RON SCHALOW: American Horror Circus Arrival Imminent

So,  the well endowed Mar-a-Lago mermaid is coming to Fargo to scare the immigrants. That’s just perfect. Personally, I can feel an orange gelatin evil in the Force. And I’m not even one of those little green dudes. I’m just happy to know that Mark Hamill has enough cash to get by.

Anyway, the Mar-a-Lago manatee will be in town to fete the rare accomplishments of the junior congressman of North Dakota, the benign blotch under Trump’s left boob and former sex shop window mannequin, Kevin Cramer. Just kidding! Trump will be at Scheels Arena to flap his KFC gravy injected lips about his favorite person. Himself.

And according to reports, Old Bone Spurs is going to tell the cultists about the many occasions he had intentionally wandered into the women’s dressing rooms and leered at naked females at the beauty pageants he owned. Teens included. Just kidding! It’s true, but I guess he’s going to verbally deliver a hagiography of his new best pal and Rob Port’s long lost twin, Kim Jong-un, and brag about their signing of a Denny’s breakfast menu.

Their beady eyes met, they ran to each other through a field of daffodils, and there was a lot of circular dancing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Polka, maybe. We get it. Oh, he’s so smart. He’s so funny. K was so handsome at the mixer. Is he going out with anyone? Oh my, he’s in a fraternity?

Just shut up about Poppin’ Fresh. Nobody here cares about the little screwy haired troll. Besides, he had his frat brothers whacked, so they’re not that close. And North Dakota has more firepower than that evil little bastard buried in our dirt. Plus two Air Force bases that are above ground. Don’t tell Donnie, lest he get some warped ideas.

So, DT, please don’t tell us you HAD to kiss KY jelly belly’s ample ass to keep us from getting nuclearated. Just admit you had a love connection because no great deal-making took place in Singapore. That’s right, we were watching. And we don’t care if you were hungry. A regular-sized Snickers bar isn’t enough for our part of your sordid arrangement. Plus, it’s doubtful they have one.

We, and yes, I do speak for all North Dakotans, want to know about soybeans and the metal our manufacturers need to make big-ass machines, grain bins and horseshoes. You know, the asinine tariffs. Hand hold on your own time.

Someone will write a speech for the great pumpkin and put it on the teleprompter. Probably Stephen Miller, the anti-Christ’s little brother. Rumored. Just kidding! Steph is the real deal.

The words will be written for a fourth-grader because that’s the skill level of our POTUS. But as is his custom, Spanky will get bored, or get tired of the effort involved in reading, and go off on a wild sweaty adventure of lying, score-settling, name-calling, ass-covering, excuses, wild stories and self-back patting.

Maybe he’ll take this gem out for a spin.

While regaling a FOX stiff about his great achievements in Singapore, he simply made up an easily verifiable story about the remains of American soldiers still in North Korea, and their really old parents. Very old.

“We have thousands of people who have asked for that — thousands and thousands of people, so many people asked when I was on the campaign. I would say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have any relationship.’ But they said, ‘When you can, president, we’d love our son to be brought back home — you know, the remains.’”

Trump added the following flourish of bullshit. “I said, ‘Will you do me a favor (to Kim)? The remains of these great fallen heroes, can we do something?’ He agreed to it immediately. It was pretty great.” — CBS Los Angeles

Then, they shared a cheesecake and a small 3-gallon pitcher of melted Hershey Kisses. It was magical. We might even get extra bones. The teeny mass murderer has cornered the human remains market in the hellscape he helped create for his people. And how do they thank KJ? By dying of starvation. Ingrates.

Maybe Clownzilla will tell us about his close relationship with the white nationalists who adore him and other whites, mostly men, who feel like they’re being genocided because all shades of people have lived on this turf over the course of the last 10,000 years, and the less reflective ones make their lives suck, for some reason.

Mr. Trump, they won’t leave and let us have a white ethno-state and we’re sad. These ethno-idiots are the ones who don’t see the flaws in wall technology.

It surely would be a crowd-pleaser if the New York asshole would go into a full white grievance rant. I’m sure Pete Tefft, Fargo’s known activist for white people, as if he’s the only racist in town, will be there.

Tefft has a supporting role in the new documentary, “White Right: Meeting the Enemy.” He didn’t impress anyone with his intellect, since it wasn’t discernable. He and his tiki tot buddies are Trump’s superbase. None but 10 percent of Republicans waiver from Trump’s hip, but these maniacs are nuts.

Speaking of weasels, Rob Port spent the last six years, with steam shooting out all orifices and his brain cell fixated on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. She won an election, and that hurt his feelings. Port permanently resides on Cramer’s lap and has done a 180 on Trump, since flirting with sanity before the 2016 election.

Cramer craves Trump, and Port needs Cramer, so the weasel got in line. Not so long ago, Robbie had strong feelings about dumbo, and the base they share, when he wrote:.

  • “Trump knows exactly how dumb his supporters are, and has manipulated their ignorance to great effect.”
  • “Trump seems content to pander to actual paranoid racists.”
  • “I do not think Trump should win the presidency, however. He’s an embarrassment. He is not fit to lead our country.”

So, Port’s a hypocrite, and if Cramer is a Christian, he’s not a good one. Not if he’s for cruelty to kids, and their families, and not helping people who find themselves as refugees. Neither is a shock. And no, feeding rich people doesn’t count, Kev.

As for Cramer, he’s a secure cowardly vote for anything Trump wishes. That’s all Don sees. Someone to do his bidding. That’s why he’ll waddle onto the stage. He’ll screw Kevin over at some point, just like he has to thousands of others.

