In praise of Republicans, Part 2

My May 30, 2012, column from the Mille Lacs Messenger.

In part one of this column, written back in 2000, I shocked friend and foe alike by praising Dick Cheney, who had recently named himself George W. Bush’s running mate.

I recall seeing him on one of the Sunday talk shows and wishing liberals were as unashamed of their principles and as straightforward in their communication as Cheney was.

Although I regret saying anything positive about a man rightly compared to Lord Voldemort for his role in leading the nation into war and the economy into the toilet, I stand by my observation.

Love him or hate him, Cheney is a man of principle — even though I find his principles ranging from absurd to abhorrent.

I will now praise local Republicans for sticking to their principles when many in their party were abandoning theirs by voting in favor of the Vikings stadium proposal.

I have mixed feelings about public financing for the stadium. On one hand, I would like the Vikings to leave so I can stop having my heart broken. On the other hand, I’d be worried about an angry mob of 50,000 grown men in purple jerseys and blond braids with nothing to do on Sunday afternoons.

No matter how I try, though, I can’t see funneling 500 million tax dollars into a single private enterprise. In a sane society, that wouldn’t be an option, but in 21st Century America, it’s become a necessity for communities with professional sports teams.

The far left and far right agree that it’s wrong to subsidize a billionaire with tax dollars, but for different reasons. On the right, they don’t want tax increases for anything. On the left, they don’t mind a tax increase now and then, but not to allow a billionaire to make another billion.

The moderates in both parties chucked principle out the window to pander to a corporation and its legion of helmeted supporters in face paint.

But local Republicans, to their credit, stuck to their principles. District 16 Senator Dave Brown, District 16A Rep. Sondra Erickson, District 12 Senator Paul Gazelka, District 3B Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick and District 8B Rep. Roger Crawford all voted against the stadium proposal, demonstrating the integrity to walk their conservative talk.

Anyone Republican who voted for the measure no longer has the right to call himself or herself a small government conservative — although I’m certain many who voted for it will campaign as such.

And finally, a nod to Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack for introducing legislation that would get the feds’ fingers out of Mille Lacs. When the Coast Guard started making noise last year about licensing fishing guides, the resort and angling communities rightly balked. It might’ve made sense to consider Mille Lacs a navigable commercial waterway 100 years ago, but not anymore.

Was his opening-day press conference a bit of a publicity stunt? Sure, but that’s what politicians do.

Did his news release contain some exaggerations and inaccuracies? Well, yeah, like the statement that most fishing guides are college students.

Bottom line, though, is that it’s complicated enough around here with different tribal and state rules regarding the walleye harvest. The specter of yet another government getting involved unnecessarily in an industry that’s adequately regulated by the state makes no sense at all.

I happen to think Chip should move to New Hampshire with his family and run for office there, but until then, he should keep initiating common sense legislation as he did at Mille Lacs.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

As the world turns, so does the church

My column from the May 23, 2012, Mille Lacs Messenger.

When my parents were kids in the Swedish evangelical subcultures of Chicago and Rockford, Illinois, the list of taboos was extensive.

Drinking and premarital sex were at the top, but also forbidden were dancing, moviegoing, working on Sundays, and any form of gambling. My dad’s Uncle Dan was forced out of the church because he owned a bowling alley that was open on Sundays.

Go back a few decades before Mom and Dad were kids, and many Christians accepted slavery, finding support for their views in the Bible.

During my evangelical childhood, it was common for Christians to oppose interracial marriage.

Divorced people were either driven from the church or made so uncomfortable that they left on their own.

Rock and roll was frowned upon, and you never would’ve seen drums in church like you do now.

Homosexuality wasn’t explicitly prohibited because it wasn’t even acknowledged or discussed. If it had been, most would have agreed it was wrong.

In 1981, when I started attending a Methodist college in Seattle, we had to sign a “lifestyle statement” promising to abstain from drinking, smoking and premarital sex. The next year, when I transferred to Bethel College in St. Paul, the list included dancing and indiscriminate card playing.

I’m happy to report that Bethel students no longer have to promise not to dance or play cards in order to be accepted. Students and faculty can even drink now, under certain circumstances.

While evangelical Christians have changed their attitudes toward dancing, drinking and divorce since I was a kid, they continue to argue that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful.

My alma mater’s “covenant for life together” still states that sex is only acceptable in monogamous, heterosexual relationships.

In 2004, when I was interim editor at the Messenger, I wrote a column predicting that the country as a whole — and even conservative Christians — would eventually come around to acceptance of homosexuality and some form of civil unions.

Because I had seen how dramatically Christian attitudes had changed since I was a kid, I was convinced homosexuality would be the next example of the church following the lead of the secular world.

I never imagined that public opinion would change so quickly. Support of gay marriage has risen from 25 percent in 1996 to 50 percent today, and it appears to be picking up steam.

In 2004, Republicans used anti-gay-marriage amendments to get out the vote for George W. Bush, and it probably helped him win reelection. This year, the same strategy may have the opposite effect for Republicans.

No one argues today that the Bible advocates slavery or prohibits card playing. In 100 years, or possibly sooner, no one will argue that the Bible prohibits homosexuality or gay marriage.

