January 05, 2005

Just Because It's Wednesday, And I Can. . .

So, last week, I missed out on what was, quite probably, the most ripe opportunity in the world to annihilate Nick Coleman, the increasingly irrelevant columnist seated at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Although picking apart his column today is kind of like gnawing at dried bones, I figured it would be a nice little exercise to warm me up for the rest of the day. Let's begin, shall we?

The imposing statue of Col. William Colvill was still at its post above the rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol Tuesday, standing guard at the opening of a new legislative session.

Where the hell else would it be? It's a freakin' statue. Unless Bart Simpson came along and sawed its head off, I'd pretty much expect it to be right where it was yesterday, intact and everything. Of course, this is just a hamfisted segue into a Nick Coleman history lesson, which you can be sure he learned following 30 minutes of Googling.

But it's good that the hero of Gettysburg wasn't on hand in person to see how things in his adopted state are going. He might have walked out.

*rim shot* *crickets chirping* *uncomfortable cough somewhere from the back of the room*

Colvill, who was born in New York, was the commander of the fabled First Minnesota Infantry, the volunteer Civil War regiment that made a sacrificial bayonet charge on the second day of the three-day battle at Gettysburg. Eighty-two percent of the regiment fell at Gettysburg, helping to turn the tide of the war against the South.

Wow. Three paragraphs in, and we still have no idea what this is all about. I would almost say that's a Nick Coleman record, but it probably isn't. Good history lesson, though. Thanks Nick.

It's appropriate to consider the sacrifices of Colvill and his men this year, as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the Capitol. Because some of what they fought for seems in jeopardy from a growing tide of Know-Nothing-ism and prejudice.

What? Minnesota is about to reinstate slavery?!!

As documented in a recent study by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute, the mood of many Minnesotans, especially in "exurbia," has turned increasingly hostile toward immigrants and refugees.

Wait a minute. Wait just a minute here. The Civil War was fought to stem the tide of hostility towards immigrants and refugees? Who knew?

Many people who have never met an immigrant other than at a convenience store service counter want them to stop with all the foreign gibberish and learn to talk the local lingo. Pronto. ("Pronto" is Italian, but let's skip over that).

Yeah, and most of that entire paragraph has its roots in Latin, but skip over that, too. You also just have to love that Coleman automatically assumes, with no research or evidence to back up his claim, that many people have never met an immigrant who wasn't behind a convenience store service counter. Talk about stereotyping! Criminey.

Which brings me to a Know-Nothing proposal from a 28-year-old state representative named Brad Finstad. I don't usually pick on kids who are still wet behind the ears, but this one deserves a spanking.

Yeah, because going after three, more mature, bloggers, resulted in Coleman getting smacked down on a nationwide scale. Best to pick on the young whipper-snappers of the world to avoid such tail-tucking embarrassment.

Young Bradley, a second-term Republican from New Ulm, wants to require new arrivals to learn English in a year or lose their state benefits. I'd like to see Bradley learn a new language in a year, but his plan communicates something:

Minnesota Nice is morphing toward Minnesota Nasty.

So, let's see if I understand this. Here we have Brad Finstad, a political young pup with an arguably bad idea, an idea that, in almost all liklihood, has a snowball's chance in hell of being taken seriously, let alone passing, yet Coleman feels this ill-advised proposal is groundbreaking enough to prompt a statue of Col. William Colvill to up and walk away?

Finstad's district is 97 percent white and 98 percent American-born. Non-English speakers are not exactly a hot issue in the beer halls of New Ulm, where English is spoken with a Minnesota twist, including a strong German syntax, such as in the sentence, "Anybody want to come with?"

Gott im Himmel.

I've been to New Ulm. Many times, in fact. My grandmother lives in a small town just a few miles outside of New Ulm. It is gleamingly white in population makeup. I can't deny that. But, my question for Nick is: why is being white, and American born, apparently, such a monumental crime? Would he be less indignant, for example, if New Ulm consisted more of an 80 percent mix of Hispanics, Chinese, Ugandans and Saudis? But, because New Ulm consists of such an entirely white populace, the entire community is somehow worthy of contempt and derision, with a German twist, even.

