TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — A Country Ruled In Anger

My word for the week is “vindictive.” The word is an adjective that means “one who has a strong and unreasonable desire for revenge.”

This week, the president went off the charts in his desire to seek revenge. He is the first president in history to demand that security clearance be revoked for the intelligence and law enforcement chiefs of former administrations —Republican and Democratic — who dare to say he’s wrong.

First, the people whose clearances he wants canceled are American patriots who have simply pointed out what they believe to be facts about Russia’s actions based upon their personal history, experience and training. Second, several don’t even have security clearances at this time. Third, the president is contemplating (or “has not ruled out,” according to Press Secretary Sanders) also revoking the security clearances of Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama.

Criticism based on the truth isn’t speculation. It is fact. On the other hand, what purpose is served, even if were appropriate, to revoke security clearances, just because you can. These threats make the leader of the free world look weak and uninformed. That’s sad.

Ours is the most powerful nation on Earth. We have undisputed military power. We may be divided politically, but when it comes to patriotism, we are one.

In our American community, the experts acknowledge the Russians interfered in the last federal election and even now continue to do so wherever they find us vulnerable. Our elected leaders in Congress agree that this has been proven. Only the president refuses to acknowledge the interference because he thinks it reflects upon the legitimacy of his election. But wait! He acknowledged it last week — then unacknowledged it a few days later. Now he says it never happened. It’s all, he insists, a witch hunt and a hoax.

Some readers think I don’t respect the president because of his policies. Those folks give me too much credit! From day to day, I have little idea what his actual “policies” may be, other than a few exceptions: 1) separating children from their parents or guardians and putting the kids in holding pens; 2) doing little or no planning to comply with the federal court’s ruling that they must be returned to their parents.

The courts have ordered the government to reunite these children with their families on a timely basis. But as the story developed, we’ve learned that the odd venture proceeded without keeping adequate records to proceed with many of the reunions the judge has ordered.

I’m glad I’m not the judge in this situation. I would be prone to order the arrest of the heads of the departments charged with executing the administration’s policies and not releasing them until the all the children are back in the arms of their parents. I’d also order the government to pay all travel expenses involved in bringing them back together.

Meanwhile, we’re on the verge of a trade war. Imposing tariffs on allies — while not enforcing existing sanctions against Russia — drives a wedge between us and our long-time friends.

None of our top national leaders — not the secretary of defense, the secretary of state nor the intelligence community — have the faintest idea what was said when Putin and Trump met in private. In Moscow, the Russians are bragging about “the agreements reached” in Helsinki. Yet none of our own officials know what they’re talking about.

Given the many state and federal investigations into this administration, it would be prudent as never before to truly have “open government” — no secrets from our leaders and the public. While President Trump has a hand in this, I am more critical of a U.S. Congress that is afraid to act. Our Congress is supposed to be a separate but equal branch of government. Its members have abandoned their responsibilities and the priceless duty of oversight.

This is America. We disagree politically, and that’s not unusual. What is just plain weird is the silence of those we elected to speak up and represent We the People!

While the administration bashes our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, they cannot and do not respond to the lies that are being told. Yet several state criminal investigations continue to dig into the administration’s potential misdeeds. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues and has already generated many indictments. He does not comment, and that’s the way it should be at this stage. It’s too bad those who know better can’t stop their baseless bashing of the investigation.

Remember the years of the endless Benghazi investigation? Remember Congress’s digging into the suspected Clinton email fiasco? Millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours were spent, grabbing endless headlines and fanning baseless speculation. In the end, neither found an evidence at all of unlawful behavior. Now, that was a real “witch hunt.” Amen.

RON SCHALOW: The Traitor, Tariffs And Toddlers

“SHUT UP, Stan, or I’ll do something drastic, you meathead” screams Orville. “Another one, bartender.”

Stan stands by a stool for a minute, to let his eyes adjust to the low bar lighting. He sits and says, “I like where your head’s at, Orv. Preventative attacks never turn out bad. I’ll take your spasm under advisement. How many quarts of Smirnoff have you drained today? Just curious. Say, did you hear that the president is a traitor? He kissed Putin on the lips, and it went downhill from there. I think Vlad might have a case for assault.”

