are not to blame.

But you should have wondered to yourself why Ruby was being so very kind to you and asking absolutely nothing in return. Why did she know you were running a race, that you needed encouragement, that certain words would help you accomplish your goal? But you didn’t have a clue why she wasn’t at work and it took days to find the answer.

And that pretty little world where nobody ever sees violence? Are you really so fucking unaware what a small percentage of people in the world can aspire to that? Do you not understand that most of us see violence all the time and we don’t have a fucking choice?

So rather than hoping for a stupid blind world that does not see any violence, perhaps you should work for a world that does see violence and develops ways to respond effectively. Maybe you can learn something from the Rubys and the Staceys of this world who have seen violence and have not let that kill their amazing spirits.

And Ms. Fucking Precious, with your sick smile and your clueless pipe dreams, perhaps seeing victims of domestic violence as clubbed and helpless baby seals is not exactly respectful. Maybe you could talk about how so many of us have fought back and worked like hell to build a better world.

But maybe not.

Perhaps someone today will open her checkbook and make a bigger contribution because of what you did and said today. And that’s a good thing. One more bed. One more safe space. We need that.

I don’t like your tactics, but I don’t have to. I’m already fighting. You don’t have to convince me.

Plus, I’m probably not going to be effective in speaking to the people who would listen and respond to the message you gave.

So, forgive me, Ms. Precious, for my anger. At least you are trying. Which is more than others might do. Yeah, I’m conflicted. But, you know, you go girl!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting ready for a strike

Went to my second Strike Support committee meeting on Saturday and agreed to help put together a rally next Wednesday.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

If you want a good reason to support the workers, look at this lovely graph comparing salary increases over various job categories at the University:

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Seem a little unfair to you? I thought so!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Go, Rocky!

An Associated Press photostory on the San Francisco Gate web site. Here's the caption:

[Wagging tail in agreement]: The Atlanta Humane Society is now accepting Michael Vick t-shirts and jerseys. They'll be used as bedding, chew toys and rags for cleaning up dog doo. Which is only appropriate, right, Rocky?

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not to the dogs

This is from the Best of Craigslist website. Enjoy.

Originally Posted: Thu, 16 Aug 13:43 CDT

Note to the dogs

Dear Dogs of Mine,

It seems that lately things have gotten a smidge slack around here. I feel it is time to remind you of the rules that heretofore we have operated under. You are both cute dogs, but your continued cuteness in no way negates our previous agreement. Let me remind you of a few details of this agreement.

1. In exchange for room and board, you are to guard the kingdom. That would be guarding the kingdom from any and all bad guys, robbers, serial killers, etc. Feel free to bark maniacally at any of those that should appear in the yard. Guarding the kingdom does NOT include barking maniacally at bunnies, squirrels, cows, sheep and invisible things that only you can see, especially between the hours of 5am (when I stumble out of bed to let you out) and 8am (when I actually have to be out of bed to get to work). (And let me take a moment here to remind you that the pizza guy is a potential bad guy. He is not your friend. Just because he comes bearing food does not allow him free and easy access to the kingdom. He is potentially way more dangerous than the bunnies that you threaten to tear limb from limb.)

2. All of the stuff that lives in the toy basket is yours. Everything else is mine. Yours includes squeaky balls, random bones, partially unstuffed stuffed animals and chew ropes. Mine includes any and all shoes on the floor (especially the expensive leather ones), underwear that missed the hamper, bras, socks, dishtowels, the remote, the cell phone, the legs of my grandmother's antique chair and the vacuum. Did I mention shoes? ALL the shoes are mine. They come in pairs, not quads, for a reason.

3. The cat gets to sleep on the bed. You do not. You each weigh 50 pounds. The cat weighs 12. You sleep smack dab in the middle of the bed with all four feet spread out covering approximately 12 square feet apiece. The cat sleeps in a neat little ball covering about 2 square feet. The cat does not bring fleas into the house. You do. You, dogs, will never be allowed to sleep on the bed. Quit sneaking up when you think I'm not looking. Your 50 pounds of dogginess negates your stealth superpowers. I know you are up there!!

