This past weekend we were driving south out of St. Paul on West 7th/Hwy 5. As we were passing Fort Snelling, we noticed two lonely souls on the bridge carrying signs. One said: "Take Down Fort Snelling!" and the other: "Fort Snelling - Symbol of American Imperialism." Of course, any Minnesotan worth her salt ought to know the conflicted history behind our former frontier military outpost. It was set up to take this land from its American Indian inhabitants, violently if necessary. In a classic bit of American diplomacy, the government "purchased" land Fort Snelling sits on in exchange for guaranteed annuity payments, which the the tribes would rely on to feed themselves. After the military officers in charge failed to make the payments - uttering the famous words, "Let them eat grass..." - a battle ensued, which the tribes lost handily. It was a tragic and despicable chapter in our state's history.
My first thoughts, though, were of the two protesters. In my cynical way, I derided them as fools. This symbol of "American imperialism" is nothing but a museum, a relic of events ocurring a sesquicentennial ago. Yet, reflecting on the lives lost, and the savage treatment human beings were afforded at our own government's hands on soil just a mile or two from where I live, I can't help but wonder if they are to be admired. Some force drove those two people to stand out on a bridge, hold up signs decrying a national and state monument, and advocate for a cause that stands absolutely no chance of going anywhere. They achieved nothing but the inhalation of far too many gas fumes. I simply do not have the passion and wherewithal to face such fruitless and debilitating efforts. Yet, those two people managed to get me to look farther into the history of Fort Snelling than I had before. They managed to make their position stick in my head long enough for me to blog about it. So who, exactly, is the fool here? The protesters or me? Did they, in fact, accomplish an objective?