“The black one?”

“I’m not sure what color this Trump fellow is,” answers Stan. “It varies. Coke please. He has a hunk of asbestos on his head, so the dude isn’t up to code. I know that much. His load bearing walls don’t look like they are bearing the load. His chins are causing downward stress. I’m thinking of being outraged, but this president has been giving me spinal taps. It’s strenuously oppressive. Do you give a rip?”

“Not unless it’s the black one,” snorts Orv. “I think I voted for this Trump guy. Everything is fine. Probably made up by lib!#&*s, like you.”

“Could be. The cameras caught him smooching Putin’s bum in high definition, though. There was some outside the pants fondling. Nothing illegal in Finland, evidently. If Trump had dropped his pants, the whole affair wouldn’t have been more shameful. I hope Putin was wearing protection, so he can be poisoned at a later date, when we hate Russia again. A Trump STD. Can you imagine? Superbug city.

“Vlad still gave the big kid a soccer ball after being groped. Little Donnie was delighted and touched by the gesture. His mascara ran like a mountain stream, polluted with precious clean coal mine dust. The trout love it.”

“I told you to shut up, Stan. That stuff never happened.”

“Oh, it happened. There were 8 zillion witnesses. Some vomited in midtreason but were able to keep Saltines down for the replays and got the whole ugly Trump experience. Would you consider Putin to be unconventionally handsome? I need to know.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I have no idea,” admits Stan. “Ugly, maybe. I was hoping you would know. I think Vlad looks like an Idaho russet. A polished one. Maybe a Yukon gold spud. You look like a unconventional sugar beet, past its prime. You know, Orv, I taste gasoline every time you take a sip of vodka. Ethanol, maybe.

“I could handle high octane corn squeezins when I was younger, during the best unremembered years of my life. but not anymore. My liver goes berserk, if alcohol touches my lips. A half-thimble of pot seems to synchronize my innards and help the pain a little. I have to smoke it in Cheney’s bunker, though. It’s inconvenient to my retirement lifestyle, but my gastrointestinal system demands continuity. Believe me.”

“I don’t want to hear about your stupid insides, you loopy pothead. And I was there for your wonder years, you souse.”

“Too late, dude, and former souse. Say, Orv. Did you ever put your kids in cages and make them eat liver? Kennel up, brats.”

“What!” screeches Orville. “Of course not. Why would you ask me such a thing? Bartender. Stay close.”

“Trump still has thousands of kids in cages, and I was wondering if you thought that was a good idea. Personally, I’m against the practice. Kevin Cramer says chain-link fencing can’t be a cage, but that’s an old timey Russian wives tale. You can’t squeeze through those holes. I should know. You just get diced. Only the jaws of life can get a guy out of a chain-link cage. Or some good metal snippers. An acetylene torch might …”

“We don’t put kids in cages, Stan. That’s stupid talk.”

“Well, we do now. Cocoa-tinted ones only as far as I know. It’s in all of the papers. Their parents are kept in another state, so they can’t speak to each other in code. Some say it’s just Spanish, but I can see Trump’s point. Toddlers shouldn’t be exposed to more languages than he knows. I’m not sure he has a handle on the one, for certain. Anyway, Don has no sympathy for short brown people. It could be his motto, or one of his golf course rules. The Aryans don’t feel comfortable around most types with clubs. A two-iron can open up a hell of a crack in a human skull. Take a look at this scar above my √”

Orv gets twitchy. “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Fake news, but if they were Mexican, or the sort, they likely had it coming.”

“Geez, Orv. There’s steam coming off your face. It’s not attractive. Where do you get your news? There’s no reading going on in this light.”

Orv waves his old arm. “From Ed. He’s sitting over there. You can’t see him unless he lights a heater. His Old Spice, mixed with BO, will drop a guy to his knees. He’s very knowledgeable. Ed used to lay bricks, when he could lift things.”

“Ed, huh?”

