Taking the starch out of me

My last post resulted in my Buddy, oft mentioned in this blog, sending me a teasing but nonetheless serious question. To paraphrase he asked, if we can’t get any money back why pursue figuring out where it went if it will cost us money to do so.

I roughed together an instant reply but so roughly late last night I did not have the starch to give a reply its due. This morning I began working on it and found myself getting long winded with a long ways to go when the grandsons woke up and needed breakfast. I had to play Bear cave with the little one.

I didn’t have time to return to the treatise after the cave because I had a funeral to attend for Jim Gustafson a long time friend and former State Senator from Duluth. My daughter was singing for his funeral and that seemed right. Jim used to grade me whenever I led the singing at the Glen Avon Men’s group. Mostly I got B’s.

When I returned home, rather than attend the dinner following the funeral, I made the mistake of fixing myself three pieces of toast. This followed a couple slices early in the morning. As noon rolled on I found myself lethargic, I now suppose from an excess of carbohydrates. I was quite disgusted with my lack of vigour. That changed at about 4 when I decided to buy some joint compound and a piece of sheet rock to begin the repair of one half of my garage. I first ordered a turkey wrap at Arby’s and by the time I was at the hardware store my pep had returned.

But a series of recent political conversations overtook my thoughts on my Buddy’s big question. So, I’m going to ruminate instead.

A couple thoughts on Jim. Everyone at the funeral talked about his smile and his infectious good humor. They mentioned his predilection for “crossing the aisle.” That’s shorthand for bipartisanship. He wanted to hammer out solutions not hang on tired dogma and perpetual infighting. I told someone leaving the funeral that he was my kind of politician. An old white guy who just wanted to get things done sensibly without any fuss. Actually the old white guy stuff wasn’t all that important to me. Since I’m one now myself that part is just self deprecation.

I have been aware over the past couple years that Jim didn’t think I was all that reasonable in my fight against the Red Plan. And yet that seems to have moderated as my predictions came true. Jim the old Chamber of Commerce guy eased up on me and even gave me a nice contribution when I ran for the Board last year. One of the things that most impressed me about Jim was a political remark he made to me years ago when I mentioned “death taxes” the Republican’s new name for Estate Taxes. He loathed the fight to end estate taxes. He made a cutting remark about the desire of wealthy people to pass on all their wealth to their children. He started his own anti tax organization a quarter century ago but he was not an ideologue. He just resented the idea of America becoming an aristocracy.

This was my second funeral in a week. The first was for Tom Agnew who rechristened himself Tom Allnew after the most bruising political fight I have ever witnessed in Duluth. Someday what happened to Tom could end up the prologue of a book I’ve been meaning to write for the last eight years. Some of the same folks were at his much smaller funeral. Unlike Jim the City turned its back on him. Tom has always been my cautionary tale about flaming out because of a good cause gone off the rails.

The next conversation was at the Post Office after the funeral and before that sandwich wrap revived me. I was waiting to hand over the keys to the Johnston Defense Fund PO box to an anti-red plan ally. This ally was once in the Republican Party with me but she left it because it was too moderate as I left it because it had become too strident and ideological. I am a pragmatist. Today’s foe is tomorrow’s ally. Its a rule that too many of my fellow school board members have failed to grasp. As Jim Gustafson would have known under our chests we all share a beating heart. Our conversation stopped with her pronouncement that my church had stopped teaching scripture. I smiled and told her that this is where we would best end the discussion. A similar conversation took place at the hardware store. Another long time Republican who had been at Jim’s funeral saw me and we had a brief pleasant conversation. I told him I had missed me and he told me that it was because I was busy putting up folding chairs for the overflow crowd.

Like the earlier conversation I changed subjects after he pointedly said Obama was ruining America. “Spoken like a true partisan,” I smiled. Oh that not partisan he defended himself. Its what Democrats are saying. I switched to the Red Plan and he said he was going to be paying a thousand dollars a year for twenty years as his contribution to the fiasco. He commended me for raising a little hell.

Raising hell isn’t what I had in mind. Abe Lincoln didn’t plan to preside over the death of half a million of his countrymen. But he had a principle to live for, the union and he did not back down. Eventually union was eclipsed by an affirmation that the nation’s guiding spirit was the Declaration of Independence with its call for the equality of all mankind. The right to vote may fall a little short of equal rights but somewhere in the wreckage of the Red Plan is a plea for one school system which offers all our children equal educational opportunities. This is a pragmatic conclusion on my part but it is also one of justice that a reasonable man like Jim Gustafson would have embraced.

And here’s another conversation. As I have been digging through my attic I’ve uncovered a great many mementos. One was a clipping of the first story about me after my initial election to the Duluth School Board in 1996. It was a humorous piece written by Dominic Papatola before he was scooped up to become the big Art’s reporter and columnist for the Twin Cities. I gave it to Art Johnson last week when we met to discuss our own political troubles. Dominic concludes his story by quoting me saying that I was beginning to think I might have a political future in Duluth, this after umpteen election losses and that I always thought of myself as the most reasonable fellow I knew. I still think the last half of that analysis has merit.

Finally, as I was helping direct funeral attendees to parking places I spoke with a friend who told me that Mike Miernicki seems to have withdrawn from the world. He has evidently resigned from the golfing group that he belonged to for which he canceled a meeting with me in favor of a golf outing. I’m thinking about Jim Gustafson crossing aisles. I’m thinking about Abe Lincoln and unconditional surrender. What should the most reasonable guy do? Beat’s me. I’ll take it day by day.

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