4. Speaking of the cat- when he hunkers down into that little mound, lays his ears back, squints his eyes and growls way back in his chest, HE IS NOT A HAPPY KITTY. Leave him alone. He does not want to play with you. What he wants to do is poke your eyes out and shread the skin around your face. He can do that, you know. Five of his 6 ends are really sharp and pointy. He has previously shown very little restraint. Clearly he enjoys smacking you upside the head with a paw full of claws. Do not aggrevate him. When he takes your head off after you have cornered him, I will let him. You have been forewarned.

5. The cat is mean. He will lead you down a path to destruction. He likes to tear around the house winding you up. He does this knowingly and intentionally. When you chase him, I will only yell at you for careening into walls and furniture. He knows this. Quit falling for it.

6. If you find something in the garbage can, assume that I intend for it to be there. Platic tampon shells are not chew toys. Don't eat them.

7. Also not for doggy consumption- anything you find in the litter box. This is why you no longer get to kiss me.

8. You are allowed to sleep on the furniture. You are not allowed to eat the furniture.

9. Yes, I have to leave every day to go to work. No, you cannot go with me. That's why there are two of you, so you can entertain each other. The cat gets to stay in the house. You both have to stay outside while I'm gone. The cat does not chew things up. You do. Quit whining about it. Your porch is air-conditioned. It's just like inside the house minus the sofa. If you'd quit chewing up dog beds, it would be just like inside the house. You have made your own proverbial bed by destroying two very expensive dog cushions.

10. I have opposable thumbs. This is why I get to be in charge. I can open cans, doors, and bags of treats. I am the only one in the house that can operate the hose sprayer. I'm also the only one with a driver's license and a car. I win. Being cute is no match for opposable thumbs.

While I in no way wish to suppress your rightful dogginess, I feel that these very simple guidelines will allow us to continue to co-exist in peaceful harmony. Please know though, that should you choose to continue in willful violation of these rules, I WILL PUT THE CAT IN CHARGE. He has just been itching for a position in management.

Much thanks,
The Human

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Version 3 of September 15 flyer

Location changed. It took a while to get permission to use the Cathedral. The Archbishop agreed last week, so we are good to go.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Newest Flyer

Kathy Kelly is a frequent visitor and an ardent supporter of Iraqis.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Thanks go to bint for the link

You Are 52% Feminine, 48% Masculine

You are in touch with both your feminine and masculine sides.
You're sensitive at the right times, but you don't let your emotions overwhelm you.
You're not a eunuch, just the best of both genders.

Aren't I handsome?

Good neighbor

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I was driving home from the bookstore yesterday and found a new, wonderful neighbor sitting atop one of the elm trees that's been marked for Dutch Elm disease. A full-grown, white headed bald eagle. One of my neighbors was standing on the sidewalk staring up into the tree, which clued me into it. I pulled over and talked to her. She said it had been sitting there for 15 minutes or so. The top branches of the tree had already been stripped, so it looked like an old dead tree: something eagles love to roost in. The neighbor also said she'd seen him before flying in the neighborhood.

I live two blocks away and we have a resident pair off redtailed hawks that feed off the local pigeon population. But I'd never seen the eagle before.

I live in the inner city. Who'd a thunk?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rotten neighbors

Don't you just hate it when you live next to people who drive you crazy? I've got one particularly rotten neighbor. They consistently crow about how wonderful, intelligent, and productive they are. Then they treat their workers like shit

My neighbor is the Uninversity of Minnesota and it is attempting, once again, to screw their own staff by offering them a wage that doesn't even come close to cost-of-living.