The bartender butts in. “Now President Trump is saying that everything he said said yesterday in Helsinki, was the opposite of what he actually meant.”

“Of course. The old switcheroo,” sneers Stan. “I should have seen that one coming. I’ve had the old switcheroo pulled on me so many times I was starting to feel stupid. I’ve wasted so much time and money before the switcheroo kicked in.

“This Trumpoodle lie don’t hunt, though, on account of the cameras I was telling you about, Orv. He’s still a traitor, and a poor dinner companion. Butter hogger. You know the type.

“So, Orv, if a traitor put one of you kids in a cage, when they were young, what would have been your measured response? Quick death? Slow death?”

“No one would have dared. And you’re the liar, you stupid Commie.”

“Quick death it is, then, comrade. You own a lot of dirt, Orv. And a bunch of delicious critters, some of them in kid cages. How do you feel about the traitor’s tariffs? Are you hysterical about them, like our congressman says?”

“Tariffs? What tariffs?”

“On stuff like soybeans, pork, steel, aluminum and a thousand other items,” explains Stan. “Evidently, and keep in mind that this is the sophisticated trade expert thinking of the traitor, we’ve been getting screwed by most everyone, including Canada. Anyone familiar with the Trumpanzee would automatically know this is nonsense, but the trade war is on.”

“Canada? Colder America? I don’t believe it. And I don’t care. I’m rich, and the government still direct deposits money into my account. I’m set.”

“And when you die, you’ll already be embalmed. Well, thank you, Orv. It’s good to know how the mind of a Trump cultist works.

“This reminds me of a story. Years ago, a niece and I were riding in the back of a car on heading west on main in Bismarck. She was as spitting mad as a 3-year-old could be over something. We drove onto the bridge, and I said, ‘Look! Look! It’s the big Missouri River.’ She shouted, ‘No it isn’t.’ This went back and forth until we were in Mandan. But the river was there, so I should have won something. She remained irate. And we never put her in a cage,”

“Stupid story, you pinko.”

Well, it’s lunchtime. I’m going to jump blindly into the sunlight and hope my retinas can block a seizure. At least nibble on a lime wedge, Orv. Even mole people need sustenance.”

“Screw you, Stan. I hope you flop around on the sidewalk like a mackerel.”

“Never change, Orv.”

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Survival In Turbulent Times

It’s hard not to be depressed these days.

Images of babies screaming as they are ripped away from their mothers breasts and 3-year-olds brought into court alone to face charges haunt my dreams, along with the cries of children who are lost, confused and alone.

Social media posts from young men I knew in a kinder, gentler time, whose worst instincts have been unleashed by a crude, crass and deliberately divisive leader, giving them permission to embrace the Confederate flag (in North Dakota of all places) and all that comes with it, believing somehow that they are “victims” of diversity. In a different era, they would have been good conservatives, but now they are becoming a mass of followers who celebrate unchecked anger and find it socially acceptable to spew hate.

Realizing that many of the fine Republicans I knew, loved and respected, though we differed on solutions, have decided that morals do not matter, nor does character or honesty or integrity. They silently follow behind leadership that openly flouts decency, civility and the rule of law, lies brazenly and seemingly celebrates cruelty and exclusion. I have seen people I admired cast their values aside for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom.

Watching the national debt soar, knowing that in the aftermath of a tax cut that benefited the rich, it will be used as an excuse to further dismantle an already fraying social safety net; seeing voters rights further dismantled and Muslims banned; listening as brutal dictators are hailed as “nice guys” and foreign friends are insulted as the world becomes more dangerous; being cognizant of the impact of climate change daily as environmental protections are cast aside; hearing about what is being uncovered in a probe about foreign election interference even as facts are ignored and twisted and nothing is being done to prevent it in the future; and mourning as we grow further apart rather than seeing someone call out our better angels to bring us together …

The list could go on …

It is easy to be depressed these days and want to retreat into a place of self-pity and despondent inertia, which is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Right now, more than ever, we need fair-minded people, both conservatives and progressives, who believe in core values, decency and the rule of law, to step up and be engaged as we battle for the very soul of our nation.

