Ice-cold redemption

January 25, 2007|By Garrison Keillor

It was good to watch the Bears and Saints play football on Sunday with snow falling around them. It made a dreamy picture, a receiver running his pattern and looking back for the pass coming through the flurries. And to look out my window and see the backyards of St. Paul, swathed in snow, white blankets covering the rooftops, the good citizens hard at work grooming their sidewalks. It's a guy thing, shoveling snow. It's a form of marking. You shovel the walk to show other males that you're on the scene and operating at full capacity, lest they think about stealing your woman, though ironically your shoveling has made it easier for them to reach your house.

Once we took January snow for granted, but these days it feels like a gift, and so does the bitter cold. You go outside and it hurts. You stand on the corner and wait for the bus to come, and you feel like a Christian martyr who clung to the truth and the infidels offered death by stoning or freezing, and you chose this. It is all very satisfying to stand there all righteous and holy, and then the bus comes and you climb aboard and you get warm. Redemption.

It's no wonder Minnesota is a capital of the 12-step industry. In New York, home of alcoholics unanimous, when Dad or Mom cross the line and go from overindulgence to outright degradation, they are shipped off to Minnesota, where their attach? case and New York Times are taken away and also their air of invincible cool, and they are coaxed into coughing up the lies that make their lives intolerable. They are led to the edge of the cliff to look over and see how far one can fall. They are made to wait for the bus in the cold. And they return to Manhattan chaste and sober. This actually works in most cases.

Winter is satisfying to us. We don't move to the Land of Endless Summer because summer is a destination to be yearned for, which is what makes it beautiful. You need winter to enjoy summer, just as your kids need to work lousy jobs for low pay in order to appreciate having a car and an apartment. You don't want to bestow these things on them casually, or you will steal from them the satisfaction of making their own way uphill in life. You brood about the danger of eating cottage cheese past the expiration date, the danger of brain cancer caused by the use of mobile phones, all the worst scenarios, and this helps make ordinary life seem blessed.

We aren't part of evangelical corporate America, which believes that if we love the Lord, He will make first-quarter sales at Amalgamated Grommet the best ever. It just ain't so. When the Republicans took over the Bible, they cut a lot of stuff out, which of course all of us do. If you took Scripture literally, you'd never make it to the office in the morning. You'd be sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, ashes in your hair, rocking back and forth, praying for mercy. The Republicans threw out all the stuff about the poor - and that's OK! The poor are not that attractive. Needy people tend to be so needy, and their personal grooming is poor. You would not want to attend a party in their home.

What was galling about the Church of the Republican was how it eliminated the confession of sin. And now that Democrats are installed in Washington, we want to restore that feature. For six years, Congress has been a herd of buffalo dozing by the waterhole, and now something else is about to happen, a public inquiry into the arrogance, corruption and incompetence of the Current Occupant and his cronies and minions, a truly remarkable story. So let it happen, and spare us the celebrity politics for another six months, please.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's smiley video, tossing her scarf into the ring, saying she wants to engage America in a conversation, was lacking in grit. You have to wonder how many focus groups were shown this piece of nougat and decided that, yes, this is the brand of Hillary they want, a softer, less ideological one. But it is so not what is needed right now.

The Democrats have been installed in Washington for all of three weeks. Let Sen. Barack Obama put his skinny butt in the chair, and let Mrs. Clinton have a conversation with her fellow senators. Just do your job.

Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

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