The upstart movement to rebrand Minnesota capital of the "North" got a thumbs down earlier this month when the Chicago Tribune mocked its Midwestern neighbors for wanting "their own geographical and cultural identity."
"People up in Minnesota have a reputation for being nice, so we had no idea they resent us so much down here," wrote the paper's editorial board. "... They're talking about leaving the Midwest."
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The opinion piece was prompted by last November's public discussion at the Walker Art Center titled, "Midwest? The Past, Present and Future of Minnesota's Identity."
During the forum as a panel explored the state's historical identity, the question was posed whether or not Minnesota should position itself as part of a new region.
Panelist Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, offered up the idea that Minnesota would benefit from a cultural secession from the Midwest.
"We should stop being embarrassed about being in a cold climate," said Fisher. "It's a huge strength of ours. In places where there's adversity, it tends to fuel innovation because it just takes more to thrive. There's a 'North' culture here, and we should claim that."
But the editorial folks at the Tribune obviously felt this was stretch.
"To these Minnesotans," the editorial read, "'Midwest' means cornfields and cities spread from Columbus, Ohio, to Kansas City. The term doesn't focus attention on Minnesota's coldweather, outdoorsy culture or Nordic ties. And, they note, there's an opening on the map: The country has an East, West, South and Midwest, but no North."
The idea of concocting a new part of the country, the paper added, is a "terrible idea" because "geographic terms, like most nicknames, aren't easy to popularize. They are more likely to be imposed by others than self declared."
Fisher read the editorial and laughs it off. He doesn't see anything wrong with wanting to give the vast expanse of the country -- from halfway into Wisconsin to parts west -- its cultural due. Minnesota is its logical hub.
"This area," says Fisher, "has long been considered fly-over territory to the rest of the country. Like Helsinki or Copenhagen in northern Europe, Minnesota has distinct differences that makes it unique.... The United States deserves a 'North.'"
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