Philadelphia Mean and Minnesota Nice

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Being candid is not always wise. But, some days, like today, it feels like a requirement.

Yesterday my adopted team, the Minnesota Vikings, brought “Minnesota Nice” — everyone’s supposed to be “nice” in Minnesota — into the stadium of Philadelphia Mean. Philadelphia fans are as known for their meanness as Minnesotans are for Minnesota Nice.

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Philadelphia Eagles fan throwing beer bottle

Philadelphia fans weren’t nice! They threw beer bottles at Vikings fans. They ridiculed their Minnesota guests by chanting “Skol!” when the Vikings did belly-flops. And that was just up in the stands! Down on the field, it was worse. The Eagles were mean. The Vikings didn’t play football. They played nice, and they got whooped!

In case you’re wondering why Views from the Edge is spending time on a football game, let me explain.

I’m a relative newcomer to Minnesota Nice, a 1994 transplant from Philadelphia Mean. But I was never an Eagles fan. Phillies? Yes. Eagles? No. But my brothers and high school friends are. They love the Eagles. So a part of me is happy for my brothers Bob and Don and my old Philadelphia classmates. I’m trying to be nice, but it doesn’t come naturally.

It gets more complicated. The New England Patriots will bring New England Haughty to U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Super Bowl that was supposed to include the Minnesota Vikings. My family roots are in Boston (my father) and Maine (my mother). All my relatives — ALL of them — except for brothers Bob and Don, will be cheering for the New England Haughties on Feb. 4.

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U.S. Bank Stadium, host of the 2018 Super Bowl

When the Eagles take the field against the Patriots in the Vikings’ home stadium, I’ll be a bit conflicted. But, here’s the thing, to be quite candid. I’ll be in Florida with my less conflicted brothers Bob and Don. I’ll shout “Skol!” for the Eagles and privately give thanks that being patriotic isn’t Patriot-ic, and that life is not a football game.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018.

“Minnesota Nice” and Better – John Skogmo

Minnesotans are known for Minnesota Nice, a phrase that describes Minnesota’s Scandinavian culture of civility. Sometimes Minnesota Mean lies just below the surface. Other times civility and gentleness pervade a person’s character. John Skogmo was Minnesota Nice at its best. There was no meanness in him.

Minnesotans also don’t like fanfare. That Minneapolis is called “the little apple” refers not only to the city’s size compared to “the Big Apple” but also to Minnesotan’s disdain for big splashes, big stages, and floodlights. ‘Ego’ and ‘Minnesotan’ belong together in the Thesaurus as antonyms.

Working back stage behind-the-scenes is what Minnesotans are about at their best.  John Skogmo’s obituary, laced with subtle humor, is a great tribute. John was a man without guile; his faith was the foundation of the quiet stature universally recognized by his family, friends, church, and work colleagues.

Obituary, published April 12, 2015 [highlights added by VFTE]

John Gunderson Skogmo died April 4, 2015 of cancer. Born in Fergus Falls, MN, July 15, 1947, to James Bertram and Joyce Shirley Skogmo.

John found his calling at age nine, reading his father’s issues of Kiplinger’s financial magazine. He became fascinated with compounding interest and saw the benefits of delayed gratification. As a teenager he ran a concession that sold popcorn, cotton candy, and caramel apples at local events. At the end of the day he laundered money-at the kitchen sink, to get the sugar and grease off his cash intake. He used his earnings to buy shares in the Security State Bank of Fergus Falls and was frequently excused from school to attend shareholders’ meetings.

After graduation he left for the Cities to attend Macalester College, where he received a treasured liberal arts education. He earned a J. D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1972 and went to work immediately in the three-person legal department at Northwestern National Bank. Except for a summer at the Cornell University School of Business as a 1978 Bush Foundation Fellow and the bank’s temporary displacement by the 1982 fire, John spent his entire career at the corner of 7th and Marquette, as NWNB became Norwest and then Wells Fargo. He was fortunate to work in several departments before finding his true home in 1989 in Wealth Management, where he applied his stellar relationship skills to helping individuals and families. He was set to retire in June 2015 after 43 years with the bank.

