Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's All Relative, Part Two

I recently received a care package from home which, at my request, included a copy of the latest edition of Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. I couldn't wait to devour my favorite hometown read especially since it was the special collector's edition dedicated to the 150th birthday of the state of Minnesota. I marveled at the late-1800s photos of flour mills, river projects and women on in long dresses enjoying the winter weather on ice skates. I was proud to belong to a place that had such a long, fascinating history. "We've come so far," I thought; imagining what life was like so long ago. But my bubble of joy and amazement was burst with one little oh-so-true comment by an unimpressed Frenchman. When told about the birthday of Minnesota he replied with a dry, "150 years? That's it?"

His remark reveals an important fact we Americans should never forget. When it comes to history, the French have us beat. Their existence as a separate country dates back to the 9th century. France survived The High Middle Ages, The Black Death, and who knows how many wars with England. There are people in Paris who live in buildings that were built in the 17th century. The Construction of Notre Dame Cathedral, one of France's most recognizable sites, was completed in 1345. Yes, 1345.

Now, 150 years is nothing to laugh at. Minnesotans have accomplished a lot since they officially joined the union in 1858. But say "1858" to a French person and you might as well be saying "yesterday." On the metro this morning, while trying in vain to avoid the bad habit of reading over other people's shoulders, I happened to catch a glance at a newspaper headline that caught my attention. It read, "Mont-St. Michel celebrates its 1300th birthday." Well, Minnesotans, if we want to celebrate that birthday we'd better hope we live to see the year 3158. Yes, 3158.

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