Name one thing Kevin has actually done in the past six years besides bitch about pantsuits, and promise to discriminate against anything LGBTQ-related. Fashion tips and bigotry don’t count. I couldn’t think of any accomplishments, so I looked.

Three of Cramer’s bills have become law, and only one of them had any purpose. Rename buildings or make grilled cheese the national sandwich. I sure don’t care, but don’t say you’ve had any impact, Kev.

Cramer once arranged a science committee meeting to prove that Bakken crude doesn’t explode, even though Bakken oil trains were exploding regularly. There are tons of witnesses, photos and video, but the evidence didn’t convince oil boy. Harold Hamm isn’t the finance guy on Kevin’s campaign for the free key rings.

And yes I’m implying exactly what I’m implying.

Cramer didn’t want to run in a tough race for Senate in the first place, and he can’t decide if the people of North Dakota, Harold Hamm or Donald Trump changed his mind. Trump begged him, though. He’s sure of that much.

Scheels Arena is only 2½ miles from my home. It makes me itchy. But surely, the motorcade will come south on Interstate 29 from the airport, so I can extend a finger and take a knee at any point before the botox bomber turns off at 32nd Avenue.

Bonus: Gag reflex tester from the Rolling Stone. You know who said it.

“You know, no men are anywhere. And I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant. And therefore I’m inspecting it … Is everyone OK? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — In Search Of The Phantom Workforce

The governor and the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce are spending $4,000 this month to ask 1,000 businesses what they need to grow and prosper. I wish they’d talked to me first. I know they’re awfully keen to pinch those budgetary pennies. I’d have been happy to tell them for the price of a cup of coffee:

People. North Dakota needs people. Lots of people. Without them, the booming growth curve stalls.

Like their neighbors in Minnesota, North Dakota businesses are feeling the squeeze big time … not for lack of ideas, grit or even sometimes money, but the aching shortage of humans to do actual work. North Dakota Job Service lists 14,400 spots that are wide-open. The director estimates the actual number is significantly larger, since many openings don’t ever make it to the statewide employment listings. Not only that: Economic developers expect the need to not only persist but double in just a few years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department confirms the whole nation is hurting for help. For the first time in the history of statistics, it reports more job openings nationwide than there are unemployed workers to fill them.

What a shortsighted time to close the doors to eager immigrants!

Gov. Doug Burgum cites North Dakota’s undersized workforce as its single biggest barrier to economic growth. “We need a new way of finding solutions to this critical challenge,” he’s told the media. He touts the employer survey as a “unique approach” based on “priorities derived from detailed data and evidence-based research.”

Don’t expect any stunning revelations. The survey — take it yourself at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NDWF2018Survey —will undoubtedly turn up the kind of so-called “insights” that have been ridiculously obvious since at least the 1990s. Back then, economic development professionals were already predicting a shortage of the kind of smart, knowledgeable workers who are in short supply today … as well as a drought of workers with lower levels of skills needed to keep the wheels of our daily lives turning.

We desperately need more warm bodies here in the underpopulated heart of America. “Help wanted” pleas ring out from the Bakken to the Minnesota border — and not only in the slightly urban oases out here on the prairie. A good share issue out in the vast lands dismissed just 25 years ago as desolate Buffalo Commons. Census figures celebrate growth in the largest communities, but their explosive growth is offset by the sobering rest of the story — the rest of the state, where the population is draining away or, at best, static. Plenty of ideas have been sparked to bring life back to the withering. What they need now are willing hands to put to work. Ironically, as small towns shrink, their need for solutions grows — right along with the aching demand for living, breathing humans to make them happen.

Bitter but true: There just aren’t enough home-grown humans here to fill the roaring demand. Isn’t it weird, then, that so many on the pro-business, pro-growth side of the aisle are trying so hard to keep willing — no, desperately eager — workers out?

True, we already recognize some partial solutions. We can ramp up vocational and professional training, targeting the industries starving for that talent. Economic developers and educators have been recommending that since at least the early 1990s. Are we there yet?

But in a labor market as tight as today’s — 2.6 percent unemployment in North Dakota, 3 percent in Minnesota — retraining less-skilled workers, at best, pushes the shortage downward, where it’s already acute. Newly trained and promoted employees leave behind the less well-paid slots where we found them. Those empty positions, not as glamorous but equally essential in their way — will need to be filled, too.

We need workers of all skill levels, top to bottom. Service businesses, retail, food service, manufacturing, farming … they need people, too. If we can’t grow enough of our own, transplants are the only alternative.

Growing our own — well, that’s a long-term strategy. The drift of young Dakotans from their rural roots toward brighter lights is a family tradition. Better opportunities and more attractive communities can bring some of them back. Witness the holiday job fairs that economic developers have been sponsoring over the past 20 years: Snag their attention when they come home from the Big City to visit the folks at Christmas. But success comes by the dozens. Employers are hungry for thousands.

What’s the alternative? Transplants. The governor suggests looking beyond our borders. Perhaps North Dakota can seduce talent from other corners of the U.S. Artisan breweries, hip boutiques and downtown lofts may appeal to some for whom we’re competing. Two challenges make their large-scale recruitment a long shot. The rest of America is on the hunt for those same promising imports. And the good life on the prairie, no matter how chill, is never going to fully mask the bitter pill in the booming banquet of semi-urban goodies: Winter.