But how do we do it? How do we keep fighting what feels like an overwhelmingly losing battle, in the face of vitriol being celebrated as approval ratings rise, as people who call themselves people of faith defend behavior that seeks to cast those who are different from us as alien rather than children of the same God?

I’ve been thinking about this the past few days, and I’ve come up with some suggestions for survival in turbulent times.

1. Exercise self-care. As the old saying goes, “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.”

I know being able to do this comes from a point of privilege that not everyone has, but I also know it is imperative to take care of yourself if you are in the fight for common decency for the long haul. Because the world cannot afford us stepping back or burning out.

For me, that meant signing up to be a “goat nanny” at a local farm and taking some time out to play with animals, to refresh myself. It means going for long walks in the woods with my dog to think and pray. Heading to a musical on Broadway or supporting local arts at a museum or show, or going to the ocean for a nice long walk.

I return from these times of self-care rested and ready to keep going.

2. Figure out what how to tune in and when to tune out. We are met with two conflicting tensions. One is to tune out the news completely and pretend this isn’t happening. That is dangerous because we need constant vigilance. The other extreme is to become so obsessed with it that it becomes almost addictive and we end up listening but not doing. I have been subject to both extremes.

What I am learning is best for me is to focus more on reading articles, as opposed to the radio or TV, because it doesn’t drag me down as much but keeps me informed. I have a few podcasts that are weekly compilations and the occasional nightly show that I listen to, but I find classical music centers me and Broadway tunes and the 1980s buoy me up.

I also try to listen to voices with whom I have not always agreed — Bill Kristol, George Will, Steve Schmidt, Nicole Wallace and John Kasich are just a few. This gives me hope and reminds me that these are not normal times, but that there are people of integrity who see the difference. We are united in a fight for “liberty and justice for all.”

3. Find a community of support so you know you are not alone. I once had someone ask me why I loved to march, even if it didn’t make a difference. I said there was strength in solidarity and the support of like-minded people. Joining in song and chants helps you feel stronger and it provides energy for the battle ahead.

Finding friends to support you, in person and on social media, helps us pick each other up when we feel overwhelmed and just want to quit.

There will be setbacks and losses. We know that too well, but as someone who marched against apartheid for years, smuggled for the ANC and was willing to raise my voice at what I thought at times was a futile struggle, I also stood outside the South African consulate in Chicago the day Nelson Mandela was released. There will be victories, both large and small, which we need to celebrate together, and our voices do make a difference.

4. Don’t get stuck in an echo chamber. One of the worst things that can happen right now is for people to get further caught up in tribalism, so deliberately seek out people with whom you don’t agree to engage in conversation and seek to find common ground.

I can’t believe that most people of decency support this policy at the border any more than I believe most people in Germany supported the genocide of the Jews. What happened was that it was easy to ignore, so don’t let others ignore what is happening.

Engage in conversation, don’t demonize those with whom you disagree, and try to reach out to our better angels as we work together to come up with solutions. I had a conversation with someone on Facebook the other day. I didn’t back down on my faith or this moral imperative, but I didn’t call names, and in the end, I think I made progress in helping them see the humanity of those they were denigrating.

Yes, there are people who celebrate cruelty and relish in white supremacy and nationalism, but I can’t believe it is 40 percent of the population. My job is to keep engaged with those who know, deep down inside, what is happening, and try to find a way to help them move out of this “autopilot of support” and try to get back to that place where we could agree to disagree without casting aside decency, humanity and a equality.

5. Find small ways to make a difference. Last year, after the election, I started tutoring recent Muslim immigrants, teaching them English. I felt like, in some small way, I was making a positive impact. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to be Muslim these days in a nation that essentially said it was OK to isolate a religion, but I know that I can be a supportive presence. Volunteer locally to connect with those who are being marginalized, reach out to an immigration service, donate your time and money. You will feel like you are having an impact — and you will be doing good.