We didn't stand for it four years ago, and we're not going to take it again this year. This morning I joined with over 50 others to pack a meeting room with people willing, eager and able to support the workers when and if they go on strike this fall. For more information, check out the support committee website in the next few days, weeks and months.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

There are some fairly awesome discussions going on in the blogosphere about the Yearly Kos convention and the very whiteness of it. One that sums it up bettter than many is taking place at Kai's place. Unfortunately, my old-style Mac at home cannot access his site, so I'll have to check that link from work tomorrow.

The discussion focuses on the difference between those who choose to participate with the big-name bloggers that are currently awash in presidential election politics and those who continue to support grassroots politics regardless of the elections.

Suprising no one, people like Black Amazon, Nanette and Joan Kelly are attempting to explain to a Kos poster named dopper0189 that choosing not to participate in DailyKos is not the equivalent of either a) doing nothing or b) some kind of separatist people of color-only group blog hug.

While it comes as no suprise that sucking up to the Democratic Party is not necessarily in the interests of people of color, it seems to escape notice that a whole lot of progressive white activists are also sick and tired of the same old party games.

The fact that individual people of color are able to voice their opinions in the blogosphere benefits all of us, including the melanin-deprived. No one has to post on the big blogs to have credibility or to affect the world in profound ways.

Rather than utilitizing the internetz to repeat the same old tired electorial political gamesmanship, I prefer to focus on the benefits we can achieve activist to activist.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

My son reads porn. I should have aborted him

I don't have the whole story, but I first read about this internet post at Trinity's place via a comment at Renegade Evolution's blog. The presence of the post on Heart's blog has led to all kinds of crazy actions and reactions, one of which was an organized attack that shut down Heart's blog for a while. Meanwhile, discussions occurred in several places about the original post and various reactions to that post.

Heart's blog is back, although I can't find the source thread, so maybe she removed it. I don't know. But the post has been reposted all over the place. I googled a couple of phrases and found comments on all kinds of places, including a web site for Chicago Cubs fans. Huh?

So, I missed all the discussions. Those that I did find missed something I recoznied in the original post. So here's the post, copied from Trin's, followed by my own thoughts.

I have three sons, ages 16, 15, and 12. I was also in an abusive marriage for ten years in which my 15 year old was a frequent target of my x husband. These boys had a rough time of it, as did we all.

After I left my husband my children acted out for a short time, we all spoke of feeling relief and feeling safe yet there were still some rough spots as I got the hang of trying to do it alone.

Several years ago my accountability program found that the computer had been accessing pornography. Turns out it was my middle son. To date he has been 'caught' accessing pornography many times since then. He was 13 I think when this started.

I banned him from the computer, but after a few months I would allow him to be on it for short periods of time. Each and every single time my son would access pornography within days (and sometimes hours) of being allowed back online. He was aware that he would be caught because the computers are monitored but he chose to do it anyway.

Most recently my youngest son allowed my middle son to play with his PSP. Brandon (the middle child) used it to immediately access pornography online. The child is now banned from computers, video games and so forth. I've talked until I'm blue in the face, I've grown angry and yelled, I've cried when I was alone and when I was in front of him. I've had him read Dworkin, my site, and other places (namely OAG's site) and I still can't unseat this problem. He can recite feminist literature all day long, he can understand the tenets, the ideas behind it, how it links together but he will not allow this knowledge to stand in the way of his porn use.

I don't think I'm looking for advice (I've tried everything I could think of so far) but more a place to simply be sad. I can clearly see why he's looking at pornography, I've figured all that out readily enough, but I can't seem to make it stop.

I know, that as soon as my child leaves my home and moves into his own place that he will be looking at porn immediately. I know that I am raising a problem for women. I know that this child will one day grow and will fully absorb the messages that porn sends to men. I know that my child masturbates to degradation of my people (when I use that phrase I mean womyn) and that with every orgasm he will further solidify his own hatred of and superiority over, women.