John Skogmo’s volunteer work, much of it behind-the-scenes, helped assure the solvency and stability of some important organizations. As a trustee of Macalester College, he reinvigorated the Alumni Fund at a critical juncture. He worked with Artspace to maintain affordable housing and workspace in gentrifying neighborhoods and was instrumental in establishing the Cowles Center. He served as president of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library and was appointed by the city council to the Minneapolis Community Development Agency.

His proudest achievement was his long-term service to Westminster Presbyterian Church as a deacon, trustee, elder, and treasurer. John’s was the voice of prudence in many crucial financial decisions, and his steadfast leadership earned respect for Westminster’s endowment as one of the most wisely managed church funds in the country.

He was predeceased by his parents and a grandniece, Lily Irene Martyn, and is survived by Tom Morin, his partner of 32 years and husband of 1 year; his sister, Shirley Nelson; niece Sharri Martyn and her daughter Claire; nephew Trevor Steeves (Jana) and his children, Elizabeth (Kyle) and Joshua; half-brothers Phillip Skogmo (Yukiko) and David Skogmo (Linda); two aunts and many cousins. Memorial service on Friday, May 1, 2015, at 3:00 PM, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette, Minneapolis. Reception following at the Minneapolis Club. Memorials preferred to Westminster or donor’s choice. No Flowers Please. www.Washburn-McReavy.com Edina Chapel 952-920-3996.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 13, 2015

Ya gotta love Bill Maher

Gordon C. Stewart  www.gordoncstewart.com  March 23, 2012

Ya gotta love Bill Maher. Well, actually, you don’t have to, but I do.

I rarely miss “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO). Why? Because he’s real. So are his guests. Is Bill’s language outlandish? Is his tongue stuck in the 7th grade locker room? Yes. Despite the frequency of the ‘f’ word, the saintliest, as well as the unstaintliest, mouths from left , right and center consider it an honor to sit on the panel or be a featured guest. on Real Time. Go figure how Madeleine Albright, Amy HolmesCornel West, Herman Cain, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Keith Ellison, P.J. O’Roarke, Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum appear on Maher’s show. They accept the invitation because it’s one place where manure is called what it is and where the real gutter talk is exposed for what it is. He’s not interested in being nice. He’s interested in truth. And he’s not afraid to engage the opposition in matters political, economic, or religious.

“If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise,” he wrote (“Offense Intended – and that’s OK,” Star Tribune, 03.23.12). “I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty – from the left and from the right – on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, placated hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone said and pretend you can’t barely continue functioning until they apologize.”

Maher wasn’t born or raised in Minnesota where we’re proud of Minnesota Nice, most of the time .But you don’t have to have been raised elsewhere to know that Minnesota Nice often leaves us itching for some unpolished reality. How else do we explain the election of a tough-talking, often crude professional wrestler radio talk show host as our governor?  Jesse Venturawas elected because he said what he thought and meant what he said in a world where candidates for political office rarely say what they mean or mean what they say. Underneath Minnesota Nice is a volcano of Minnesota mean, as well as nice.

Jesse is one weird dude. And that’s partly what attracted the people who were tired of taking Minnesota Nice too far. We want civility, but sometimes we get a little tired of not really talking about what we’re really talking  about.

None of us really wants to live in Pleasantville. Remember “Pleasantville” – the film about two 1990s teenage siblings, Jennifer and David, who get sucked into their television set where they become characters in the make-believe town of Pleasantville, David’s favorite TV show? Nothing much ever happens in Pleasantville. There is no conflict, no real feelings; just polite, mannerly sameness that is insulated from and apathetic toward anything that might smack of unpleasantness. Pleasantville is a nice place – happy, smiling, repressed and suppressed, orderly…without color.

As Jennifer and David play along in the perfect and pure little town of Pleasantville, their presence soon cracks open the boredom of gray uniformity. Color begins to break through the grayness as the citizens of Pleasantville discover sex, art, books, music and the concept of non-conformity, leading the Mayor to campaign to turn Pleasantville back to what it once was – a nice place where nothing much ever happens, and no one speaks like Bill Maher.

Maher’s Op Ed piece concludes:

“I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends someone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not for us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who say nothing but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.”

This morning Unedited Politics posted an excerpt from 1994 Romney-Kennedy Debate on health care, veterans, spending, deficits.