But, nevertheless, there’s hope in sight. Let’s look to history, for we’ve been in this spot before.

Hopeful humans follow the scent of opportunity from distant, less blessed shores. They’re the very folks whom the current regime is working so ferociously to drive away.

Immigrants are the heroes of our nation’s past. Each emerging labor gap — the factories, the fields, the intercontinental railroads – has been filled by waves of newcomers in search of better lives. Seldom greeted with open arms, often reviled by those who got here first, we’ve persisted to build the world’s greatest economy.

Yes, “we.” You and I are here today thanks to an endless supply of forebears who left home in search of nothing more than an opportunity to work hard and raise their kids in safety. But talk about shooting yourself in the foot! On the one hand, ICE agents round up, detain and deport undocumented workers right out of the fields and off the packing plant floor. They deport longtime productive citizens and strive to deny the DREAMers, prime young adults who were brought here as children. They’re trying to shrink the numbers of legal immigrants. They’re whipping up blind nationalistic fervor that blames outsiders for all of America’s largely imagined ills.

And then our leaders claim to be shocked — shocked! — by the desperate shortage of labor that’s crippling sectors of our economy.

Immigrants now, as ever, are willing to start at the bottom. Historically, they’ve labored in sweatshops, cleaned houses, worked the line in canneries, hoed beets, slaughtered hogs and built the great railroads. When old Americans didn’t want the work, new Americans did — and do.

America has always counted on the people whom the Statue of Liberty beckons to do the hard work of building a successful nation. Those tired, those poor, those huddled masses yearning to breathe free have bent to the task to earn their keep and support their families. Let’s not kid ourselves: Virtually all of us come from that same tradition. All of my own great-grandparents, less one, crossed borders to get here. Most of them did it freely, since passports and border control were rare before World War I.

All of my great-greats came from elsewhere — Norway, Germany and Canada — with one exception. My maternal grandfather boarded a Norwegian freighter alone at 14 and disembarked in Canada, then walked south along the Red River. In today’s heated parlance, Grandpa was an undocumented, unaccompanied minor.

Talk to some of the new Americans around us now … and listen closely. You’ll hear gratitude for the land of the free, where they can live in peace, educate their kids and labor as hard as humanly possible to build new, safe, productive lives. As immigrants have always been, they’re willing to start with the kinds of lowly tasks that homegrown incumbents often view with disdain.

The governor’s workforce survey will undoubtedly come up with laser-sharp needs and result in erudite recommendations. Yes, let’s empower today’s underemployed North Dakotans and Minnesotans. Let’s get them the education and training they need. (Sorry to ruin the suspense. That’s guaranteed to be the big takeaway.)

But, at the same time, let’s open our doors wide to ambitious, eager transplants who are actually anxious to join us. Let’s welcome them. Let’s offer them a productive path to citizenship, just as our own families achieved not all that long ago.

They’re longing for a fresh start on the ground floor. The jobs are waiting. Why not let them?

RON SCHALOW: When Comes The Last Straw?

Personally, I am unable to speak to very many people, from the moral ground. I won’t put a percentage to it. It might be in the teens. I can usually spot my few lessers, if they still go out in public.

I’m like Trump in that respect. As he said,“I think within the first minute, I’ll know. Just, my touch, my feel — that’s what I do.”

However, I can say with positivity that I have been able to piece together a life that has been monstrously more virtuous than Donald “I Have Only Appeared in 3 Porn Films” Trump has breezed through.

Who knows how many adult films Carp-lips has financed? Who cares, at this point?

I know that the saintly Kevin Cramer has somehow forgiven — or pretended to absolve — the evil-smelling landfill of sins that McTrumpald keeps under a chin. Don can blow up his throat sacs, just like one of those crazy frogs, when startled by a Mexicanish looking hombre, to ward them off.

Cramer also exonerated Will “I Have Only Appeared in more than 3 Windows” Gardner. It’s a handy talent to have, especially for a congressman.

Here’s the part where 90 percent of the readers slap their forehead and think, “Is anyone surprised by any of this?” It’s actually the most typed comment, on all platforms, since the golden scrambled egghead Russianed his way in. “It better pick it up, or I’m off to Amazon.”

And the answer is no. It won’t pick up.

And no flippancy from here forward.

Anyway, I think it may be time to up our standards in this country, since Donald Milhous Trump oozed into office and lowered the bar for everything. How many straws are there? We should be to the last one by now before he takes a wrecking ball to the whole nation.

Of course, Trump will get more straws. But can we agree on the following?

1A. Cage-free children. No children in cages. None, nowhere, for no reason. No children in cages, or confined in warehouses. Is that too much to expect? Is the cruelty really necessary?

I thought it would have been a given. Evidently, I was in error. It’s wrong. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s barbaric and all words synonymous with barbaric. Not original thoughts.

Trump is 100 percent responsible. He tried to blame it on some fictional law the Democrats wrote, forcing him to cage kids. He lied because he’s a liar. Nobody is surprised.

Where’s Kevin with a flaming outrage. He was endorsed by at least one of the right-to-life groups, but I guess infants and toddlers don’t count in the scoring. It’s the same with most North Dakota politicians, who are either on board with caging children or afraid to ruffle the feathers of the peacocks.

Skin color has a lot to do with this.

1B. Separating a young child from his parent(s) is despicable. It’s torture for the youngsters and the parents. Torturous and cruel. Torture. We don’t torture.

2. Leave no one behind. It works for civilians, too. Almost 5,000 Americans died over the course of nine months due to Hurricane Maria and the ineptitude of the racist president.