I know that there will likely come a day where my son coerces a young woman into sex (rape) and there isn't a damned thing I can do about it. I look into the eyes of my son and they still sparkle like they did when he was a baby, but he's not a baby anymore, he's growing into a man and that man will have trained himself to degrade women before he leaves my home.

As a radical feminist who puts women first I cannot begin to determine what I should do with regards to this issue. My heart breaks because there is nothing I can do to protect the womyn he will come into contact with.

I have three boys. One of them is lost to me and as a mother and a radical womyn this breaks my heart in a way I can scarcely express. I don't know if it says something terrible about me, but you know what haunts me late at night? More than anything else? I know, in my heart of hearts that, knowing what I know now, if I had it to do over again I would have had that abortion.

I also find myself blaming myself over and over again, even though that radical womyn inside of me stands up and yells that I'm placing blame in the wrong place. I'm not sure what I intended to say with this message. I began writing it this morning and put it away again and finally decided to finish it this evening. I think that maybe I just wanted to share, I keep trying with Brandon and I keep failing. He simply doesn't care. When he wants to jerk off, everything goes right out the window.

Here's the deal: I have no idea what kind of reaction this poster received at Heart's space. Maybe the thread disappeared in the blog attack.

I can tell you that one year of abuse, much less 10 years of abuse, does a lot to fuck up one's head and can lead one to believe all kinds of strange ideas. I know that I did. So I have a lot of sympathy for this woman and for that fact that she's trying to find answers and failing rather spectacularly.

Which is, ffs, totally to be expected. You've been abused, your family dynamics have been fucked over. Of course your life is gonna be screwed up in ways beyond understanding

Somebody needs to tell this woman and her son that they're lives are fucked up for a reason and that they aren't likely to find solutions on their own.

Now I realize there are a lot of fucked up service agencies and head doctors in the world. I met quite a few of them myself. The thing is, the sole responsibility survivors have at this stage in recovery is to keep going until they find help that is useful and leads to a better life. Everything else is beside the point.

I remember myself at that stage. I spent a whole lot of time concentrating on how I was going to handle myself the next time I saw my father. After the abuse, after the stalking, after the attempts to subborn purgery, after the gun shots, it was all I could think about.

Until one day I met a decent shrink who said the following: "The only time you ever need to be alone in a room with your father again is if he is in a coffin and you want to be there to confirm the diagnosis."

That made a world of difference to me.

And I think that this woman, if the post is for real and not some kind of horrible parody, needs to be told that she cannot be the solution to her son's problem. That's going to have to be somebody else's job and the best she can do is help him find a useful mentor or therapist.

But our society doesn't allow for that kind of solution. There is so much pressure on parents to provide all the answers for their children. Even though it's perfectly clear that sometimes parents just aren't equipped to do that.

This whole discussion reminds me of talking to my ex-boyfriend's son in law blathering on about how the Jews should have fought back more during WW II and that he knows for damn sure he would have done that.*

I tried to tell him that, until you've got a gun to your head being weilded by a fucking nut job, you can't know what your response will be. In my book, no matter what you do, you get a pass. I'm not going to stand in judgment of anyone else in that situation. You're an idiot if you think you'd do any different.

*And yes, I do know that many Jews did fight back, which this dude was clueless about -- along with everything else.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

It’s been a couple of days since the 35W bridge collapsed several blocks from my house, killing a few people and injuring almost 100. I’ve been watching the TV, catching up on the web, but not really processing the issue, other than leaving to go to work early and experiencing delays in my travel home via bus.

Now that it’s the weekend, I’ve had a bit of time to process my thoughts and describe the last few days.

I wrote several paragraphs about what happened on the night the collapse occurred, in part by request of a friend of my mother’s who is a reporter at the newspaper in her town. The e-mail requested information from people who used to live in the town to describe how the collapse affected their life. They used a couple of paragraphs from my account in their story.
I also sent the write-up to relatives and a couple of friends.

Here is that write-up minus the names in an effort to remain relatively anonymous on-line.

