Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Troubling words in Faribault August 17, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I photographed these words by aiming my cellphone down toward the water and the bottom of a public fountain in Faribault.


WHEN I SAW THE WORDS White gang in a public fountain in Faribault recently, I was troubled. I still am and especially in the light of all that’s happened in this country in the past week.

My intention is not to give a voice to those who hate.

Rather, I feel the need to express my sadness, disappointment and dismay that a message like this was scrawled inside a fountain below a sculpture of town founder Alexander Faribault and a Dakota trading partner. Alexander modeled compassion, kindness and acceptance in his life and work as a fur trader. He did not advocate hatred.

There’s been a shift in our nation that is empowering and emboldening individuals—perhaps like the person who wrote these two words—to spew violence and hatred and bigotry. No place seems immune.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is America in 2017.


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© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “Troubling words in Faribault”

  1. Caryl Larson Says:

    And a President who can’t seem to come down on the correct side. A line has been drawn. There is no gray area!

  2. Kathleen Ahern Says:

    I hear you, Audrey. I am stunned, heartbroken and reeling. It feels surreal and yet, it is real.This is America, 2017? Tears come to my eyes just typing this. Thank you for your post.

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    First let me say that I completely agree with your. It is something that needs to be said, needs to be repeated – and you said it.

    But let me add this, without detracting from your message, let’s put things in perspective.

    I don’t know your experience, but when I was a kid, religion and ethnicity were the dividing lines. In the Twin Cities, the churches still bear the patron saint names of the ethnic groups who sequestered themselves within their walls.

    People talk about race now – but back then, it was religion.

    One of my best friends in kindergarten was black, my parents had no problem with that – until they learned he was Baptist.

    When I was of dating age, “inter-faith” marriage was still a big deal and a lot relationships crashed because of it

    I wanted to raise a point about your earlier post on the young people’s writing of a history of Faribault. They did a great job – but I believe that they missed something that would help us today. Yes, one can find animosity against recent immigrant and yes, much of that has to do with race – but again, look at our past.

    Most of our history was marred by ethnic and religious segregation and antagonism.

    Old farmers around here still talk about the old days when church committees had to “approve” the selling of land to anyone of a “different” ethnicity or God Help Us, a “different” faith.

    Most of that went away during WWII when millions of soldiers and millions of women working in factories were required to put aside their ethnic loyalties…then it still took another twenty years to take full affect.

    So yes, we still need to be cognizant of the ghosts of our past and the Lord of the Flies nature of our human souls – but let’s not lose perspective.

    By realizing how far we have come, the road ahead does not seem so long.

    • Greg, as always, thank you for your thoughtful insights. You are correct, of course, about those past differences among peoples. And, yes, I experienced the same in rural Minnesota. I married a man of another faith and was wary of sharing that info with my dad. I waited until we were engaged and he already liked my husband as an individual. That individual connection can make all the difference.

      Yes, we have come a long ways. But right now I feel like we’re sliding backwards.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        It may seem like we are sliding backwards – but the road is never straight. It has switch-backs and yes, there are times that we discover we have taken the wrong fork and need to back up and get on the right route.

        But society has been changing rapidly for decades and not everyone moves at the same pace – and there are times when the rate of progress overruns the ability of society to absorb it. I am pretty sure this is one of those times.

        It is why democracy was invented, as a self-governing mechanism for change. It is not always pretty on the surface – but down deep, it is beautiful

      • I appreciate your positive outlook, Greg. And, yes, deep down democracy is beautiful.

  4. What is happening so often now in this country is that the voices of the hateful are being heard (and seen) as the voice(s) of the overwhelming majority which is blatantly false and certainly misleading! This, in my opinion, is due to the work of a large portion of our once precious and “Constitutionally” protected media, which is now controlled by greed, ratings, manipulation and a.monopolization of the “holy” entity which was intended to serve the people, not to force-feed them rhetoric and self-serving trash to increase their “bottom line” with the sensationalism of “The Supermarket Tabloids” it is time for the (OUR) media, of all types,to stop covering and providing service to the hateful, of ALL types, under the cloak of “THE NEWS” and let it decompose in its own spoils, devoid of the publicity and the light that they are currently providing to them!

    While I am a firm believer in the power and necessity of ”The Free Press” still, there must be some SELF-restraint and common sense applied to all the areas where the well-being of the people and the nation are at stake! I am not referring to censorship here, but only to the use of a wisdom that is not reliant on political nor financial gain.

    • You make some interesting points. I don’t necessarily agree, but we can choose to disagree.