That’s more than died on 9/11.

That’s more than died from Katrina, when an unengaged and incompetent president, and a clown named Brownie, screwed up royally.

Skin color has a lot to do with this. Puerto Ricans are not Norwegians. White people are preferred by Trump, which makes my skin crawl.

3. Don’t irritate the Canadians.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — What Makes America Great

In the interest of differing viewpoints, Bocephus M. Snodgrass is filling in for Tony J Bender this week.

 

 

Hey folks, Bocephus M. Snodgrass here. The M stands for ‘Murica, just like me.

You know what makes ‘Murica great? ‘Muricans. I’ll tell you one thing, my great-great-great grandpappy didn’t come here from halfway ’round the world just to have a bunch a immigrants ruin everything for the rest of us.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with that NYC lawyer who doesn’t want to be subjected to diversity.

And I suppose you heard what happened in Harvey, Mont.? How those two senoritas were talking Spanish or some other gobbledygook in the convenience store? Tell me, how convenient is it when you can’t understand what folks are sayin’? What if they were plotting to blow up the sheep barn? You know how them Muslins are.

Look, I’m not prejudiced. I like burritos as much as the next guy, but when in Rome, do like the Romans do. Speak American. And then don’t get all lippy with the Border Patrol just because you happened to be born in the U.S. of A. The Border Patrol’s got rights, too, you know.

Every Memorial Day, when I remember how those brave men and women (but mostly men) of the Border Patrol have sacrificed to keep ‘Murica great again, I get a little choked up. I love that 21-gun salute. Because it scares Mexicans. And it keeps the schoolkids on their toes.

Speaking of guns and kids, I’ve had it with all the whining about school shootings. If kids weren’t so busy staring at their cellphones, they’d see the shooters coming. Nobody teaches personal responsibility anymore. You know, had our soldiers been on their phones all the time, we’d have lost in Vietnam.

You know what the real problem is, don’t you? Libtards. They put transgenders in the bathrooms and took Jesus out of the classroom, and he had a pretty good G.P.A., too. I tell you what, you post Jesus or Chuck Norris at the door with an AR-15, and we’ll all feel better. Teachers should be packing heat, too ― the one’s who aren’t Commies, anyway, which come to think of it, would leave us outgunned. For sure, you can’t arm the Spanish teacher.

None of this would have happened if:

A. God didn’t get expelled.

B. Everybody homeschooled.

C. They stopped teaching revisionist history. For instance, the North didn’t win the Civil War. We just ain’t finished, yet.

D. Schools didn’t have so many doors.

E. Everyone would stop being such snowflakes.

F. They taught the Second Commandment in schools: “Thou shalt not take our guns.”

I don’t know what comes after F. I never got a grade lower than that.

People forget what this country was founded on: Guns … Jesus … and Freedom of Speech, except when you’re talking smack about Guns and Jesus. You should read the Consternation of the United States sometime. Maybe you’d learn something.

We have a long way to go, but at least The Precedent has made the NFL great again. He convinced the owners to stand up for America by forcing the players to do the same. Every time a player kneels, an angel weeps. Also when you punt on fourth down with just inches to go.

It all comes down to the principles we hold dear … the freedom to make your employees stand when you want them to, just like the good old days … the freedom to worship the military branch of your choosing … except maybe the Coast Guard. Seriously, Dunkirk had cooler boats.

This is about respecting people in uniform, who sacrificed everything for your right to conform. You know why fighter jets fly over the stadium before game time? Because freedom. Also to keep Colin Kaepernick out. And so Bill Belichick can get pictures of the other team’s game plan.

Players should stand to respect police officers, too, except for black guys who are already on the ground getting tazed because they’ve got a tail light out. Stop resisting.

None of this freedom could be enforced if we didn’t have a strong leader who isn’t afraid to crash your company’s stock price in 280 characters or less. There are two things keeping us free right now ― the NRA and Twitter.

When the president pulls out his Twitter, people wet the bed. That’s power. God Bless America.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Is Lady Liberty Weeping?

The honesty, integrity and diplomacy of the United States of America worldwide is on the line. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” — the name of the agreement that the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China and Russia signed with Iran — is about to be revoked by President Trump.

The plan was approved by the United Nations Security Council. Its purpose was to prevent development of nuclear weapons. There were obviously other considerations as well, but that was the focus when the plan was approved.

It is understood that Iran has lied about its intentions … but lying is certainly nothing new to this country as of late. The fact is, we signed an agreement, and all of our allies say Iran has honored it — including new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Everyone who has spoken about the agreement concedes it’s not perfect. But what is perfect is what it accomplishes. It allows our inspectors access to Iranian nuclear sites at any time and any place without notice. That means the inspectors have unrestricted access to assure nuclear compliance — and they have stated Iran is compliant.

So if the United States withdraws from the deal, that action will represent another turn away from the multilateral diplomacy that underpinned Obama’s foreign policy and has been America’s approach to the world for much of the 20th century.

At a time when strategy is essential, Trump — over the objections of some 60 percent of the country — wants to breach the agreement with Iran, while at the same time trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea.

Why would North Korea enter into a good-faith agreement with our country, given our decision to breach the same type of proposal with Iran?

Perhaps our new secretary of state, in whom I have some confidence, will at the last moment convince the president his idea to breach the agreement is bad. But since it is apparent the president listens to no one but himself, the secretary may run into his first, obvious failure.

By the time you read this article, our country will have either honored its agreement or breached it in bad faith. Our allies have been there for us when we needed them. It’s about time we reciprocate.

