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Get over Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, Old and Important Man, has spoken, though that doesn't mean anyone should pay attention.

Garrison Keillor, Old and Important Man, has spoken, though that doesn't mean anyone should pay attention. Associated Press

Gary, we have a problem.

I can call you Gary, right? I mean, we’re just two plain-spoken St. Paul white dudes here. No reason to get formal.

You've popped up in the news again. I know this must come as a shock, as someone who’s never gone out of his way to draw attention to himself. This time, you sure stepped in it but good.

There's almost something impressive about reducing a historic national moment  --

“Minneapolis liberals couldn’t help but vote for a Somali woman candidate"

-- kind of like being impressed by a kid pissing in the pineapple juice.

Tuesday’s election is the kind of things kids are going to read about in books long into the future, well after men like you and I have been forgotten.

For once, Gary, this story is not about your past. It's not about the last icky thing you did, or the icky thing before that. (Or this one, or this one, or this one; Jesus, Gary, how long is this list?) It’s not even about your recently deleted Facebook post where you compared yourself to Holden Caulfield, a fictional teenage boy in the midst of a psychotic break, then threatened/promised to move out of St. Paul, presumably because you’re spending all your time in a timeshare community. Oh, and something about pronouns, and something Scotch? 

At least you restrained yourself from writing a flirty limerick about the city's beloved refugee, right? (Though you'd probably have to learn her name to use it in a rhyme.) Darn these kids always moving those goalposts!

Let us cast aside these little petty trends like “identity politics” and “intersectionalism!” Let us cease this menace to politics where people who hustle, organize, and connect with their constituents get elected! Let us make money as professional fetishists of illusory Midwestern mores! Let us no longer hear of such irritating words as “privilege” -- it's hard to spell! -- and Gar-bear, speak as capital-m "Men" do, when they hold palaver at Lutheran social gatherings! 

I didn’t grow up in Minnesota, but I grew up on you anyway, Gary. Yours was the most recognizable disembodied radio voice of my childhood, at least after my St. Paul-raised dad and Minneapolis-bred mom bothered to get an FM radio.

For us, a family of expatriate strangers living in the strange land of the American South in the '80s, this weird little radio show, one that culminated with wistful stories about a magical place where all the people were something or other, was a cultural keystone and a shared conspiracy with us, my parents and their kids, doomed to outsiderdom in a small Kentucky town because we didn’t have four generations of Post-Reconstruction ego death embedded in our mitochondria.

Your home-spun (fictional) Minnesota made my folks giggle while wistfully thinking of the good old days, back when my mother's father, a barber, cut heads on Lake & Lyndale in Minneapolis.

At a certain point in my youth, I hit an age where liking what my parents liked became anathema. Maybe that clouds my vision. Your long-running National Success, Gar-dizzle K and the Prairie Bunch Version 2.0 seemed less like nostalgia and more like artifice; not quite a Rockwell painting, and more like Rockwell the rich kid making art based on scenes he never lived. Less of a celebration, more of a put-on, a wealthy man sliding his arms into someone else's shabby coat.

Maybe you can't go (prairie) home again?

I'm reminded of a quote from Thomas Wolfe : “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”

I bet you'd pretend to agree, Gary, though I assume you're not reading this piece. You strike me as a guy too important to expose yourself to anyone or anything new. Many in your generation of capital-M Men have lived (or claimed) that superiority, aided by horse-blinders to block out distractions (like poor people and refugees), at least since they figured out there wasn’t much money in Peace, Love, & Understanding.

Your punishment? Fairly minor, mostly limited to looking creepy or silly as of late, as you’ve slid one greasy statement after another into whatever Walleye-and-Wild-Rice casserole flavored fall from grace has characterized your twilight.

To borrow Thomas Wolfe's phrase, Gary, I think you froze up. The fact that you did so only after becoming unavoidable in your “voice of Minnesota” ubiquity meant you could delude yourself into thinking "forward progress" was whatever you wanted it to be. Demanding everyone else freeze with you.

Were you always like this, Gary? What, in your whole life, ever hurt you? Is it the fear you can't spin yarns ad nauseum about what happened at Social Hour if it takes place at... a mosque? Because that might take learning, changing, and moving forward? Thawing out from your freeze?

If you had to face this version of the state you claim to represent, Gary, would you experience Stage Four Cognitive Dissonance while demanding people love your version of “Real Minnesota”... while simultaneously bragging about how you own a home in New York City?

These days we're all one uninvited backrub or filthy little poem away from total public pantsing. Get used to it, Gary.

Charitably, your personal hang-ups may be merely symptomatic of the last days of America’s Most Easily Threatened Generation, do-nothing captains of industry and economy, guys with one foot in the grave and one hand on their own zipper, even if no one's interested what's inside.

Consider this of the whippersnappers -- these youngins who seem to be ruining everything for men like you -- what with smartphones and their Muslim representatives: Maybe they don’t need or want your approval. Maybe their engine is a little less Pete Seeger and a little more Woody Guthrie

Maybe there are truly amazing stories worth telling, like the historic elections Tuesday that happened not just here but across the country, campaigns that ran on hustle, belief, and commitment in the face of a bunch of turkey-necked Chicken Littles shouting from their rotting soapboxes, “there’s a way of doing things and how dare you be different!”

Maybe there’s something of value, something to be learned -- learned by you, Gary -- something you haven’t considered before. Maybe it’s your job to pay attention to them, for once, rather than consuming cultural bandwidth blathering with commentary on your bland takeout order from a restaurant frequented by pale denizens of a certain religion, one you swear you have some good one-liners about.

Or maybe, Gary, there’s just you, the old dog snarling rabidly at new tricks, still wrestling to remain a relevant voice in the face of all that gosh darn change. If so, fine. Gripe about the misguided liberals who voted for someone whose name you can’t be bothered to say; tell us who deserved it more; blame everyone around you for overreacting because you are a Truthbearer like Christ Our Savior and Ronald McDonald rolled into one.

Wave a mighty fist in the air as you unsuccessfully demand that anyone who disagrees get off your lawn. Fight the change you don’t wish to see in the world.

But don’t be surprised if the end result of all that hard work -- your decades trying to freeze the world in its place, just so you don’t have to keep moving -- is the facade breaking down. Don’t be surprised if a quick look behind the curtain you cling to so desperately ends up revealing a place where all the women are smugly judgemental, all the men are condescending, and all the children are busy swiping left, getting their new ideas on, and killing time until, to quote D.H. Lawrence, they can spit in your eye.