MOORHEAD, Minn. — Greetings from the east side of the Red River, land of high taxes and an NFL team that broke your grandfather's heart long before it'll break your great-grandchildren's.

North Dakotans seem to like us, though, judging by the number who spend their summers on Minnesota lakes.

Minnesota takes a bad rap from their neighbors, particularly those west of the Red River Valley, because there's a belief the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the Land of 5 Million Commies. That's mostly based on the fact Minnesota has a vibrant two-party system that allows citizens who have no desire to French kiss Donald Trump to hold public office.

It makes for interesting politics, as the coronavirus pandemic has illustrated.

Take for instance, the statewide mask mandate put in place by DFL Gov. Tim Walz. It's a step North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum refuses to take because it's not holistic enough or something.

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Republicans are sure this assault on personal freedom and liberty will be the undoing of the godless socialist DFL and their "King Walz." Their North Dakota brethren point to the alleged mess in Minnesota as a reason to avoid a mask mandate.

Except, you know, for the fact that there is no mess. Minnesotans are mostly just going about their business and showing their usual kindness to one another whether they agree with Walz or not, whether they actually wear a mask or not.

Freedom and liberty, meanwhile, are doing fine.

Minnesota's per-capita COVID numbers are far below those in maskless North Dakota. The rise in Minnesota cases recently has been widespread in many rural counties, where mask-wearing is far less popular, and attention to protocols far more lax.

Strange. It's almost as if the belly-aching and warning of upheaval over Walz's mandate is performative talk-radio B.S., meant to stir up anger, obstinance and ignorance.

A funny thing happens when you get out of the political activism bubble and wander around parts of Minnesota, as I have the last couple of months.

The populace, even in areas that will vote Republican by 65%, are not frothing at the mouth about their freedom being pinched, or taking to the streets with pitchforks in hand.

No, they mostly are going about their business just as they normally would — except that when they walk into a store they put on a mask and take it off when they walk out.

I've seen it, whether it's in a grocery store in Emily or a Dairy Queen in Perham. A pizza shop in Crosslake or a convenience store in Pelican Rapids. A Target in Moorhead or a shop at Itasca State Park. A butcher shop in Amor or a coffee shop in Maple Grove.

Some people, unfortunately, refuse to wear a mask. But many do. In some areas most do.

And everybody gets along.

In places such as businesses that require it, everybody wears a mask.

And everybody gets along.

Boring, huh?

It's far from perfect, but Minnesota's mask mandate helped.

And the pitchforks and torches that were supposed to come with it? Fantasy.

Readers can reach columnist Mike McFeely at or (701) 451-5655