It was nice to see the first lady taking steps this week to advance the cause of women and children. The naysayers suggest her comments were crafted from Obama-era speeches. That bothers me not. If someone has said what you want to say, only better, why not use their words? But give them credit.

Melania Trump now has a chance to put her goals to work. As she focuses on the rights of women and children, she will be running right into — and hopefully right over — Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In this era in which advisers and friends of the president are pushing to privatize prisons (with private companies running them rather than state, local and federal agencies), Sessions has just announced that every person who tries to enter this country illegally will be detained and referred to federal prosecutors. He warned that will likely mean separating their children from their parents.

With absolutely no statistics to back him up, the leader of this country brands men, women and children seeking asylum as (in his words) murderers, rapists and the worst their countries can offer. He has said in so many words, “The countries from which the people are fleeing are not sending us their best.”

Actually, they aren’t “sending” us anyone. These individuals are fleeing for their lives — fleeing murder, rape, slavery and oppression along a route that leads through Mexico. Our nation has always been, and should be, open and welcoming to them. Aren’t these the very kinds of people our Statue of Liberty welcomes?

What do the words on Lady Liberty say?

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Amen.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Ernesto

The other day, I met a very nice young man who is immigrating to the U.S.

Let’s just call him Ernesto. Because that’s his name.

I’ve run into him at least a dozen times on the Greenway this summer. We’ve struck up a couple of nice conversations.

He’s getting a little bored. He’s been waiting for his green card so he can go to work in this country. He’s been waiting a year. Oh, and he speaks English. In fact, he teaches it.

Ernesto smiles a lot. It’s infectious.

One day he was wearing a plain, black T-shirt. On the back in large white letters was printed the word LATINO, in the same size and style you’d expect to see the word POLICE written. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve been laughing about it, off and on, ever since. I like people who can make me laugh.

This week in one of the ugliest exchanges I’ve ever seen come out of the White House briefing room, administration advisor Stephen Miller seemed to become seriously unglued when reporter Jim Acosta asked if the administration’s new immigration proposals were in keeping with the spirit of the Emma Lazarus sonnet. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breath free.”  That one.

Using reasoning I’ve been unable to unravel, Miller maintained the poem was “added later” to the base of the Statue of Liberty. I’ve watched the video clip of the briefing a half-dozen times now, and for the life of me I can’t understand what possible difference that would make.

For me, Miller is easily one of the top three most unpleasant people in the White House. If I never lay eyes on him again, that would be fine. On the other hand, I could see Ernesto and me becoming good friends.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Fusion For Caring

Invaluable. That’s the Real Answer, Mr. Commissioner; A Fusion of Smiles, Languages And Colors

No matter how you slice it, surgery is no fun. More to the point, it’s no fun no matter how they need to slice you.

Painful stuff. Recovery is no walk in the park, either. After nearly eight days in recovery at Sanford, I can say this with certainty.

I also can say the people who took care of me are diamonds, immigrants from across the United States and the world, each with a dazzling smile worth a million bucks.

Fusion, Part I

I’ve had daily pain from degeneration of my spine for about five years. Bulging discs, pinched spinal cord, constant pain in my hips and lightning bolts screaming down the backs of my legs. I tried everything, from physical therapy to chiropractic to steroid shots. It all helped a little for a little while but, ultimately, the pain and resulting limitations kept worsening.

The surgical team connected the vertebra above the key problem area to the one below with four screws, then inserted and expanded artificial material between them to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord. Ultimately, the vertebrae will fuse together.

Some issues extended my stay from the expected three to five days to more than a week. That’s a long stretch, but I had some great people helping me through.

Community Pain

I also had lots of time to think. Physical pain was on my mind, certainly, but another kind, too.

It’s the pain and embarrassment I feel as immigrants and refugees are targeted with accusations that they drain resources or burden communities.

One targeter is on the Fargo City Commission, others are in the North Dakota Legislature, and there are many more around the country. They call for an accounting of costs, suggesting “others” take services away from “real Americans.”

Funny thing, though. The targeters never seem very interested in balancing the scales with the value “they” bring to our communities and our country.

Immigrants and refugees work. Hard. They pay taxes. They start businesses. They diversify community identities. They share new customs, foods, music, art and clothing styles. They become citizens. Their children often go on to improve American society. They make us richer.

Oh, yeah. They improve and save lives, too. One day it could be yours.

My experience didn’t open my eyes but made me perceive the persecution of immigrants and refugees more keenly. I use the word persecution purposely; in my mind, the implication that immigrants and refugees cost too much is just that.

Cost and value are the wrong words, anyway.

Invaluable. Now there’s a word that makes the cut.

Fusion, Part II

My caretakers are from the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota. One is an authentic University of Arkansas Razorback, first one I’ve ever met. More than a third hail from around the world — eastern Europe, as well as Canada, Liberia, Nigeria and other countries.

They have melodious accents, a brilliant array of skin colors and command of many languages.

One aide came to the States in his teens, all by himself. He relocated from New Jersey because Fargo “seemed safer” and “isn’t so crazy.” He speaks five languages. I speak one. How about you?

Whether they came from the USA or the other side of the globe, they prepped me for surgery, helped me to the bathroom, refilled daily meds, monitored pain and progress, brought me food, emptied fluids from my surgical wound, made sure I could put my own socks on and walked me up and down the halls. They also got me through some really rough patches.

