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Dear Garrison Keillor, My dear

March 21, 2005 |

Dear Garrison Keillor,
My dear mother was raised in Minnesota and came to Chicago for employment during the Great Depression. She always talked of her Finnish community, which sounded to me like another country. Indeed, whenever a Republican was elected to the White House, she would threaten to leave the United States and go back to Minnesota! My dear late mother also told me about the great St. Urho and I have researched the archives of your radio program for past celebrations of St. Urho's Day on March 16th. Alas! I have found none!!! Don't you admire St. Urho? My mom hinted that Minnesota Swedes, Norweigians, and Finns did not always see eye to eye. Is there some anti-Finn feeling in Lake Wobegon?

Sincerely,
Ruth Kardaras
Chicago

Ruth, I am not anti-Finn — in fact, I attended a big Finn Fest a year or so ago and recited "The Finn Who Would Not Take A Sauna" to about 5000 of them and enjoyed that. It gave me a chance to study Finns a little, though of course many of them had intermarried with other faiths and lost some of their genetic edge. Finns are not like us in some basic way that we keep trying to figure out. We are a German-Scandinavian culture here, which prizes order and selfless service and modesty, and the Finns are Slavic people and have a wild independent streak in them. They are not quite tamed. We admire this and we also fear it. At the moment, the Twin Cities is all enraptured with the Minnesota Orchestra's Finnish music director, Osmo Vanska, who is a self-effacing man (for a conductor) and also a very passionate musician. We can accept a Finnish conductor. When it comes to heart surgery, however, we might prefer a Swede or a Norwegian.

As for St. Urho's Day, I don't observe it for the same reason I don't observe St. Patrick's Day or Bastille Day — I don't belong to those clubs. Those days belong to other people, not me.

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