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Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Sept 17, 2004

Painting over our Differences

ďDid you hear what happened at Public School Stadium last night?Ē Thatís what I heard one Sunday school mother ask another mother on Saturday while I was painting a mural next to Tony for the new Sunday School Year.

I had just read about the stabbing in a short, sketchy story in the morning paper. In the old days, when I was on the School Board, I would have known all about it in advance because the Superintendent would have called to tell me about it before it hit the news. Now that Iím a civilian again I too have to rely on rumor and hearsay for some of my information.

Tony, the East High School student painting with me, told me that the Stadium was swarming with police cars when he showed up for a football game. A Johnson kid had been the victim. Since there were at least four schools at the stadium and numerous Johnsons, some with the same first name, there was understandable confusion about the details. The next dayís Tribune would explain that the attacker hadnít been a Proctor student after all. This was a point which most of the early rumor had taken as fact.

Iíve been getting a lot of my news while painting for the past couple weeks. My first project was a mural for the church. I kept my mind occupied while painting by listening to Minnesota Public Radio. Thereís been a lot of coverage about the bad blood leading up to our November elections. Some of that bad blood has spilled over to Duluth .

Another story in the Saturday Trib was about the ardent George Bush supporter whose oversized yard signs have drawn criticism. He woke up recently to find his signs painted over with swastikas and his carís back window smashed in. The Trib also showed the spray painted signs of some local Democrats to demonstrate that vandalism is bipartisan.

My sympathies are with the Bush supporter since I too am an inveterate sign poster. I have put up oversized signs in my yard in defiance of Duluth ordinances but, however, with the blessing of the US Constitution. Last year I painted some signs to make fun of the new ďconceal carryĒ gun law. Lately Iíve been thinking about posting a sign promising that my wife and I will not divorce should gay couples be permitted to marry. I suspect that there are those who would disagree with me strongly enough to destroy my signs and my free expression in the dead of night. By sticking up for the rights of those I disagree with Iím really sticking up for my own rights 

A few years ago a reader criticized one of my columns for incorrectly attributing a famous saying to the philosopher Voltaire. I had written that Voltaire had said: ďI disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.Ē It turns out that Voltaire never said this. Of course, as far as Iím concerned he should have. Itís an idea that the vandals would do well to consider. Iím sure the swastikas they painted over the Bush lawn signs were meant to imply that Bush was a fascist. A fascist is the kind of person who would sneak up at night and put a burning cross in a personís yard or maybe paint a swastika on their property.

While I was painting at the church I had my kitchen floor ripped out and tiled over. Now I have to paint the roomís walls and trim. There is no escaping the paint so I will keep listening to news about the campaign.

The debate raging in America is not one of ignoble values vs. noble ones. If this were so the debate would not be so fierce. To put it simply America is divided between those who want to defend freedom and attack evil and those who want to defend freedom and attack evil. Itís rather like the football game at Public School Stadium. There is nothing wrong with the hearty expression of school spirit and yet according to a follow-up story in the Tribune this is exactly what led to one kid stabbing another.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com