Their life experiences, expertise and compassion fused into one powerful, international force committed to making me better. They did so without any need for thanks or giving a rip about my skin color, religion or political beliefs.

Capital “U”

I am not unique or special, even though the nurses, aides, doctors, therapists, technicians and everyone else at Sanford made me feel that way.

They’re simply professionals living their lives, doing their jobs and applying their talents where they’re most needed. I happened to be an Everyman who needed it most.

There was no me or they. There was only us, and we made it through those eight days together. Kind of how I’d like to see Us — yes, with a capital “U” — make it through the coming decades and centuries.

The pain I’ve had for years is gone. Turns out recovery really is a walk in the park, or at least up and down my block. Each day, I feel better and go a little farther.

This, thanks to everyone who literally helped get me back on my feet, including “they” and the “others” who are as American, and as invaluable, as I’ll ever be.

RON SCHALOW: Love, American Style

Stan shuffles into the dark bar, stands still for a minute to let his pupils expand, and waits for the blindness to dissipate. Then, without moving, he hollers, “ORV! ARE YOU IN HERE?”

A strange voice answers from the shadows. “Which Orv are you looking for?

“The ornery one.”

“Oh, he’s sitting at the bar.”

Stan shuffles over to the barstools, cane in hand. “Orville, you scamp! Why didn’t you answer when I called out?”

“I was hoping you would go away,” grumbles Orv.

“Have I ever?” chirps Stan.

“No. But you seem to be getting denser by the minute, so it was worth a shot. I’ll keep trying until I get results, or literally throw a shot your way. Hey! Other Orv! Keep your yap shut in the future.”

Stan stares at nothing. “Yeah. I am getting dumber. That’s going to be problem in the future, or I could just run for president. Intelligence doesn’t seem to be a requirement for that gig. And our congressman is an idiot of biblical proportions. Mini Trump is what we kids call the smirking, condescending Cramer bastard.”

“Maybe they’re hitting Donnie too hard with the Adirondack in the morning. They could switch to aluminum, I suppose, but those will leave a dent, too.”

“WHAT?”

“I just assumed that Reince, or one of the other nitwits from F Troop, was giving the president a good whack in the forehead with a baseball bat, first thing in the morning, to jar a few of the remaining neurons into action. They aren’t doing something right, though. Don’s still an embarrassment. Maybe the Priebus feller isn’t strong enough to take a good cut. I think Jose Canseco could be hired for a reasonable price.”

“They need somebody with power to all fields. Good grief. You’ve seen the Trumpbage try to string a few words together. It’s not decodable. Exponential gibberish. He realizes that this is an English-speaking country, for the most part, doesn’t he?”

“Shut up, Stan!”

“Maybe he’s playing his Rosetta Stone English CD’s backward and hearing those hidden messages from Charles Manson they talk about. This is Steve Bannon’s doing, I bet. He’s been in a knife fight with the Jewish son-in-law for access to the Play Dough between the ears of the royal @$$hole.”

“Shut up, Stan!”

“I wonder how many times someone in that putrid environment enviously said, he went to Jared? I think the Kushner kid is running the country, which suits me fine. We could have picked a name out of a hat and been better off than having the fat @$$. He’s not even trying to make sense of all of the details necessary to be the friggen president. Who ever thought that being president would be so time-consuming. He’s going to just BS — and golf — his way through it all, as always.”

“Bartender!” yells Orv. “Fill it to the rim, and keep it there, please.”

“Still on the Smirnoff, I see. A rich dick like you should be sipping Stoli, or some other clear alcohol on the top shelf. I’ll have a Coke, bartender, if you’re interested, after I’ve been hanging onto the bar for balance these last 15 to 45 minutes. I’m not good at time, in the same way you’re not good at bartending. I don’t have as much money as this spud-fed @$$hole, but I can pay, so if you don’t mind.”

“Quit giving the kid a hard time,” grouses Orv, “you lib#&%@ jackass. He does just fine,”

“Not really. Remember when the doofus child decided to launch those Tomahawk missiles into Syria? Seems like it was just last week. Like Trump, the whole exercise was a dud, kind of like this dope behind the bar. I doubt if Trump even knows what he intended to accomplish, or know where Syria is. But the lump of flesh, who I wouldn’t trust to watch grass grow, is in charge, so what are you going to do?”

“He says, we normally don’t hit the runway because they’ll just fill it in the holes. We don’t hit runways? I think we do. What the hell does Trump care, anyway? Can we inconvenience the evil Assad bastard at all? He could just as well of found a blank spot between Cooperstown and Interstate 29 and put a few dozen divots in a potato field, or whatever you guys decide to plant after the ground thaws.”

“Orv, the potato and beet farmer, perks up. “That’s extra stupid, you lib$%@# moron. We don’t need any big holes in our fields!”

“Don’t we Orv? Don’t we? It’s as flat as a pool table around here. A few more duck ponds won’t be a bad thing.”

“Yes they would!” screams Orville. “They would cost somebody a lot of money!”

“Maybe they could send the ducks the bill,” laughs Stan. “Get it, Orv? The bill?”

“Har de har har har.” mocks Orv.

“Evidently, watching the missiles shoot into the night sky was a beautiful sight. At least according to Brian Williams of MSNBC, who appears to be on some excellent mood enhancers. Yes, Brian; the pretty colors were quite groovy, man. MSLSD, dude.”

“Williams is a pinko liar,” grumbles Orv.

“Yeah, he doesn’t seem too bright. I’ll bet he knows more about Hitler than Spicey, though. Gawd!”

