The arc of history: An open letter to Jay McNamar

I’d hoped to share these thoughts with McNamar in person, but it’s now unclear that he’ll be coming to town today, so I’m sending them instead.

Last week I saw “42” at the movie theatre here in Morris. It’s a powerful portrayal of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey’s breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, an important early step in a historical arc that runs within living memory from the service of blacks in WWII through school desegregation, the Civil Rights Act, and the election of Barack Obama as President.

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice. — Martin Luther King

Growing up in Texas in the 60s & 70s, gays were almost completely invisible, even more invisible than than the black maids that came across from the other side of town in the morning, and disappeared back in the evening. Our son grew up in the 90s and 00s here in Minnesota with numerous openly gay friends; another arc is playing out across the social and political landscape. And like the arc Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson helped bend towards justice, this new arc will play out over time. Just as women eventually won the right to vote, and a black man was elected President, we will eventually decide that the secular, legal idea of marriage is more about love and commitment than it is about gender.

So the question is, what role do you want to play when that movie is made? When our children and grand-children look back at this moment, will they see you on the right side of that arc, or as a supporter of the frightened, shrill, bitter voices that are the contemporary version of those hurling insults at Robinson?

You are our elected leader, and the history books will record your name next to that vote, not mine. You will certainly have to explain your vote in the months to come, but you also have to explain it in the decades hence. As the arc continues to bend, a vote for humanity and inclusion is going to be a lot easier to explain, and probably a lot easier to live with.

I most earnestly urge you to vote in favor of expanding the legal right to marriage, and wish you the best in your deliberations.


Nic McPhee

Related posts

A golden view (& a little history of Minneapolis)

A golden view
A golden view

So I’ve been a pretty good boy while here in Minneapolis, and have left my camera back at the B&B every day, focusing instead on important things like course prep. Yesterday, though, I gave myself one day of photography, focusing on St. Anthony Falls, the Mill District, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theater.

While I was in the Guthrie I made my first trip up to the 9th floor where the Dowling Studio is. The 8th and 9th floors are mostly for education and cutting edge work, and the architect felt that this called for yellow windows to ensure that the people working there always had a "sunny" view. I’m not sure I buy that argument, but I must say that they provide a really amazing view of the city, including this shot back across to the old Mill District and the great Gold Medal Flour sign. So the weird colors here aren’t my doing, and nothing in Photoshop, but are the result of shooting through several inches of yellow-tinted glass.

If you’ve been to the Guthrie, but never been up to the 9th floor, I definitely recommend it. To get there you have to catch an elevator at either the 4th or 5th floor (only staff can use that elevator to go to the 1st floor) and head up to the 9th floor. It’s totally cool to go there, because that’s how you get to the Dowling Studio, which is the third and much smaller theater at the Guthrie. I was there in the mid-to-late-afternoon, and the light was really interesting, but I suspect that it changes quite a lot all through the day.

In all my wandering around I also learned a ton about the origin of Minneapolis (which I’d known almost nothing about). I’d always assumed the Cities were here primarily because of the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, but no! Minneapolis is all about the water power of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall of note on the entire Mississippi River. This initially powered sawmills which sliced up the northern forests into planks, and then drove the amazing flour milling industry that for 50 years made Minneapolis the largest producer of flour in the world.

Most of the old mills are gone, but there’s are bits of a few, including this old General Mills grain elevator and the shell of the adjacent mill that now houses the Mill City Museum.

Fascinating stuff, and a really fun day of taking photos.

Conveniently yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Shoot was

Make a photograph that features a sign of some sort today. Maybe a stop sign. Maybe an information sign. Or an advert.

Hey, I took a lot of photos of signs (many, in fact, of this wonderful Gold Medal Flower sign), so here you are.

Related posts