This morning we had oatmeal with blueberries, raspberries and pecan halves for breakfast. The television is on the whole time: we alternative between local news and CNN.
It's weird to know that my city is on CNN. This never happens in Minnesota. We are never in the national news, even though we have a couple of big cities here (Minneapolis/St. Paul). Of course, I exaggerate, but only a little. Back when the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) was deciding where to put their national headquarters, they passed over the Twin Cities, even though a lot of Lutherans live here. They decided on Chicago instead. They said they were looking for a "world class" city. Chicago gets into the national news pretty often. People on the coasts barely know that Minneapols/St. Paul exists. Even though we have the Mississippi River here. Right now, everyone knows that.
Of course, in a way, they are right. We are pretty parochial, in a "small town values in a big city" kind of way. At least, that's the image we've liked to project. Sometimes it's even true. We embraced diversity and equal rights way back in 1948 with Hubert Humphrey leading the charge. Of course, at that time it was pretty safe; there was not a lot of diversity to embrace. And we weren't as "nice" as some of our rhetoric: ask the large Jewish population about the history here, or the large Native American population.
It seemed at first, in some of the interviews, the national news people were going to play on that parochialism. My husband said at one point a reporter was standing in front of the George Washington Bridge, and talking about how there's a $6.00 toll on this bridge, to make sure that repairs continue to be updated, and nothing like this ever happens there. The inference was: here in a world class city, we know how to handle these things.
But Minnesota has always been a good government, "we're in this together" sort of place. The "we" used to look a lot different than it does now, but "we" were all in this together, making sure kids got educated, roads got repairs, libraries were kept up and all of the wonderful parks and lakes were beautiful and available for all to use. We were known for our boring, but mostly clean, politics.
A collapsing bridge can be a sign: a sign of what can happen when we don't pay attention to "us". But there's another sign as well, one that I think has also gotten on the national news: the school bus full of children. If you're from this area, you will understand what I say when I tell you that the bus of children was from the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. I ran a summer program at a church there one year. It's one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis.
People who thought they were hurt got out of their cars, and ran to the bus to rescue all of the children. It didn't matter where the children were from, or who they belonged to. They belonged to us. On the news, they interviewed a truck driver whose truck broke in half and fell into the river. His first thought was that maybe his back was broken. His second thought was "the bus!" He helped rescue the children. The person interviewing him couldn't believe it.
Back in the early 70's Minnesota was briefly famous. That summer Time's cover article was called "The Good Life in Minnesota". The cover featured our governor, holding up a catch of fish. The good life Time was impressed by was our determination to invest in human infrastructres. I was out vacationing with my family in California and managed to get a copy.
The bridge collapsing can be a sign. But the school bus can be a sign too. We can work together, through both individual efforts and through our government, to rescue all the children in our extended community: urban, rural, suburban. They are all "us."
Maybe we'll never be a "world class" city. But we can be a "first class" city.