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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Katherine Kersten's latest column goes beyond her typical misrepresentation of facts. It puts her in the same league as Rush Limbaugh and other vile merchants in sleaze and falsehoods, for she has done the exact same thing that Limbaugh and other right-wing blowhards did three years ago in the wake of the late Paul Wellstone's memorial service: turn it into a stealth campaign on the part of liberals to win political points. I am utterly disgusted that she continues to put forward the same lies that Republicans came up with three years ago, and that the Star Tribune prints this garbage.

Her nonsense runs deep in this column. "Wellstone's memorial service on Oct. 29, 2002, was billed as the nonpartisan culmination of shared public grief. People around the country were glued to TV coverage of the four-hour event. What they saw was not a solemn ceremony mourning a human being, but at times a raucous political rally." Really? I don't remember how it was billed or how it appeared on television, because I was actually at the service (and I'm sure that Kersten was not), but I don't remember seeing it billed anywhere as a nonpartisan service. You could no more take the politics out of Paul Wellstone than you could take Catholicism out of Pope John Paul II. Wellstone spent his life working to convince the nation that we needed to protect and help those who are less fortunate; the act of persuading others to follow your beliefs is the definition of politics. That's what he did. That's what he undoubtedly would have wanted people to continue doing after his death.

Moreover, which word described Wellstone better: "solemn" or "raucous"? Anybody who had spent any time around him would know that the correct answer was the latter. Wellstone was always enthusiastic, always running full speed, always energetic. Even though I didn't agree 100% with his politics, I did greatly admire his zeal and his energy in fighting for what he believed in. Some politicians give somber speeches that make the listeners quietly reflect on their beliefs. Not Paul. He gave speeches that got people on their feet, shouting and yelling as he shouted and yelled. He took the boundless energy he had and drenched his audience with it, in the hopes that some would stick. It never failed. So how could anybody who actually knew Wellstone think that a memorial to his life and his work could be solemn? No, the only people who could have expected this were people like Kersten who knew nothing of him besides Republican talking points.

But her most putrid statement is this: "What explains the average voter's outrage? It was resentment that some Wellstone supporters were cynically willing to exploit what is best in human nature -- the unifying empathy for personal tragedy -- and subvert it to partisan political ends." Kersten, like many Republican shills, continues to believe that before the memorial service, Wellstone's supporters got together to plan an overtly political rally. I honestly don't have words to express my contempt for something so disgusting. The service was not a cover for Democrats to score political points. It was thrown together at the last minute by people who were torn apart by the deaths of Paul, his wife, and their companions on that plane. The people who spoke were not speaking to get votes; they were speaking of people who they loved and had suddenly, tragically, unfairly had ripped away from them. Kersten should remember that the service did not just memorialize Paul Wellstone, but everybody who died on that plane. Every speaker talked about the lives of those who died, and yes, unsurprisingly, a big portion of the lives of people who were instrumental in Wellstone's re-election campaign was politics. But not all, and Kersten just ignores everything other than a couple spirited lines in a few speeches. To her, nothing else matters.

"The Wellstone rally was a huge miscalculation." A huge miscalculation? I went because I wanted to be around like-minded people to celebrate and remember lives that were lost. That's what I do whenever somebody I care about dies, and Kersten's complete lack of empathy makes me wonder if she has ever been in a similar situation. When Wellstone's death was reported, I saw people literally crying in the offices where I worked. I didn't see any calculations about how to turn his death into political points. I didn't hear anybody making plans to con networks into covering the memorial service and therefore getting free airtime for a huge liberal campaign commercial. I saw people who wanted to remember those who had died by celebrating what they stood for. And what they stood for was unabashedly political.

The memorial wasn't exploitation. Those who put together the memorial service not only had to take time from their personal lives, they had to work through intense grief and the sheer craziness that is the last couple weeks of a political campaign. Kersten, in her column, punches every one of these people in the gut and says that they did what they did to score political points.

Kersten closes her column by saying, "In this age of frenzied partisanship, is there a space set aside for basic human decency, where politics is off-limits?" It is clear that when it comes to human decency, it is off-limits in her column.


At 9:34 PM, October 30, 2005, Anonymous Lynnell Mickelsen said...

We don't see things as they are...We see them as we are.

The people who exploited Wellstone's memorial were the partisan hacks who decided to become the Republican Funeral Oversight Commission and complain that grieving Democrats somehow were upsetting the delicate feelings of say, Katherine Kersten or Bill O'Reilly.

Even if there had been no Rick Kahn speech, the Repubs would find something else to object to and rant about.

I also thought the Dems blew it when the Repubs started screaming. Instead of acting like battered spouses, writing their hands and apologizing, we should have said, "A bunch of people were just killed. It's a freaking funeral and their friends get to grieve any way they want---they can rage, they can cry, they can cheer. Who made you guys the Right-Wing Funeral Oversight Commission? What a bunch of wing-nut whiners! Get over yourselves."

Instead, we apologized for upsetting the likes of Cindy Brucato, Don Shelby and Katherine Kersten, Christ Almighty!

At 3:37 PM, October 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!! Lynnell said exactly what I have been saying since that memorial service.

"A bunch of people were just killed. It's a freaking funeral and their friends get to grieve any way they want---they can rage, they can cry, they can cheer."

I would only add that the GOP just proves its depravity by trying to use that event against us. They lost any credibility in my mind that day, they have NO moral high ground, they are sick.

At 3:42 PM, October 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people greeve quietly, in the comfort of their close friends and family. You guys go berzerk and hold a pep rally.

And you continue to wonder why you are out of touch.

At 6:42 PM, October 31, 2005, Anonymous pough said...

Most people "greeve" quietly? Even if that were true, why should I give a fuck? Last funeral I was at, we sat up telling funny stories about the person who had died, because that was most appropriate for the person and for us. Had they still been alive, they would have been laughing with us.

As for being out of touch, all the folks who want to "greeve" differently (and who want to criticize me for how I choose to "greeve") are out of touch with me. In Japan, everyone sleeps a night in one big room with the corpse. Previous to the 70s, Irish wakes were incredibly noisy affairs. Out of touch, my fat hairy ass.

A person's funeral should match who they are; it shouldn't be the other way 'round. Unless, of course, they were conformists while they were alive.

At 10:13 AM, November 01, 2005, Blogger Kevin from Minneapolis said...

Grieve however you want, who cares. But most people tuned in that night to see a memorial service for a man they were sad to lose. What they got was a campaign rally, that's why people were upset, not because Don Shelby told them to be.

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