      I, for one, don’t perceive the hateful voices being that of the majority. And I certainly think this needs to be covered by the media. To do otherwise would be a failure of the media to do its job. We need to be aware and informed, even if we don’t like what we hear, read and see. There has been plenty of negative fall-out to those who spew their messages of hatred. And, yes, you’re right, news stories do give the groups “publicity.” But that PR is certainly not positive.

      • Well Audrey, my point was that the “media”, by giving so (too) much publicity to the hateful, is giving them the appearance and coverage of being the voice of the majority when in reality it is just the opposite. They are (the media) contributing to the “squeaky wheel” theory and as such have become a self-serving entity rather than the voice of the truth that the people expect and deserve!

      • Maybe some media…

        I, for one, don’t feel that those who advocate hate are in the majority just because the media have covered this.

  5. Christina Bliss Says:

    Did you at the time or even now contact the police? I think there are cameras in the area. This is a ticking time bomb and I would be saddened to see people hurt.

  6. ——-Audrey,
    here’s what we can do….

    STAND Up and say NO MORE.

    Be the advocate of the Voiceless. ALWAYS.

    RIGHT is RIGHT/ Wrong is Wrong.


    Pray. God Hears.

    Speak Out.

    Silence KILLS.

    The President has lit this match…
    but we will not let it BURN.

    xxx I believe TOGETHER, we can change the world. BUT not alone.

  7. Don Says:

    The age old battle of good vs. evil. I pray that we can one day all overcome evil and that may take some divine intervention. We need to work on solutions before the day comes when the good Lord says “OK everybody out of the pool” !

  8. I know where you’re coming from, these thoughts are all around us evil intent abounds. Music helps feed it, I think, most people cannot understand the lyrics. It helps turn the minds of many people around, it is very perplexing. I can’t help but think a lot of the music is out to destroy love. Feed hate messages long enough they will be filled with hate. Love gets squeezed out, they don’t go together. I could never understand,we can teach love. Many prefer to show hate, to stand out? Evil will not prevail.

  9. Gunny Says:

    Almost Iowa put it very clear. We all have something that will offend us. I have seen some even offended when I refer to a reference that supports my position! Leland Hoel (Hey, I served aboard the USS Hoel!) makes a good comment. I do not think the music you like Audrey has lyrics such as killing cops and “whitey” or calling women foul words which is done with percussion instruments while the “listener” has their radio turned up to about 4,000 watts and 200 + decibels. The polarization of this country is what scares the Hades out of me! It starts with political affiliation and how people think our government should be run and filters from there. God Bless!

    • “The polarization of this country is what scares the Hades out of me” scares me, too.

      And you’re right about the music. I have my radio tuned to a Twin Cities based Christian radio station. Only at noon do I switch to the local station to hear local and statewide news.

  10. The news has been nothing but upsetting lately and seems to be getting progressively worse. No respect for others but yet demanding respect at the same time

  11. Littlesundog Says:

    I like what Greg had to say here. Generally, I am disappointed in a lot of situations the older I get. I used to have expectations about how people should behave – kindness, respect, caring and love. I’m no Pollyanna, but I would like to think there is good in everyone. Lately, I simply walk away from what I call a cruelty culture. I cannot change anyone or anything, People perpetrating hate and pain is what I see and feel all around. I can only be an example of what is good. Thinking back, this was the way of my grandparents, and people who where older and wiser. They listened, offered gentle words and observations, and asked questions that made me think about my rebellion. These are the people who changed me… helped me see things more deeply – not just from my own selfish and self-absorbed view. It is the interconnectedness of all of us that lends understanding from these experiences. And from understanding comes compassion and love.

    We all want to see Hitler as the devil… to blame him for such an atrocity. We cannot point the finger at one man. We have to look at the bigger picture and have understanding of the people and the times. I tend to see his time of power as a period of change and interconnectedness for people of all nations – how sad that it took so much time for many nations to step forward and to stop the genocide – the killing of millions of people. We see terrorism today and it is another opportunity for nations to pull together to stop the attacks and killings… but it will not come with rioting, screaming and anger. It will not come by separating ourselves and making demands, and shaming each other.

    • Lori, I always appreciate your thoughtful and insightful comments. You possess a wisdom, a kindness, a compassion that moves me to think farther, deeper, higher. Thank you.

      Just the other day I was outside watering plants when a Somali mom and her three daughters walked toward me down the sidewalk. I have seen them pass my home many times, with several boys also along, on their way to a nearby park. I decided to introduce myself. Mom didn’t speak English. But her darling girls did. They were so sweet. I asked them about school and one piped up that she loved to read. That led to additional conversation. It is these one-on-one interactions that connect us, that cause us to see each other as human beings rather than as a race or a religion or an ethnic group. Every single time I’ve reached out to newcomers, I’ve experienced warmth and friendliness.

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