Thursday, July 18, 2024
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The Long Way Home

How to begin? It’s the age of scandal and the worship of false idols. Right?

In my adolescence, and maybe sometime before that, my mother dreamed I’d become a Lutheran pastor. She would have been so happy if I grew old, leading a small congregation in rural Minnesota.

Alas, I shattered her dreams. Not for the first or the last time.

Shunning the clergy, I entered the business of moving freight. An industry where my dad made his living.

There isn’t much of the spiritual in moving freight, an industry driven by steel, rubber, diesel, and cement. The people in that industry, me and Dad included, relied on copious amounts of caffeine, nicotine, and not insignificant amounts of the demon alcohol to keep the country moving.

I do recall the story of Moses from my churching days. He climbed a mountain to get God’s commandments, as he’d been ordered. I even knew those commandments at one time, in order, but I digress.

While old Moses was gone, the people he left at the base of Mount Sinai created and began worshipping a Golden Calf while engaging in debauchery. Moses smashed the tablets of commandments and the golden calf to express his outrage at their behavior.

I’ve learned some lessons from the story of Moses.

First, debauchery, or anything in excess, is not good. Admittedly, that took some time to sink in.

Second, I learned that we have a natural affinity to create and worship false idols.

From the Golden Calf, we evolved to worshipping certain leaders. From the Ceasars of Rome to the kings of Europe and Asia to professional athletes and artists today, we attribute them with a higher spiritual order, almost infallible and godlike.

This lesson took less time to sink than the debauchery one.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been quite skeptical of the Golden Calves made out of politicians and celebrities.

I leave you with the example of two politicians, golden calves of the baby boomer generation. In the interest of bipartisanship, they are from opposing political parties.

First is US Senator Menendez, a Democrat from the great state of New Jersey. Scan-dal has followed Sen. Menendez his entire, lengthy political career. Five years ago, he was acquitted of bribery and corruption charges, and the people of New Jersey re-elected him with a margin of ten percentage points. Now facing new bribery and corruption charges, he lays the blame for his prosecution not on his behavior but on a “witch hunt.” Many of his colleagues on the Democratic side of the Senate urge him to resign his seat.

Then there is former President Trump, a Republican from Florida via New York. Losing by a significant margin in the Electoral College in 2020, he now faces criminal charges in several venues for business fraud, the January 6th capitol riots, and election corruption. In his opinion, as a celebrity, he can do all kinds of things, like shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and grab women’s private parts without consequence. It is not certain that his golden calf days are done because he is perceived to be the nominee of Republicans for the 2024 presidential election.

We will suffer through lengthy press cover-age of the ultimate demise of these two political golden calves.

But history and a cursory study of the Moses story lead me to conclude that more Golden Calves will be built.

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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