January 22nd, 2012

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#504 – Dick Bernard: Church, State, the Stadium, and We, the People

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

This morning, as usual on Sunday, I went to 9:30 Mass at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Not as usual, I entered through the door directly beneath the west bell tower. I noticed a new marble step there. That door has been blocked off by yellow police tape for a long time – most of a year – because a 300 pound piece of the 100 year old structure had fallen off the facing of the bell tower sometime during the night many months ago. It had damaged that particular step. It could have been a catastrophe had people been entering the church at the time.

Back home I read the front page article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the news-making conflict between Basilica, city, state and the Minnesota Vikings over the possibility of a new stadium whose property would begin a football field length away from the north end of Basilica property. You can read all about the conflict here. The Basilica is enlisting we parishioners to come to its defense – that’s how Power works.

The story is a good old-fashioned clash of the titans. I’m very loyal to the Basilica, active but disgruntled Catholic for a number of reasons, not a sports fan, but not particularly upset about the prospect of a new stadium for the Vikings somewhere – though I don’t see it as needed, etc., and the so-called Linden Hills site makes little sense. I’ve raised my objections but I see a new stadium as inevitable.

But the elements of this particular story got me to thinking about another aspect of this kind of conflict between powers-that-be…and those with seemingly less power.

I keep thinking back to 1965, the year I arrived in the Twin Cities. It was my most difficult year, ever. My wife was dying at University Hospital and I was broke in a strange town, living briefly with her relatives in south Minneapolis, then in a rooming house not far from the University, and later working at the then-Lincoln Del in St. Louis Park to survive.

If my memory has not failed me, some time that summer I watched the demolition of houses in the path of soon to be Interstate 35-W going south from downtown Minneapolis. This was a “clear cut” project through people’s houses. This is how it happened everywhere as this system we now take for granted was being constructed in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The easiest neighborhoods to cut through were the poorer ones – no effective resistance. And the routes were constructed so as to be most convenient to those more well-off and powerful….

Later, in 1968 I believe it was, The Lowry Tunnel at Lyndale and Hennepin was constructed to facilitate traffic north on Interstate 94, literally across the street from this same Basilica of St. Mary.

The Basilica was spared, but not the neighborhood, but the incessant traffic has done its damage to the Basilica and is at least part of the cause-and-effect of that 300 pound piece of stone falling off its face….

Now its the Vikings who demand something new and extravagant, and will likely get it after the Republicans decide how to position themselves to be in opposition; then claim credit, but blame the Democrat Governor Mark Dayton for the resulting mess. It’s just how it is.

Personally, I’ve done my part as a citizen, written my letters, gone on record with the people who represent me.

If there is to be a stadium, it ought to be the Metrodome, which came in under budget and on-time when it was constructed about 1980 and is a perfectly situated place.

If, stupidly, we’re going to build a new and unneeded stadium, we ought to have the guts to pay for it through taxes, rather than more gambling, the most destructive tax of all.

But this is a fascinating look at how power works, and if those ‘power to the people’ folks are going to exercise their power, they ought to be learning some lessons from this to begin shifting attitudes.

Related, here’s a personal discussion about POWER, here (scroll down).

Some of the kinds of "power" which can be wielded by people. There are many more, at play in the stadium location conflict.