"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Of Memorial Days gone by, flag etiquette

I remember Memorial Day weekend as a time of great calm from my newspaper days. The Morris newspaper published twice a week. We had a "bulldog week" leading up to the weekend. What that meant, was that we went to press with the Tuesday issue on Friday rather than Monday. Yes, it made for a very hectic week.
Sometimes the Morris Area graduation would be held on Friday night. Because I was the van driver for the newspaper (in my last few years there), I would arrive at the graduation quite worn out. I still enjoyed being there - how could you not enjoy being there? - but I was tired, and I'm sure I looked it. Once I fell into bed on Friday night, I had no problem facing more responsibilities the rest of the weekend.
I enjoyed going over to Alberta for the Chokio-Alberta graduation which was held like clockwork at 2 p.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I enjoyed hearing Lyle Hettver say "thank God for our small schools." I agreed.
Today the Morris paper doesn't even cover the C-A graduation. It only publishes once a week.
On Monday morning of Memorial Day weekend, in most years anyway, I'd arise to cover the Memorial Day observance. One year we had tremendous, stinking internal political strife at the paper and I wasn't asked to show up for Memorial Day, and no one else showed up from the paper either. I stopped by the newspaper office to pick up my Star Tribune newspaper and then just went home. Inexplicable.
When it comes to backbiting, politics and turf protection in the workplace, "I've seen it all." I'd rather serve time in prison than re-live some of that. Toward the end of my years there, there was a major employee theft scandal (before the current ownership). I'm certainly not going to pat the current ownership on the back - it seeks to facilitate shopping in Alexandria. Nothing against Alex - really - but we don't need so much "help" being steered there.
The public seemed increasingly hard to please toward the end of my years with the paper. I can cite an incident from the last Memorial Day I ever covered. I was present for the outdoor portion of the observance, by the veterans monument. I spotted what I thought was a really cute scene. An absolutely charming young girl was standing with her grandparents with whom I was well acquainted. She held out an American flag. In addition, she wore a little hat made from material that had an image of the American flag. It was a neat-appearing hat.
I snapped a photo and was then approached by Steve Dudding who said "you'll get in trouble if you publish that." Oh, "I'll get in trouble," eh? You know the argument: the hat represented an improper presentation of the flag symbol, and was thus disrespectful.
This type of obsessive devotion to the flag is akin to having a chip on your shoulder. There are people, many of whom are active in veterans organizations, who will get carried away on such matters. I had to tell the grandparents that I wouldn't be able to publish the photo. I left the event in a discouraged frame of mind.
I don't have to worry about being dragged through episodes like this anymore, because I'm unemployed. My life is in limbo. I haven't had health insurance coverage in nine years. I'm told I can go to the MnSure website and "find a policy that's right for you." If this website is anything like the website you go to for paying traffic tickets, I'm sure it's hopeless. No matter what amount I sign up for, for premium, I'm sure it will go up. I have decided it's more prudent to just keep my assets and see if someday I can live on them for a while. And after that? I have no clue.
I would consider it wonderful if I could get up in the morning and show up somewhere to perform an easily-understood task within a reasonable amount of time. I am absolutely shell-shocked having spent a good portion of my work career filling out those infernal "timesheets." They are not practical for so many reasons.
Shortly after the Forum acquired the Morris newspaper, I was told my status would change and I would be paid "straight salary," which made me wonder if the previous arrangement was actually illegal. Well, I don't know. Finally I could just get up in the morning and just do what I had to do. But maybe it was too late.
My job had morphed into a combination of news/editorial and van-driving and sorting/delivery of the physical print product. I was eager to take on the latter duties because I felt they would give me insurance toward keeping my job. There was rumbling about how the newspaper industry was careening toward disaster due to the Internet. Apparently the doomsayers were not completely correct, but keep in mind the Morris newspaper product has been cut in half, from two issues to one each week. Thus we have to wait nine days to see coverage of the section track meet in the print product - rather unreasonable, I'd say.
And if you can get it on the paper's website, fine, but the paper gets no revenue from that.
I'd like to see high school sports programs all establish their own home pages, regularly updated with game results, just like the UMM sports website. In fact, coaches might opt to wait until the day after a game to post data, instead of having to call in results to the Willmar paper immediately following a game. Coaches can do PR on their own terms.
The Willmar paper these days has adopted a practice of twisting arms by publishing boxes in which we read "reports not received from. . ." Maybe the Willmar paper deserves a middle finger for this.
Let's wrap up our little story about Steve Dudding. This very reverential patriot had said this young girl wearing the flag hat was inappropriate, that the hat represented disrespect for the flag. Well, in July of that year I was watching coverage of the Independence Day festivities from the nation's capital, probably on PBS. For a few seconds we saw a young girl perched on her father's shoulders, waving a flag and wearing a flag hat that was exactly what I had tried to photograph. PBS presented all this in the context of brimming patriotism.
A week or two later I was dropping off my parents at First Lutheran Church when I saw the Dudding family come along. I shouted to him what I had observed on TV. He gave me sort of a blank stare and didn't say anything. I wasn't yet attending church with my parents. This community has long disapproved of me even living with my parents. God blessed them, though, because eventually, due to the limitations of advancing years, they had a 24/7 caregiver who could keep them in their precious home on Northridge Drive.
We have survived two visits from Human Services. Our lives have been as comfortable as we can possibly make it. In a small town you're in a fishbowl. You have to be careful about taking a press photo of a young girl wearing a perfectly tasteful American flag hat.
At least it wasn't the Confederate flag.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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