The so-called “Minnesota Marriage Amendment” on the ballot this fall would temporarily enshrine discrimination in our state’s Constitution.

Even if it passes, it will likely be overturned in a few years, so instead of drawing a line in the sand that will soon be erased, I encourage you to make your grandchildren proud by voting against the amendment.

In 100 years, Christians will look back and thank God for changing our minds — and thank you for changing yours.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.y

And another thing

“perhaps the sweetest and most compassionate Anderson has ever made.” Are music and film reviews the worst writing in the world? Perhaps? Perhaps they are. If you think it’s the sweetest and most compassionate movie he’s made, then come out and say so! PERHAPS you should stop hedging!

Toothache and word rage

This sentence momentarily took my mind off the fact that I am experiencing the worst pain of my life, in the form of a toothache. If I suck on ice, it abates for a few minutes, then comes back even stronger. Diane is now trying to track down a narcotic for me, which I am loathe to take.
Anyway, here is the distracting sentence: “Sam and Suzy (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, respectively)”? I mean, if you list the characters in opposite order of the actors, then you’re an idiot, and if you’re not an idiot, and you don’t think your reader is, then you don’t need “respectively.” Hack.
Orwell: If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Last Baby Boomer vs. first Gen X’er

My column from the May 16, 2012, Mille Lacs Messenger:

I realized recently why I can’t relate to the younger generations — meaning anyone under 49: I find their high self esteem incredibly boring.

All the interesting people I’ve known have spent life compensating for feelings of inadequacy.

Opinions about the end of the Baby Boom vary. Some say it was 1962. Others 1964. I was born Jan. 4, 1963. Rob Passons, my lifelong albatross, was born Dec. 31, 1963.

Here’s the main difference between Rob and me: No matter how hard I work, how awesome I am, how brilliantly I shine, I feel deep down like I will never measure up, that I am a fraud and an embarrassment to my species. No matter how often Rob underachieves or how spectacularly he fails, he thinks he’s as handsome as James Dean, as interesting as Hunter S. Thompson, and as lovable as a week-old labradoodle.

In other words, I am the last Baby Boomer and he the first Generation X’er.

Everyone younger than I am believes they are special, that they can accomplish anything they want, and that they are deserving of affection.

To anyone raised before the hippies took over elementary education, this sense of entitlement and innate worth is not only mystifying but annoying.

Sorry kids, but you haven’t really accomplished anything, unless you count all the new ways to waste time and burn fossil fuels. I’ll give you this: Your thumbs are very coordinated and you have an impressive selection of apps on your impressive collection of plastic rectangles.

We boomers never saw the point in video games or MTV, but we could fashion a toy bow and arrow from a lilac bush and a shoelace. You X’ers can’t go back to nature because you’ve never been there. You never cared for camping because it meant time away from your gadgets.

We boomers had to delay gratification. We waited for the bus (no ride from Mom), the mailman, the ice cream truck, summer (no trip to Mexico), and “till your father gets home!”

Space Invaders cost a quarter, so we had to save our money. No pill could cure our anxiety or depression, so we dealt with it. If we missed a good movie in the theater, we waited years for it to show up on TV.

We can’t program a VCR (or a satellite dish), but we don’t need to. There’s nothing so important that we can’t miss it, and nothing so compelling that we need to watch it over and over again.

To us boomers, there is Truth with a capital T and a universal moral code we will never live up to. To you X’ers, what’s true for you is not what’s true for me. Nothing is sacred except irony.

I’m still disappointed that my flower-child older siblings cashed in their counterculture for a minivan. X’ers find their idealism laughable and their materialism laudable.

We boomers know what it’s like to get a lickin’ from Dad. You X’ers know what it’s like to have a heart-to-heart talk with him.

My parents remembered the Great Depression and Hitler. My mom was Rosie the Riveter and my dad was GI Joe. They never listened to rock and roll or talked about their feelings.

Your parents came of age during the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the TV, not the radio, was the focal point of the living room. They were rebels without causes watching Ed Sullivan and drinking soda pop.

My peers, parents and grandparents shared the same philosophy that had served humanity since the days of Solomon: Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Not only are you not entitled; you are undeserving. So if you ever get anywhere in life, consider yourself lucky, and try not to screw it up.

Ah, the good old days, when everyone was as miserable as I am.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

Good weekend

1. Built a raised bed
2. went for a short jog
3. Went grocery shopping
4. Filled raised bed with good well-rotted horse manure.
5. Made a beautiful new pile of the horse manure that piled up over the winter.
6. started planning summer vacation
7. Had a couple Summits
8. Got the tractor started
9. Ate a sloppy joe and some potato chips
10. Sat in the hot tub
11. Signed up for Netflix and watched a movie.
12. Made popcorn

1. Ate eggs from my chickens
2. Planned summer vacation
3. Read my cheesy historical novel
4. Went to “Chimpanzee”
5. Went on a longer jog
6. Fixed the tractor
7. Sat in the hot tub again
8. Listened to a record
9. Went to Caribou and wrote a column
10. Visited with my mom
11. Played basketball with Leif
12. Blogged