“I’m not going to defend that one,” growls Orv. “Quit trying to bait me into an argument.”

“Well, Cramer is defending Spicey, as if getting gassed in cramped quarters is different than breathing in some poison while walking down the street. What a maroon. Yes, they’re technically distinct, but so is comparing Kevin to a smarter lightpost. He’s your boy, Orv.”

“Shut up. I said I won’t be baited into one of your stupid conversations.”
“But that’s why I came here, Mr. Trump supporter. Pick something from the Mar-a-Lago nutcase to defend. The sexual assaults, the lies, the ignorance — should I go on? The list is a mile long. Name something, potato boy!”

“Shut your face, Stan, before I beat you with your own cane.”

“Hah,” snorts Stan. “The jokes on you, chubby dragon breath. Every part of my body already hurts, so you can swing this thing until your soft Trump arms get tired and I won’t even notice.”

“I suppose you enjoyed the pricey bottle rocket show, Orville, you portly hombre. An expensive fireworks display, which this Bashar Assad character may have observed, especially since the master tactician told them beforehand that a few dozen explosive thingys were coming, bigly. The bombs didn’t scare Russia or Iran, either.”

Orville: “You can’t allow anyone to use sarin gas on children. It’s sickening. That’s not obvious to you, lb%&@# freak?”

“Trumpdud didn’t stop anything, and the Syrians have been getting bombed and gassed for years. Trump acted like he wasn’t even aware of the former mayhem. Donnie could do some good, but it’s not in the tangerine man. Maybe he could quit lying about refugees just pouring over our border with no vetting. It’s not true, but it keeps the deep thinkers frightened.”

“We have no control over our borders at all,” yelled Orville.

“Baloney. And maybe Trump could quit lying about it being impossible to vet a Syrian citizen.”

“That’s true, you liberal yutz. How can you tell anything about these people? Orville takes a big gulp, and the bartender tops off his glass. Orv is a big tipper.

Stan explodes. “That’s a friggin lie. The Syrians keep accurate and thorough records. They’re an ancient people who figured out a few things eons before North Dakota was even given lines on a map.”

“The best thing the Trumpweasel could do, if he really cares about the children, is let them come here. Orphans and those already vetted immediately, and expedite the process for families. That goes for the Syrians and refugees from every other country.”

“Too dangerous. We should just keep bombing at a safe distance. Besides, where are we supposed to put them all?”

Stan counters. “We have nothing but space. Is anyone even using Wyoming? Economists say that an influx of new people will be good for the economy, and it will be good to see the bigots, like you, worked up. Some of you apes are still ticked off about the Irish.”

“They drink too much,” slurs Orv.

“Did you know that Kevin Cramer is Trump’s official golf ball washer, now? It’s Cabinet-level stuff.”

“Put a sock in it, Stan!”

“It’s true. Trump pops a Titleist in Cramer’s mouth, waits while he swooshes it around, and spits out a shiny dimpled orb. It’s the chemicals applied to the grass —- with a dash of lead added to his bottled water — that prevents the congressmen from picking up on the lies, and flip flops, that Trump pumps out by the pound. It’s the media’s fault for reporting everything the president says, according to the fertilizer-fed Cramer.”

“Quit lying, Stan,” yelps Orv. “And lies don’t come in pounds, you commie liberal loon!”

“Seven lies to the pound,” state’s Stan flatly. “I don’t know the metric conversion. So, when are we bombing the crap out of North Korea? Has one of Rob Port’s anonymous sources spilled any military secrets? I know you’re buds with the misleader of Minot. Did he email you any of his creative facts?”

“I don’t have any idea when North Korea gets lit up. How the hell would I know?”

“But you’re loading up on military stocks aren’t you?”

“Mind your own beeswax, you nosey SOB,” grumbles Orv.

“War is good for bidness.”

 

 

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Accenting The Positive

Perfect English? That’s the way you heard it spoken when you were growing up. For those of us lucky enough to live here in the center of the universe, that pretty much means the Scandihoovian-tinged or Deutsch-inflected accents of Minnesota and North Dakota.

Thus the message was plenty clear last week when the owner of Orange Julius, a West Acres fast-food outlet, specified whom he wanted to hire: “We ask that you only apply if you are U.S.-born and speak English as your primary language.”

That little slip is against the law, which forbids hiring based on national origin. The embattled Fargo businessman quickly saw the light, especially when reminded he could face a hefty fine. He assured WDAY he had not intended to “hurt anybody;” he just wanted to “make sure his employees could communicate easily.” (The shopping center, which recognizes that cash is the universal language, promptly issued its own apology.)

An innocent mistake? Maybe … but let’s dig a little deeper. First, you needn’t be born in the U.S. to speak English as your first language. The rest of the English-speaking world comes to mind.

Nor does being born within our borders mean you’re going to sound a lot like we do. Didn’t the movie “Fargo” make that clear enough? Please be advised that the rest of America already thinks we talk kinda funny up in this neck of the woods, doncha know then?

Ah, well. What we’re really talking about, I think, isn’t where a potential orange juicer is born, but how he or she sounds taking orders behind the counter. It’s all about the ears. We’re scared to death to venture beyond the Upper Midwestern accent.

Let’s be honest here. We’re still not used to people who don’t sound local. That’s hardly surprising. In days gone by, the most exotic foreign accents we ran into were by Canadians who said “aboot” and “eh.”

