Local View: Nasty column, heartfelt response both reminders of what's great about Duluth
I must respond to Ana Marie Cox, writer for Rolling Stone magazine, who compared our city to poverty-stricken places in America such as Wheeling, W. Va. (sorry, Wheeling, this reference isn't helping either of us), to make a point about ... well, I'm actually not sure what her overall point was in condemning a town that was simply doing its best to host a presidential visit.
What I do know is that just a few days later, on that next Saturday, I spent a day that started at Park Point, our southeastern tip, and ended at a grad party at Skyline Lanes in Hermantown, Duluth's northwestern neighbor, and everyone, it seemed, was discussing our pride in Duluth. The truth is, we have a lot to be proud of.
Let me start with our mayor, Emily Larson, who wrote a kind rebuttal to Cox's column, which the News Tribune posted along with its news coverage ("Pushing back on a rolling stone," June 23). Read what the mayor wrote. See how she welcomed Cox back to town to see our finer side. And don't miss her wit, especially with her reference to Duluth native Bob Dylan, the writer of the song that's the magazine's namesake. I also couldn't help but notice how Larson acknowledged some of the problems of our city, such as the opioid epidemic, and also how we are tackling it. That's an honest politician.
At the Park Point Art Fair, I noticed how much of the art focused on all the green space and the wonderful nature — cliffs, rivers, pines, creeks, foxes and bevies of birds — that surrounds Duluth and threads its way through every neighborhood of the city. Park Point itself was simply gorgeous this fine blue-sky morning, with its sandy dunes and refreshing pines spilling down to the edge of the festival booths and picnickers munching on morsels. Duluth is not a "cipher," as Cox wrote, but a bastion of art, artists, musicians, and fantastic food.
Speaking of food, where we wound up next, on London Road at the CHUM Rhubarb Festival, a street-packed sea of people was doing something about that high poverty rate in Duluth that Cox mentioned. By trying vegan rhubarb sloppy joes (tasty, and only in Duluth), by buying strawberry-rhubarb pie, or by purchasing comfy sweatshirts, the citizens of Duluth were having fun while using charity and fundraising to provide a safety net for our most desperate. Rhubarb may not end poverty, but it's a not-bad tool in the arsenal for support, shelter, and housing that CHUM provides to those in need.
At the grad party at the end of our day, I listened to so many from across the Northland — from Carlton, Duluth and Hermantown and from both sides of the political fence — express how Duluth handled a presidential political rally in a peaceful manner. Only two arrests were made, and no one went to jail. Duluth is a peaceful town where many people gather to civilly express themselves. There was talk of how people protested, how supporters rallied, how Trump backers survived Duluth's heat in the skywalk, and how those who lean left fought a frigid temperature drop near the lakeshore. Really, that's who we are: survivors in good spirits, not really needing any fence.
I wore my Rhubarb Festival sweatshirt across the street days later to ask a neighbor to take care our mail and plants while we were gone away. I had some of my wife's delicious rhubarb cake in tow. A new neighbor was already there. Another coffee cup was hauled out as I bellied up to their kitchen table and, while munching on a moist Minnesota-hearty vegetable baked in batter and sipping some neighborly coffee, we, too, spoke of Duluth's festivals, its trees, and its courteous people: neighbors with no need for fences.
I offer my thanks to Ana Marie Cox and Mayor Emily Larson for reminding us in an exchange of views just why we love living here.
Andy Wolfe of Duluth is a language arts teacher at Superior High School. That includes teaching communications, creative writing, literature and composition as well as advising the school newspaper and coaching speech.