The good folk of New Ulm should be embarrassed that a representative of the home of Hermann the German is trying to make political hay off the backs of non-English speakers. Not long ago, mein kinder, the boot was on the other foot.

Oh, NOW they're the good folk of New Ulm? You know, after Coleman basically called them beer-hall-sodden whities. Also, I'm sure you're all aware, it's time for another Google-based history lesson, courtesy of Nick Coleman.

During World War I, New Ulm was the target of prejudice and persecution. When a rally was held in the town to declare the town's loyalty to the United States but to oppose the drafting of German-Americans to fight their Old World cousins, state officials cracked down harshly.

The mayor and city attorney were removed from office, German-language schools were closed, German books were banned. Residents of New Ulm were pressured to sign loyalty oaths and to buy war bonds by vigilante committees that examined each family's net worth and decided if enough bonds had been purchased to -- in the words of one official -- "bring themselves into the ranks of American citizens."

And, all of that, mind you, is completely analogous to a 28-year old representative proposing legislation that, almost certainly, has no chance in the world of actually passing. Totally the same thing.

This fascist episode helps explain why, to this day, many heavily German communities keep a low profile in a state where the largest single ethnic group is German.

And Nick knows this. . . how, exactly? Yep. New Ulm, in fact, wants to keep such a low profile that it went and named the town. . . New Ulm. And they're sticking with it! Those low profile German bastards!!

For an elected official from New Ulm to purport that new arrivals be subjected to the kind of treatment his forebears received is a disgrace.

For the record here, I feel I must point out something. Keep in mind that I totally think the proposed legislation is largely a bunch of BS. Anyway, Finstad's proposal advocates requiring immigrants in Minnesota to start learning English and apply for U.S. citizenship sooner in order to qualify for welfare benefits. Cross-check that with: The mayor and city attorney were removed from office, German-language schools were closed, German books were banned.


"He doesn't understand the history of his own people," says retired University of Minnesota Prof. Hy Berman. "If he is German, his ancestors experienced linguistic repression."

Nothing augments a crappy column better than the astute observations of a retired U of M professor, who was a professor of what, exactly? If he was a professor of dental hygiene, that would be nice to know.

I don't know if Finstad has any German in him. He didn't return my call Tuesday. But he represents New Ulm, and so he ought to know better. And because he represents New Ulm, I have a few names I'd like to mention to Young Bradley:

First off: he didn't return his CALL. Singular. Great probing, investigative journalism there, Nick. Really went after that Finstad pup, you did.

Jacob Geistreiter. Henry Winters. Peter Vosz. Clark Brandt. William Miller. Joseph Schumacker. John Hauser. Julius Edler. Frederick Glave. Peter Marks. Henry Nickel.

God bless you, Google.

They all came from Germany or German-speaking Prussia. And they all died at Gettysburg, along with other Minnesota soldiers born in Sweden, Switzerland and other countries. They all knew enough English to say, "The Union Forever," but probably not much more.

Got that? Those Civil War heroes! The only English they knew was, according to Coleman, "The Union Forever." Criminey.

Did some of them learn English well enough -- and fast enough -- to satisfy Finstad? Maybe. But even if they didn't, I'm guessing Young Bradley would agree that they were good Americans after they died for their country.

Our country.

Sooooo, German-speaking Americans, fighting in the Civil War, are tantamount to immigrants seeking welfare in New Ulm. Gotcha, Nick. Great leap in logic there. I'm surprised you didn't break every bone in your body when you fell following a leap that didn't even get you 1/5 of the way across the chasm.

And it's time, once again, for a Nick Coleman history lesson. Take it away, Nick.

One hundred years ago, during the first year of our beautiful State Capitol, Col. Colvill was supposed to lead a procession carrying the First Minnesota's battle flags from the old Capitol building to the new one for installation in the rotunda. But the old warhorse, who was badly wounded at Gettysburg, died in his sleep the night before. Instead of bearing his bullet-torn battle flags, he was carried into the Capitol himself and laid in state -- the first Minnesotan given that honor -- while former comrades filed past his casket.