6. Figure out a way you can have a larger impact. Elections have consequences.

I am someone who makes phone calls, but I know I can’t really make a difference with what happens right now in Congress. I can make a difference with who gets elected, however. Less than half of the people eligible to vote do, so the key to making a difference is getting more people to vote. The current regime was elected by less than 25 percent of the American people — and I know many of those who voted did it as a protest of the other candidate, not a voice of support for this dystopian vision of America.

So we need to get involved and get people registered to vote and then get them out to vote and ensure their right to vote. I am planning on taking Nov. 3-6 off and going wherever I can to help as a poll watcher or drive people to vote, whether that is in Georgia or North Dakota. This, perhaps, is the most important American election of all time. It will be to see if we can stop this careening car from crashing.

7. Don’t let anyone normalize what is happening. Jon Stewart appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Thursday night and reminded us of what Abraham Lincoln said regarding the one thing that Southern slaveholders wanted: “This and only this: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”

“It was on this point that Lincoln said the Union could not bend,” Stewart said. “And what Donald Trump wants is for us to stop calling his cruelty and fear and divisiveness wrong, but to join him in calling it right. And this we cannot do. And I say, by not yielding, we will prevail!”

When George Will and Jon Stewart are on the same page, you know it is not about politics, it is about the future of democracy.

So we can’t afford to retreat into depression. We need, now more than ever, to act boldly because the very essence of our nation is at stake.

RON SCHALOW: The Land With Two Brains

If Donald Trump had walked into a Minot working man’s bar before he became a fancy pants, popular stream of consciousness screamer, he would have ended up in the dumpster, with appropriate discoloration, in under 30 minutes.

No self-respecting patron of the bar arts in the Magic City, would suffer a loudmouth, self-aggrandizing, lying dick for very long. Experienced drinkers develop a razor sharp sense of bullshit detection. It’s a survival mechanism evolved over many happy hours.

“I am the smartest, ever, in the history of time.” “I have more money and a nicer apartment than you.” “I get to walk into girls dressing rooms.” “Barack Obama wiretapped me.” Blah, blah, blah.

OK, that’s it! Outside, smarmy!

Even a rookie drinker, just starting his questionable career, could have made Chip “hell no, he didn’t go” McDuck for what he is pretty easily, though. Rook probably would have pulled out Chucky’s two hairs, or as many curls Donnie had at the time, just for kicks, before dropping DT in the garbage box.

Dapper Donnie could have put on any costume and declared a nonlazy type of employment. It wouldn’t have mattered. When someone has never worked on anything long enough to muster up a blister, or staged war with a rusted out lug nut, in 20 below weather, they waft off a scent of privileged asshole.

Has “The Donald” ever switched out a carburetor, shoveled a driveway or painted a house? I’m doubtful. Has he ever made sandwich or washed a dish?

Many of the affluent are quite nice. But DT has always been exactly like the stuffy young — rich from daddy — men, who tried to dampen John Belushi’s lifestyle by taking his Delta house away. Bluto wasn’t too bright, but he knew who was what. Alcohol and instinct.

But something changed in Minot. Or not.

A big majority of Minoters — and North Dakotans — voted for the slick, tough talking, adulterous New York buffoon, who began his campaign by telling people that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya. He started with a racist lie.

Little Marco, Mrs. Cruz and Carly Fiorina are ugly, other misogynist garbage and the incessant shouting and bullying. Oh, and Ted Sr. was involved in the JFK assassination. Vomit like that got cheesehead the nomination.

DT never had any relationship with the truth. It’s past the point of being a pathological liar. He has a cortisol and testosterone imbalance that would make Charles Ponzi blush, and Charlie had naturally red cheeks. Trump is in a category of his own, lying wiseguy wise, but he is still in the good graces of 90 percent of Republicans.

Though, there are less Republicans now, as many snap out of their fugue state and jump ship.

We also lost a few Republicans who were on the island when Puerto Rico got wiped out by wind and water. Trump’s government decided that it wasn’t worth taking the time to look for people wo\ho might have been unwell, needed meds or electricity to survive the aftermath. Well, we know why that was, simply by looking at the latest Sherwin-Williams color chart.

