Monday, September 12, 2011

Removing All Doubt

The Linden Hills 9/11 Tribute last night was a non-partisan, non-political event. But of course there were a few politicians who were invited to participate. Senator Amy Klobuchar arrived late, but did a nice job offering a few simple remarks on the significance of the day and honoring members of the military who were in attendance. On the other hand, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak struck what I thought was the most discordant note of the evening with some of his comments.

Rybak fell into the all too easy and familiar trap of trying to personalize events of historical significance (as 9/11 obviously is). He told us the story of how his college age children had reacted to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden as a way of showing how while 9/11 had impacted all of us, it has had a particular impact on those who came of age during or after the attacks, the “9/11 Generation” as he dubbed them. He said their entire lives had been shaped by 9/11 and that dealing with the fears they had to face as result drove them to approach the world differently. He added something about how when he was their age the biggest thing he had to worry was figuring out how to kiss a girl in the nearby Lyndale Park Rose Garden.

Nonsense. RT Rybak was born in 1955. Which meant that he came of age during a little something that we like to call The Cold War. You know, nuclear annihilation and all that? The Cuban Missile Crisis? The Daisy Girl Ad? The Day After movie? Duck and cover drills? Nuclear winter? Sound familiar at all? Not to take anything away from the “9/11 Generation,” but RT Rybak and those of us who grew up with the threat of mutually assured destruction hanging over our heads had a little existential dread to work out as well.

I couldn’t let Rybak’s remark pass without comment and so I turned to my wife and whispered under my breath, “What an idiot.” Well, at least I thought it was under my breath. Turns out that little pitchers do indeed have big ears as our six-year-old son quickly asked in a voice that all within earshot could hear (which given the crowd was actually a sizable number of people), “Why is he an idiot, Daddy?” Rather than explaining the merits of my characterization of the mayor to my son (and those near us), at that point I taught him what I hope will be a lesson on the virtue of prudence by keeping my mouth shut.