MOORHEAD, Minn. — It's popular in some parts of Greater Minnesota to look at the Twin Cities with derision these days, to sneer when reading about their cores being ghost towns or hearing about increased crime.
"Serves 'em right," I've heard. "It's like a Third World country down there."
Never has the gulf between urban America and rural America been so great and that holds true in Minnesota, too. Minneapolis and St. Paul seem a universe away in every way — demographically, culturally, politically.
So when the COVID pandemic crushed Minneapolis-St. Paul and social unrest following the death of George Floyd led to protests and riots, there were plenty in Minnesota who saw the images on TV and vowed to never set foot in the Cities again.
It hasn't helped that state Republicans have politicized the riots.
It's all so unfortunate. And so wrong.
Minnesota, every corner of it, needs Minneapolis and St. Paul not only to survive, but to come out the other side thriving.
"As a strong Greater Minnesota makes for a stronger St. Paul and Minneapolis, a strong St. Paul and Minneapolis make for a stronger Minnesota as a whole," said Joe Spencer, leader of the Downtown St. Paul Alliance.
Healthy downtowns in Minneapolis and St. Paul are critical to the state. They draw hundreds of thousands of workers each day and millions of visitors each year. They are home to professional and major college sports as well as world-class arts. They attract major concerts and serve as the entertainment hub of the state.
They are part of the fabric of the state, just like the lakes and northwoods.
It's been a tough eight months, with more tough months ahead. Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, says it might be until next summer until things return to normal.
"Our city went through a trauma," Cramer said. "Sometimes in our family lives we go through trauma and, in those situations, you have to give it time. That's how things heal and get better. We need some time."
And people. They need the workers and sports fans to return, which in turn will fill the restaurants and bars, which in turn will bring back the energy so many in Minnesota crave.
Going to a Twins game at Target Field or a Wild game at the Xcel Energy Center or a Broadway show at the Orpheum or Ordway theaters are experiences we need.
"We're all going to be busting at the seams to get out of living rooms," Spencer said. "When we can do so safely, all of the things that make a downtown special are going to be here. I think it's human nature to want to gather together to cheer on your team and then go get a hamburger and a beer afterward. That's what makes the downtown of a big city vibrant, and that'll come back when the people come back."
Minnesotans of every ZIP code should be rooting for that to happen as soon as possible. It's good for all.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 451-5655