Bullet-torn battle flags. Died in his sleep. Comrades filing past his casket. I'm drowning in tears here. DROWNING, I TELL'S YA!

I want you to think about that next time you bump into the colonel's statue, Bradley. Did all of the veterans who mourned Colvill's passing 100 year ago speak English?

Yup, young 'un Bradley, fresh off a drunken night of revelry at a local beer hall, sloshing his way along the Capitol's rotunda, bumps smack into the colonel's statue.

That's not unlike how Coleman writes his columns, I imagine.

UPDATE: Mitch has some thoughts, too.

I feel I should point out that, although I think it's a good idea for immigrants to learn English, I don't necessarily think said learning should be made a requirement for obtaining welfare. I have my reasons, not the least of which is that English is freakin' hard to learn, even for native speakers, and everyone's capacity to learn a different language varies widely. That said, Coleman's "The Sky Is Falling" outrageousness is enough to make me vomit, but only a little bit, in my mouth.

SOMEWHAT RELATED UPDATE: Wow. Remind me never to mess with these guys.

Posted by Ryan at January 5, 2005 11:01 AM

Hy Berman is a professor in the History Department at the U of MN.

Posted by: Mr. Cranky at January 5, 2005 02:22 PM

Thanks, Mr. C. I could have Googled that myself, I suppose. Why the heck didn't Coleman include that little bit of useful knowledge in his column? That's what I want to know.

Posted by: Ryan at January 5, 2005 02:25 PM

Thanks for the link to Powerline, Ryan - I've just spent the last few hours trawling through their stuff (the Coleman savaging was priceless, although I only know him by proxy - ie you). Don't neccessarily agree with it all, but it's thought-provoking rather than tub-thumping, which has to be a Good Thing(TM). Also, they TrackBack to here so big happies for you.

Have you ever met this Cole-person (PC joke - sorry)? I'm just curious as to why your big snarly has been pointed in his direction. Is his a big newspaper?

Things are so different in Australia. Nobody really gets worked up about anything political or scandalous unless it interferes with spending time on the beach. There's so much less at stake.

Posted by: Simon at January 6, 2005 06:11 AM

Simon, I don't have a personal grudge or anything with Coleman, beyond the fact he's just an atrocious columnist working for the biggest newspaper in Minnesota. About four out of every five of his columns just scream to be ripped apart, and I sometimes happen to have the time to do so, so that's about all the explanation I can offer.

Posted by: Ryan at January 6, 2005 08:44 AM

Selective quoting, but I think it's still in context: "...many Minnesotans, especially in 'exurbia'... who have never met an immigrant other than at a convenience store service counter..."

I consider that to be proof that Coleman was not raised in, has not lived in, and has not spent any time in any small town in Minnesota. In other words, shockingly, he knows not of what he speaks.

(NOTE: the first two are true for myself as well, but spending time in Roseau has clued me in to a few things. Then again, to Nick, Green Bay is probably considered an ignorant small town too...)

Posted by: Steve Gigl at January 6, 2005 09:57 AM

So true, Steve. Sometimes I wonder if Coleman is wearing an ankle sensor device that prohibits him from actually leaving the Minneapolis city limits.

Posted by: Ryan at January 6, 2005 10:00 AM

Oh, and Simon, I understand that you don't have a blog, so I can see why you don't know how trackbacks work. Therefore, I feel I should explain that, because I linked to the Power Line blog, it shows up as a trackback on their site. It wasn't because of anything they did for me, but because I linked to them. I certainly hope that, some day, they'll link to me (or Instapundit, for that matter), but in this case the linkage was entirely due to me linking to them.

Posted by: Ryan at January 6, 2005 10:04 AM

Yeah, sorry - ignorance on my part. I'd love to start a blog, but certain people must die first. I'm sure you understand . . .

Posted by: Simon at January 6, 2005 10:59 AM
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