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by Steve Timmer
Jan 26, 2015, 4:00 PM

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There were some outraged tweets and this comment from reader Jacob about some remarks I made in Dear rural friends: it’s not our fault:

Greater Minnesota isn’t some homogeneous place. Speaking of discourse, perhaps not stereotyping all of “rural” Minnesota the same way that you don’t want the “metro” to be stereotyped would go a lot further in bridging the perceived “rural metro” divide rather than just playing right into the same old false dichotomy.

Just for the sake of convenience, I will repeat what I wrote that offends people (no passive voice):

Perhaps among the reasons that rural parts of the state are unattractive to some people to live or do business in, my Greater Minnesota friends, is that so many of you spend so much time sitting in lawn chairs, dressed in camo, and complaining about gay marriage, while you polish your guns. Just a thought.

I do hope those of you who haven’t will read the entire story.

You will look in vain for Jacob’s word “all” anywhere in what I said. Clearly these remarks don’t apply to everybody in rural Minnesota. I am sorry these words offended people (again, no passive voice).

But they do apply to some people, enough people to elect enough Republicans that we can’t get background check legislation passed, and if it had been up to the rural parts of the state, we wouldn’t have gay marriage in Minnesota. Not until a prohibition was struck down, anyway. And the same legislators, with some rural DFLers, too, are why we can’t get disclosure and electioneering legislation passed. And don’t get me started on environmental matters. [And check out this article from the Strib on 1/27 if you doubt what I write about the environment.]

These are facts that must be admitted in any truthful examination of the rural soul.

I am hard on rural people sometimes, I admit it; harder than say, Sarah Palin. But it isn’t just stereotyping: it is observational. Now I am going to do something that I rarely do. Talk about myself.

I spent the first score of years of my life in a small town. One of my first jobs was working in the tin hut downrange from the trap shooters, loading clay birds in a machine that would have cheerfully flung your hand out as a target, too, if you let it, while the shot plinked steadily against the shed. If I remember correctly, and I think I do, we had a white flag to wave if we needed a break to take a leak. I didn’t like it much.

I have owned and used sporting arms since I was about twelve, I think, although I haven’t used them so much in recent years. But there were people even then who had a wholly different relationship with their guns than I did, and that attitude is even more prominent now. And the guns are bigger and way more lethal.

I also knew gay kids in school who were brutally bullied; I have a gay cousin, too. All of them got out of Dodge at the earliest opportunity. If you tried to stick up for these kids, which to my shame I really never did, you became part of the circle of the bullied. And it’s worse in little towns, believe me.

It is an ugly but undeniable truth that the relative presence of these attitudes are part of the reason that rural Minnesota is being held back culturally and economically. For every Jacob, there are a least a couple of emails or comments — from the “formerly rural” — that tell me that I am right.

I am old enough and retired enough that I don’t risk much in being direct. I think at this point in my life, that is the most useful thing I can do.

Update, 1 – 27: Reader Alan made this comment this morning:

As someone who grew up a gay kid in a small town in Iowa, I think your observations are pretty accurate. I used to say that I had a near-death experience – the first 18 years of my life. My mother was desperate for me to get out of Dodge to somewhere I might have a decent life. I had to go back there quite a bit in my mother’s last illness and to settle her estate. I got my sister to handle some estate business because she got a better reception (as a married woman with children) than I seemed to get.

As a grown-up, I live in a neighborhood where I can hold hands with my spouse when we’re walking the dog without getting stared at or yelled at. Perhaps that would be possible in rural Minnesota, but I won’t be taking a chance on it. That said, all my cousins in rural Southwest Minnesota were in favor of gay marriage.

Further update, 1 – 27: Here are a couple of more items for the rural bin.

Republicans are outraged, outraged, I say, that Governor Dayton wants to enforce waterway buffers:

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, chairman of the House outdoor recreation committee, said better buffers are “a nice thought” but he wasn’t sure how the requirement could be enforced or where to find the money to pay to ensure compliance. He said the burden on landowners also is a “huge issue” for him.

Yes, rural interests are offended that they might be required to worry about anybody downstream. As long as Hackbarth can wear his gun in a Planned Parenthood parking lot, he’s okay.

And speaking of guns, the Car Salesman from Crown has got gun owners’s backs:

Gun-rights advocates held what they called the first annual Gun Owners Lobby Day on Monday at the state Capitol.

“We want you to know that we’re going to have your back over the next couple of years,” newly elected House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told the crowd on Capitol’s front lawn. [accompanied by the crackle of gunfire into the air]

Leaders of the event’s sponsoring organizations, the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance and Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, spoke of the importance of citizens’ involvement in defeating a variety of gun-control measures in the 2013 legislative session, including proposed bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as expanded background checks.

He’s got their backs because of Republicans and rural DFLers.

You can kiss background checks and closing the gun show loophole goodbye, my friends.

– o O o-

Update 1 – 29: This Steve Sack cartoon was in the Strib on January 29th:

Kurt Daudt's pals - Steve Sack cartoon

Kurt Daudt’s pals – Steve Sack cartoon (via

Further update 1 – 31: Here’s a comment from reader Ned:

[T]hanks for this post. Most of us have rural MN/WI/Iowa roots and generally agree with your analysis. The idealized small town utopia is just that: idealization vs reality. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be gay in a small conservative town. Thanks again, this crap has to be called out or the Rethuglickens will use it over and over despite the facts.

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