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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Christopherson column: If Paul and Babe are OK with it, you should be, too

  • Go ahead and be bothered, but are you offended enough to announce that you're offended?
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  • Think about the size of the money mountain you'd be perched upon if you had a dollar for every time in your life you've uttered the phrase, or heard someone utter the phrase, "I don't care."
    Now, think about how rich you'd be if you had a dollar for every time you or someone around you has said, "I don't care" when, in reality, you and everyone else that's ever said it actually does care.
    Usually, when we announce to someone else that we don't care, it's not because we're aloof or overly non-committal, it's just that we'd prefer to avoid a confrontation. Or maybe we're just too lazy to get into a debate, or too afraid to displease others. "Hey, if you're in the mood for Mexican food, then let's go Mexican. I don't care," we might say, when deep down we've been craving pasta all day long.
    It's just not worth it, we more often than not conclude, to say we'd prefer a Sopranos-style Italian feast, even though it's human nature to not enjoy something as much when we know the people around us aren't enjoying it nearly as much as we are.
    It's OK to care. It's OK to have an opinion and voice it. Don't get all crazy about it and make everyone want to torture a voodoo doll in your likeness, but if you go through your whole life publicly proclaiming that you don't care – to the point where people actually start making jokes comparing you to Switzerland – do you think that on your death bed you're somehow going to have an opportunity to suddenly blurt out the fact that, yes, you indeed did care about a lot of things? It's a little late by then, right?
    Just don't be easily offended. Or, if you are often offended by things, don't be so quick to tell the world how offended you are. The same goes for being embarrassed. Really...you're actually embarrassed? You're embarrassed enough to publicly announce that you're embarrassed?
    This is, of course, in reference to Minnesota's own mythic legend, Paul Bunyan the lumberjack and his trusty blue ox, Babe. The most famous statues of the two iconic figures stand on the shores of Lake Bemidji, and over in that city 85 miles east of Crookston that's oh-so fortunate to be situated on a lake amid beautiful forests and resorts, some people are offended because the people charged with marketing MNsure, Minnesota's new health insurance exchange, are using Paul Bunyan and Babe to do so.
    The initial batch of commercials features the statues; specifically, they feature Babe looking on as the mighty Bunyan finds himself in various predicaments that would typically require a hospital visit. In one commercial, the Bunyan statue gets in a water-skiiing accident; in another, woodpeckers are attacking his head. The $9 million campaign is entitled, "Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Reasons to Get Health Insurance."
    Page 2 of 2 - And it's offensive.
    "I think they're offensive, some of them, and I think they're inappropriate," Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht said of the Paul and Babe commercials in a news story last week.
    Bemidji Chamber of Commerce President Lori Paris feels the same, calling the commercials "foolish."
    To her credit, Albrecht said she hopes something positive comes of the commercials, but then she adds that, while those who don't call Bemidji home probably think it's all good and fun, Bemidji residents should take it "a little bit more personally."
    No, you shouldn't. You should be happy to have breath in your lungs. You should be happy you live in Bemidji, a city home to around 15,000, and yet if a casual passer-through didn't see the population sign, he'd swear you were home to 50,000 people. Be happy with what you have, including your Paul and Babe statues, even if seeing a commercial with Paul's head smashed into a wall at a bowling alley makes you cringe.
    Life's too short to be easily offended or embarrassed all the time, and then waste more time by making sure as many people as possible know how offended and embarrassed you are.
    By all means, care about things, and don't be shy about telling others how much you care about things. Love some things, like some things, tolerate some things and, yes, despise things. When you're particularly upset or even angry, feel free to speak up.
    But when you think, yet again, that you're offended or embarrassed by something, think twice. Are you really? It's Paul and Babe...they're statues. Do your best to roll with this one, and save your energy for more meaningful battles down the road.
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