This may seem like a weird thing on a blog about kindness, but today, my response to the “40 Day Kindness Challenge” was to comment on an article discussing the removal of paintings of the Minnesota Regiment in the Civil War from the Minnesota State Capital Reception Room for restoration during remodeling. The comments section of the article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that discussed the removal of the paintings stated that a state government committee is sending recommendations to the MN Historical Society for a decision about the return of the paintings to the Capital building for rehanging in the Governor’s gilded Reception Room (a room designed by Cass Gilbert, Minnesota’s famed architect, to showcase these specific paintings). The Governor of the State of MN, Mark Dayton, apparently has said that the paintings might not return to the room; a state government committee on Architecture at the Capital (CAAPB) will examine where to place the paintings and send their recommendations to the MN Historical Society, which holds final authority over placement of state-owned art and all historical artifacts. Opinions on the newspaper article’s Facebook “Comments” section, mixed angry and contemptuous words for and against the Governor or the people who want to keep the paintings or those who want to take them down.
I have left comments once or twice on the Facebook shares from these newspapers, but whenever I did, I received a lot—A LOT!—of contemptuous and rude comments, as well as many supportive ones; afterwards, the notification stream goes on and on and on, until I get so crazy-tired of it that I either go back and delete all of my original comments or disable the “Notifications” from that post. These days, it seems, everyone is filled with contempt for anyone who disagrees with them! Sadly, no one seems to want to propose a balanced position that shows willingness to listen to both sides, while expressing an informed opinion based on reason, backed up with cited facts. Instead, I guess, you merely are required to “yell a name at someone” and pat yourself on the back for how pure you are to your “side.”
Anyway, what was kind about my sharing this article was that in doing it, I had to decide to be willing to engage—just a bit, anyway—with the crowd to post the article about the MN Regiment at Gettysburg, which to me is a great article and one that everyone should read. I was willing to dive into the fray, just enough, to let people know that they could do more than gripe about how bad our Governor is, that they could understand why the paintings represent something important. In fact, on the conversation stream, I also posted a link where people could locate the contact information of their local MN State Legislators and the members of the Committee that will be making the recommendations to the Historical Society about where to place the paintings. I pointed out, however, that “If you contact them, please be polite, concise, clear, and respectful or they won’t listen, because you are then a bully and a dope.”
Within a few minutes, I had someone give me push-back about what I had posted, asking me if I thought that “MN was only about what we did in the Civil War” and that “maybe since MN is a living place, something newer and more contemporary” should hang in the room, instead. I don’t get mad at sensible push-back, in fact, I welcome it, because it helps us to refine our ideas and come up with more legitimate and authentic solutions to our problems. If I am wrong, I want to know it; I don’t want to just continue to stand up and shout out my ideas without listening to another viewpoint. Why would I want to do that? It certainly isn’t kind.
The other thing that I would mention, on the topic of kindness, is that back over 100 years ago, the MN regiment willingly gave their lives to see our country united as one nation under the banner of liberty for all men and women. This is, of course, the ultimate kindness and we can learn much from their sacrifice, especially in these days of injustice and division. May we all come together in the purpose of goodness and kindness, justice and freedom, and put aside our own prejudices, fears, and contempt for our fellow citizens.
How crucial was their charge? Did the First Minnesota save the Union?
“The best answer is that there were a dozen different moments where the future of the battle hung in the balance, and the First Minnesota’s charge is certainly one of them,” says Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman for the Gettysburg National Military Park. “Had they not succeeded, the entire outcome of the battle could have been different. And then right away you have to ask, would we now be two countries?”
“You can definitely look at it as a major turning point that affected the future of the nation. But I wouldn’t say it was the only one,” she said. “That’s what’s fascinating about Gettysburg, there are an incredible number of those moments.”
Beckstrom, Maja. “Minnesota Civil War Regiment Charged into History at Gettysburg.” Twin Cities. St Paul Pioneer Press, 28 June 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. <http://www.twincities.com/2013/06/28/minnesota-civil-war-regiment-charged-into-history-at-gettysburg/>.
UPDATE: After a period of time when the public could comment on the paintings, the committees came back and recommended that the paintings all be rehung after the renovations.
UPDATED UPDATE: We have started to realize that we all have a lot to learn about Justice and racial equality in the years since I posted this original comment. At that point, I felt (and always had felt) a kind of pride that MN wanted to go fight the south and the racism and slavery it represented. I still think that an element of that has been part of our attitude all along. However, since the dawning of our awakening to the injustices of 2020 in Minneapolis, we all need to reevaluate our attitudes and this article needs to be taken in that context. I still think that reminding us in MN that we jumped to fight for the humanity and equality of African Americans in the Civil War days is an important thing, so the historical pictures do that to some extent. However, we had better not stop there and think we are more progressive than we really are in our attitudes toward our fellow human beings. To do so would definitely NOT be kind at all.