Commuting around a disaster

I was working late in downtown Minneapolis when Ravenhub called me from home to tell me the bridge had collapsed. I made a turn around the floor to let my co-workers and the cleaning crew know what happened. I was the only one still at work who would need to make it across the river.

I was able to catch a Number 10 MetroTransit bus on the Nicollet Mall at 6:20 p.m. It goes across the river on the 3rd Avenue Bridge, the first trafficked bridge north of the 35W bridge. The Stone Arch Bridge is between these two bridges and is not open to unauthorized vehicles.

Traffic was bumper to bumper downtown. The bus was unusually full for that time of day and everyone was talking about the bridge collapse. One woman had a phone that carried a news feed and she read it out loud for the rest of us. It took about 20 minutes to get down to the river. Emergency vehicles were flying past every five minutes or so. I saw cars from Golden Valley, Medicine Lake, Anoka, and the sheriff’s office. I saw one dive team truck from the county and three emergency boats. Several fire department trucks came through as well as ambulances from local hospitals. There were at least 5 helicopters in the air from news stations. I saw three ambulance helicopters flying low overhead as they headed to the collapse site.

When we finally made it to the river, traffic was stopped and we crept along in jerks and starts. As we came into view of the accident, the entire bus gasped in unison. We couldn’t see the collapse; we only saw the lack of the bridge we expected to see. Black smoke was billowing from the West Bank and filling the air.

There were hundreds of spectators on the Stone Arch Bridge and the occasional police car used that bridge to cross the river quickly. Probably ten times as we crossed the river, a distance of about one city block, cars had to squeeze over to the side to allow emergency vehicles to fly down the middle of the 4-lane bridge.

In all, it took about an hour on the bus to travel what usually takes less than ten minutes. I got off the bus at Central and East Hennepin and began to walk home. Where I would normally expect to see a bus go by every 10 minutes, I saw none; everyone was tied up in the traffic jam over the river.

There were crowds of people walking and many on bicycles coming and going from the bridge site: far more than I would normally see on a weekday night in the neighborhood. When I crossed over 35W on the 8th St. SE bridge, I saw an occasional emergency vehicle moving below. The north end of the bridge was not in sight, but there were dozens of emergency vehicles parked along the highway.

I arrived home around 8 p.m. Ravenhub said the phone had been ringing every ten minutes or so from friends checking to see if we were OK. All of our friends know that we travel that bridge at about that time every day. My brother-in-law called in. He had been on the bridge just before 6 p.m. on his way home from work. It was his lucky day. I called my mother and left a message on her machine telling her we were all doing fine.

Ravendaughter was working security at the Target Center where they were getting ready for a news conference about the Timberwolves trade of local hero Kevin Garnett. In an instant, she said, reporters jumped out of their chairs and flew out of the building. The press conference was cancelled. She walked home from work along Washington Avenue and saw lots of emergency and media vehicles, but no survivors with injuries. Most of the injured made it to the hospitals or the Red Cross within minutes of the collapse.

Catching up with friends, via Iraq

Within hours of the event, I got an e-mail from my friend who returned to Iraq to help rebuild his country. He is a native Iraqi and U.S. citizen who lived here in Minneapolis for nearly 20 years. He went back to Iraq to help his family and friends. I sent him a copy of my account.

Over the next few hours, he re-sent my e-mail out to other friends and he forwarded other reports he received from mutual friends in the Twin Cities. So, bizarre as it may seem, the best round-up I got about how the collapse affected other antiwar activists was from a former Minnesotan now living in Najav, Iraq.

The city today

Today, President Bush came and went. The major news conferences are over. The politicians have flown back to Washington, D.C. Perhaps the big media companies will take down their satellite dishes and return to picking up feeds from the local stations. I hope so.