We’ve talked about 9/11 ever since the day everything happened on another incompetent president’s list of things to do. Almost 17 years.

Forty-six hundred Americans perished on Puerto Rico on sleepy eye’s watch, but its been largely forgotten, and that’s wrong. I really don’t care if Sarah Huckabee Sanders has to make her own food at home, what Melania’s jacket read or about Kevin Cramer’s warped bigoted idea of North Dakota values.

The Tale of Two Cerebral Hemispheres

The gray matter is different in liberal brains than conservative ones. Of course, there is a whole spectrum of thought, but I’m proud to own an organ on the left side. There are people way to the left of me, and I can’t even see Kevin Cramer — on the other side — who has whored himself out to Trump, and I find their relationship offensive. I’m happy with my slot.

Many studies have been done, so the brain thing is nothing new.

In short; conservatives are more fearful, have a higher level of anxiety, prefer to avoid change and are able to justify inequality among groups and individuals. Their right amygdalas are larger. What are you going to do? Immigrants or foreigners make this brain sector light up like Trump on kid-caging day. Stupid crying short people.

Liberals, very simply put, are the opposite.

Of course, some people voted for the malignant narcissist, hoping for a financial reward in the form of a tax cut. The wealthiest did win that one. Bigly.

Some wanted the United States to declare Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, to lube the way for the rapture, or so I’ve read. Well, I want the North Dakota capital moved to Hillsboro, N.D., so that the western legislators can have more time to think about what they have done, while they’re driving back to Tioga, N.D.

Mostly, members of the Trumpire fear the millions of brown people that Donnie has claimed are coming — he lies — and want the place hermetically sealed, yesterday. More foreigners -— I’m looking at you, you conniving shoe-smuggling Canadians — overstay their Visas than ever successfully walk across our southern border. But the meat on that bone isn’t red enough to get the gullibles wound up. Nobody cares if you walk in from Moose Jaw, Sask.

And, that’s precisely what Trump will be doing in Fargo on Wednesday. Winding up the gullibles. There will be a white fluorescent glow coming from Scheels Arena, just before sun comes up  Wednesday, as the line begins or continues to form.

Then, there’s this issue, which defies explanation. And there are millions who refuse to believe documented facts. Facts are facts. They aren’t debateable.

From ABC.

(Jonathan) KARL: “He (Trump) says things that are not true all the time.”

(Steve) BANNON: “I don’t believe that.”

KARL: “Come on.”

BANNON: “I think he speaks in a particular vernacular that connects to people in this country.”

It’s the shameless false information vernacular. There’s more than brain voodoo going on here. This is a lead-plated helmet and full-metal jacket situation. NOTHING is getting through the outer shell, and there is no point in trying. Very troublesome. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him use a straw. It’s the same dynamic.

Even the softcore Trump fan actually believes that the national media gets together at the IHOB and makes stuff up to make the president look bad. As if making Trump look stupid required any effort.

The gullibles, who probably make up the usual 30 percent, believe everything he says, but they don’t really care — or aren’t interested in the truth — anyway. They can forgive most anything, being Christian, and all.

Some Trumpers, not too far gone, may come back from the edge on their own after they realize what they’ve created. The lightbulb only comes on for a few of the more sentient ones with nominal self-awareness.

The racially hateful voters who are sure that Trump is speaking directly to them think this country is swarming with too many brown people as it is, including the Native Americans.

Those self-named patriots are more of a danger to Americans than any immigrant. They are the white supremacists, the white nationalists and their brethren carrying backyard ambiance tiki torches, even in this magical age of flashlights. You don’t want any of these characters infesting your neighborhood.

The alt-right was at the chanting party in Charlottesville, Va., too, including those insufferable incels. Good luck with that white ethno-state, with obedient females, fellas. Dig those bunkers deep, and stock up on ammo for the impending race war, nuclear fallout or just for fun.

Give the fearful ones, just a few chores, if they’re game. The information can easily be found that would show most average people what a putrid character Donald Trump has always been. Probably not the gullibles, though.

On YouTube, search “Trump interview Howard Stern.”

