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The Long Way Home

It appears that a political party that once stood for minimal government interference in private lives has decided, now that it has political power in several states and the judiciary, that it needs to be involved in every part of people’s lives, especially the lives of women and anyone who sees the world a bit differently than they do.

Self-proclaimed MAGA adherents are seeking local and state offices to control what books a librarian has available, what subjects’ schools can teach, what the press can report, and what kind of medical care is given.

So much for liberty.

There is an ongoing effort by outsiders to determine what books are available in schools and public libraries. In most cases, these people aren’t readers or writers. Often, they’ve never seen, much less read, the books they want banned.

Librarians are the best people to decide what material should be available. Parents are the best judges of what their children should read. It’s not that hard.

Andrea Junker’s quote applies here: “If you’re afraid that reading a book might change someone’s thinking, then you’re not afraid of books; you’re afraid of thinking.”

Let librarians be librarians.

Too many people want elected officials and judges with little education experience to tell school teachers what to teach. Teachers need the freedom to do what they were trained to do–help prepare young people to be thinking, caring members of modern society.

School boards should set goals and policies and manage budgets. Teachers and administrators should set and implement curriculums.

Last week, I wrote about the need for a free and independent press. A press release from the local hospital board indicated it was looking into filing defamation lawsuits due to a recent spate of unflattering news stories and social media posts. That short release had a chilling effect on a group circulating a petition to change hospital leadership.

Since the founding of this great nation, there has been tension over attempts by government officials and agencies to hamstring the press. It’s even become a ritual at political rallies to “boo and hiss” or worse, when a speaker insults members in the media.

The former police chief for the City of Grand Marais, Tom Billings, acknowledged the futility of attacking the media. “Don’t get into a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel,” he said as he tried more tactfully to influence the local newspaper publisher.

Let journalists be journalists.

Since the demise of Roe vs Wade last year, stories have arisen of pre-teens being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Women are suffering debilitating conditions from failed pregnancies rather than getting the care (what used to be called a D&C) doctors prescribe.

Opponents of the Roe decision argued that it took away the right of states to regulate abortion. Now, they want federal legislation to put a national ban on all abortions, regardless of what the people of a particular state want.

The hypocrisy is jarring.

When I first came to live on the North Shore, I was a 40-year-old capitalist who built a business in an industry that was being deregulated. I saw the benefits of innovation and job creation when elected officials and government bureaucrats stepped away and let business people be business people. (To be clear, I’m not advocating unfettered capitalism.)

Today, these people who have been elected or appointed must learn to step back and let librarians, teachers, the press, and the medical profession innovate to serve the people.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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