Meanwhile, some areas of the city have been turned into massive staging areas by law enforcement with many public roads blocked off. It is impossible to get to any public space within view of the collapsed bridge. It is possible to see the area from the new Guthrie Theater on the riverfront just north of 35W. Its observation deck, a cantilevered mass of blue glass, was meant to be an area for the public to admire the river. As of today, the public is officially uninvited. The Guthrie is allowing only those with tickets to performances to access the view. In the words of a character from one of the Guthrie’s most popular holiday performances, I say, "Bah, humbug!"

The truth is, we Minneapolitans need to be able to see the collapsed bridge, just as New Yorkers needed to see Ground Zero. When a landmark we’ve all depended upon is destroyed, we need to process that and grieve its passing. The emergency has passed; no survivors will be found now. The investigation and the clean up must continue, but this massive display of police power is unhelpful. The roads are closed. One public park has been closed off an turned into what looks like a massive military encampment with mess tents, klieg lights that burn all night long, and boys and their toys from police forces and fire departments from around the state. All of this despite the fact that the real rescues and the true heroics came from ordinary citizens who happened to be there in the first couple of hours after the collapse.

In the past few days, I’ve travelled back and forth across the river on other bridges (obviously) and haven’t had a moments thought about their safety. It seems such a bizarre tragedy that the idea it could happen again is not even entering my consciousness. I can’t explain it.

Our cynicism is kicking in. Why are they keeping the public away? Is it to hide the evidence of that mysterious UFO that flew into the bridge? (OK. That was my homage to the recently defunct Weekly World News!). People are fully anticipating the appearance of Halliburton soon along with the other corporate vultures that profit from catastrophe.

One co-worker who eats lunch in the company cafeteria at the same time I do came up with a great idea. Since the Red Cross headquarters is within viewing distance of the collapse, why not create a public observation area and charge people a few bucks, a pint of blood, or a donation to the food shelves for the opportunity to see the collapsed bridge?

Everyday Heroes

A lot of commentary about the events on Wednesday focuses on the quick response of ordinary citizens to help fellow citizens survive and escape the chaos after the collapse. Minnesotans are known for their generosity in times of trouble. We live in an environment that is extremely inhospitable in the winter. We experience summer-related events such as lightning strikes, straight-line winds and tornadoes. We’ve all been thoroughly trained in handling disasters. We get weather reports every 15 minutes or so on every TV and radio channel every day all year round.

So we’re known for responding quickly and effectively in a disaster. We know how to help strangers stuck in the snow. We know how to clean up after floods and tornadoes. We are known for raising money, volunteers and bringing expertise to help people suffering unexpected tragedies across the country and around the world. We know to act immediately and to work together, because that’s how we survive in this environment.

You probably will hear some bragging about that for a while. Which will mean you get only part of the story. The full story is a little less praise-worthy. Minnesotans are helpful to strangers. We do come through in a crisis. On the other hand, we are fairly hard to get to know on any level outside the superficial and the occasional rescue from crisis. People who move here from friendlier places, especially the south or from smaller rural communities, are put off by how hard it is to become trusted and to make lasting friendships here.

I carry this attitude to the internet. I’ve communicating on blogs and forums with lots of people and formed relationships of respect and affection. But I don’t communicate via e-mail off the blogs and I don’t call people up on the phone. It’s our way.

The people who have checked in and let me know they are happy I was unhurt have touched me. I appreciate your comments. Consider that effusive friendliness from a typical Minnesotan.

Give me a call the next time you get stuck in the snow.

Some Interesting Links

High-resolution photos from the Minnesota Daily, student newspaper at the University of Minnesota

Minnesota bloggers checking in and commentary

Blog of Noah Kunin who lives under the bridge and witnessed the collapse

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We're all fine

In case you're watching the news and wondering, we are both home safe and sound. My children are safe. My brother-in-law crossed over the bridge 10 minutes before it collapsed. It took me a couple of hours to get home from work, but that hardly matters in the grand scheme of things.

Today, a bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River. It is a half mile from our house. We drove over it regularly.

This is very sad.