Friday, February 28, 2014

Cultural Identity?

Does Minnesota have a cultural identity? Since we are geographically large and are becoming more and more diverse, do we need one to be governable?

Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse      © harrington

The photo essays posted here the past two days have prompted me to do even more thinking about a nearby state's Declaration of Cultural Identity that I recently found on the Internet. With very little editing, I could comfortably fill in the word "Minnesota" almost everywhere you see a series of blanks like this _ _ _ _ _ _. What do you think? Would something like this work for Minnesota? If not a Declaration of Cultural Identity, how do we make a better start on the great work described by Paul Gruchow and mentioned here a few days ago?

Southwestern Minnesota Wind farm
Southwestern Minnesota Wind farm   © harrington

Washington, D.C. isn't the only place in our country suffering from rancorous gridlock. We haven't yet reached the level of dysfunction our "leaders"(?) regularly exhibit, but it seems to me we're moving too rapidly in that direction for our own good. Combine that with an understandable level of parochial self-satisfaction and a dollup of "not invented here-ism" and Minnesota could soon loose the quality of life for which we've become noted. Personally, I'd really like to see us turn the fragmentation we've created over the past few decades into a much more coherent mosaic of the Minnesota we'd like to live in and can identify with. Maybe a good place to start would be to turn down the volume and the games-playing on the PolyMet NorthMet project and devote those wasted energies into creating a sustainable Iron Range with living wage plus jobs and the resilience needed to adapt to the changes global warming is bringing to to our North Country and the rest of Minnesota. Does that work for you?

Evening at Duluth Harbor
Evening at Duluth Harbor      © harrington

By the way, at the beginning of this week, I sent a copy of the Cultural Identity Declaration below, without the blanks, to Minnesota's Humanities Center through their web site's "Contact Us" email address. I asked if they knew of any Minnesota statement of cultural identity comparable to what I sent. I'll let you know if I ever get a reply.

A DECLARATION OF _ _ _ _ _ _ CULTURAL IDENTITY – 1989
Reaffirmed by the _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ Arts Council – 2008

We affirm that all lands and people on Earth hold equal and worthy distinction in expressing their individual cultures. We believe that art is the universal language, and as such, is the expression of our common humanity. Through the arts we give voice, color, form, texture and meaning to the vast range of what it is to be human.

As _ _ _ _ _ _s, we declare this to be our cultural identity:

We are a people whose spirit is shaped by the land and tied to the seasons. Time is marked by the cycles of planting and harvesting and migrations of wildlife. Landscape is an integral part of our being.

We are a people whose loyalty belongs to our neighbors. Climate and geographic distance often hinder our joining together, yet our sparse population intensifies our belief in each other and the value of the individual. Everyone and everything is closely related.

We are a people whose individual ethnic heritage is maintained and valued. Sovereign nations of Native Americans, descendants of pioneers, and recent immigrants possess and preserve distinctive traditions. We strive to understand and respect the diversities of all _ _ _ _ _ _ cultures.

We are a people whose existence is perpetuated by faith. Our spirituality gives us a common bond with humanity and strengthens our relationship with nature. Through respect and love of the land, we strive to maintain a quality of environment for generations to come.

We are a people whose contribution to world culture is on our own terms of excellence. We create, we interpret, and we present art within the _ _ _ _ _ _ framework, telling the world of our sense of place.

We are a people whose quality of life depends upon our artistic expressions. We believe the arts influence the desires, beliefs, values, and character of our people. The _ _ _ _ _ _ landscape and spirit are reflected in our art.

James Wright describes much of the kind of Minnesota I remember and want again.

A Blessing

By James Wright 

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness   
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.   
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.   
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me   
And nuzzled my left hand.   
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.


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