That has changed dramatically in recent years, and it does make us squirm a bit. More and more international experts have been hired to teach in our universities and heal in our hospitals, or build new lives through global resettlement. Still, it’s a good bet that only a scant few rural Dakotans and Minnesotans interact regularly with someone who sounds vastly different. I’m not just talking about Somalian or Malaysian accents, either — how about the patter of the Deep South or the Bronx?

Personally, I avoid both British dramas (sorry, PBS!) and domestic rappers. They just rattle it off faster than my languid country listening can keep up with.

I’m not used to having to concentrate. My ears are lazy. Yours, too?

Big-box bargain-seekers are complaining lately about the rainbow of employees who now staff checkout lanes. Their most frequent gripe is that the cashiers “can’t speak English.” Wrong! They do speak English, sometimes very well … but we haven’t gotten used to the small burst of extra effort it may take to decode them, compared with how the folks next door talk.

Wrapped in our home-grown cultural cocoon, we seldom give a thought to who, really, owns this problem. It couldn’t possibly be “us”, could it — we who’ve lazed along in the rhythms of the Upper Midwest from the time we crawled out of our cradles. So, for sure, it must be “them”! They’ve got to be the problem …

… even when they’re addressing us in what is, in fact, newly learned English.

We take for granted that newcomers will not only master the nouns, verbs and idioms we’ve accumulated over our lifetime but to pronounce them however we do.

When you learn a language, your accent is often the last to be lost. Our own grandparents and great-grandparents would be happy to set us straight, were they still around to explain. People stared at them with the same bafflement back in the 1800s, when they washed over the Upper Midwest in a northern European tidal wave. The “old Americans” — who’d founded these cities — mostly considered them second-class and mocked their dress, habits and thick accents.

Like the Hispanics and Asians who’ve joined us over the past 40 years, and the Kurds, Somalis, Nepalese and more who’ve come more lately, they’ve landed in a culture that doesn’t make much effort to understand. Our current malady could be called Lazy Listener Syndrome: Being forced to actually concentrate on what someone is saying, instead of absorbing it, easy as oxygen, without a second thought.

One of my grandmothers was born to a Norwegian family that settled near Hillsboro, N.D., almost 150 years ago. She read and wrote Norwegian even before her schoolteachers taught her English. The man she’d marry emigrated from near the Arctic Circle, embarked from the cattle boat that brought him (according to family lore), then walked from Ontario to Traill County, where he apprenticed to a blacksmith.

Different time, different place — but the same situation. Picture my bright, eager grandma in primary school, already reading two languages but scolded by her teacher and teased by classmates for her Norwegian brogue. Imagine Grandpa, who’d arrived alone at 14, standing for long, long hours at his forge — chatting easily with Norwegian farmers but never quite fitting in among the city fathers. Can you imagine them wincing at “dumb Norwegian” jokes — amusing now, not quite so much when aimed straight at you.

Grandpa and Grandma’s speech never quite blended with the unblemished Midwestern norm. And so, from the moment their children started school, they never spoke Norwegian in front of them again … except, of course, for content best reserved for adult ears.

My mother — who grew up knowing little more than a few Norwegian swear words — often reminisced, “Ma and Pa wanted their children to be American.” Somehow, I always pictured that in terms of the Stars and Stripes, Sousa marches and crisp salutes on the Fourth of July. It’s taken a good long time to grasp the deeper, more desperate longing embedded in that patriotic dream: To speak without self-consciousness. To talk freely in mixed groups. To be taken for granted as part of “us,” not “them” — no more than that, and no less.

Once, my own family craved the same thing these newcomers long for today — to be able to speak freely, to be understood and to fit in. No matter how much they may love the culture they’ve come from, they want to meld in here and now. They want an ordinary day, an ordinary job, an ordinary classroom, an ordinary trip to the grocery store — the luxury of not standing out.

Some may even aspire to serve up Orange Julius.

We can awaken our own lazy ears … if we’re willing. It can take a little extra effort to decode distinctive accents and rhythms. We may have to ask “what?” more than we think polite. We may have to rattle off our comments a few beats slower and concentrate a little harder.

In the end, though, what counts isn’t accent. It’s attitude. The New Americans among us — international students or refugees, skilled professionals or newly arrived relatives, or simply hard-working families scaling the same mountains our own forebears once had to climb — are already giving their all to conquer our weird, wonderful patchwork American English, along with our sometimes-baffling American ways.

They’re throwing everything they’ve got into talking to us. Why not stretch just a little bit more … and catch it?

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Remembering Anna

This is my Norwegian immigrant grandmother, Anna Vorland (above), photographed by my father on the family farm northeast of Harvey, N.D., in the late 1940s.

She’s been on my mind lately.

Hans and Anna Vorland.
Hans and Anna Vorland.

A few years ago at New York’s Ellis Island, Dorette Kerian and I saw the official record of Anna’s entry into the U.S. with her new husband, Hans.

He had come to North Dakota earlier, established a homestead and then in 1906 returned to Norway to marry her.

Anna was a strong and intelligent woman who lost Hans to an accident in 1930. But she raised the children still at home and kept the land in the family through the Great Depression and its aftermath.

I loved her as only a grandchild can.

When under stress (for example, when shopping in town) she would sometimes revert to a combination of Norwegian and English — what linguists call “patois.” It would annoy her immensely if she wasn’t understood.

Once I heard her mutter to herself, “Can’t they understand English?”

She died in November 1959, in her 80s.

A high school student then, I tried to keep my grief under control at the funeral. But when a woman with a beautiful soprano voice sang a hymn in Norwegian, I cried.

So did many others.