On YouTube, search “Trump interview.”

On YouTube, search “Trump documentary.”

On Google; search “Trump history.”

No time limit.

TIM MADIGAN: Anything Mentionable — My Journey With Central American Refugees

On a winter afternoon in 1989, I climbed into the cargo hold of a crowded Ryder rental truck, finding my place amid 49 Central American refugees. Over the next 11 hours, on a journey from the Texas border town of Harlingen to Houston, I listened to the stories of the men, women and children, people who in some cases had walked north across Mexico to get to the United States.

“Each could speak of suffering in the lives they left behind — civil war and economic depression in Nicaragua, civil war in El Salvador, unrest that had spilled over into Guatemala and Honduras,” I wrote a few days later in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Even long hours in a crowded truck were better than that.

“And as minutes on the truck stretched on, each clung to an almost blind, perhaps naïve faith in the United States and its people — the hope that life would be better here.”

I remember how a smile seemed permanently affixed to the face of an 18-year-old named Richard Espinoza, whose tennis shoes dangled from the rear of the truck as we sped north. He traveled alone, penniless, with no means to get to friends in Miami, but he seemed without fear.

At one point, he grabbed my pen and notebook, scribbling out a short message in English.

“I fel (sic) very happy in the U.S.A.,” he wrote. “The people nice. Thank you very much, forever.”

But for me there is so much more to the story of that day. Given our barbaric current events, I’m telling it here for the first time.

*****

The refugee and immigration crisis, especially at our southern border, has been a chronic one, stretching back generations. In 1988, as conditions deteriorated in Central America, tens of thousands inundated the U.S. border to apply for political asylum, then were forced to live in border squatter camps until their claims could be adjudicated.

That changed in January 1989, when a federal judge ruled that the asylum applicants could no longer be detained in the Rio Grande Valley and were free to travel to other parts of the country until their cases were heard. Within hours, buses bound for Houston, Los Angeles and Miami were full. Hundreds of other refugees with no money were left to hitchhike or wait.

It was big national news at the time, much like the refugee story is now, and the Star-Telegram sent me to the border to cover it. The assignment nearly broke me instead. I was a young reporter suddenly competing with seasoned journalists from New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago. As many of you know, these were years of depression and self-loathing, and one the biggest assignments of my career threatened to push me over the edge.

After arriving at the border, I had hired a Spanish-speaking high school student to interpret for me but returned him to his school just minutes after we met. The kid looked at me quizzically when I told him there had been a change of plans. I found a deserted country road so I could be alone if I came completely unglued. I eventually drove back to town, found a pay phone in Brownsville, called a friend and began to sob at the sound of his voice.

When the waves of emotion had subsided, I explained my assignment, and shared my fears.

“Here’s all you have to do,” my friend said. “Get in your car, drive to Harlingen, and see what happens.”

*****

There was chaos outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service headquarters, hundreds of stranded refugees milling about. That’s where I found Kathryn Ortega, as she helped dozens of them into the back of the yellow rental truck. She told me that she and relatives had driven down from Houston to deliver 4,000 pounds of rice to help feed the refugees. When the truck was empty their pleas began.

“They kept saying, ‘Please take us,’” she told me. “I couldn’t say no. This is a free ride to where they can get help.”

On the spur of the moment I asked to ride with them. My own feet soon dangled over the end of the open cargo hold as we pulled away in midafternoon, heading north into the country. Every few miles for the first 20, we passed refugees in groups of three and four, belongings slung over their shoulders as they headed the same direction on foot.

Ortega translated as I listened to the stories of violence and poverty that the passengers were attempting to leave behind. Outside the truck, a setting sun cast an orange hue on sprawling flatlands where cattle foraged amid mesquite. Some of the people talked quietly as we drove. Others read Bibles. Mothers held sleeping children. One small girl in pigtails busily ate a bologna sandwich with one hand and clutched a stuffed yellow rabbit with the other.

And at some point, I realized my suffering from that morning was gone. Because of them. The shared humanity in the back of that truck was much more powerful than my misery. In our cramped quarters, all but heart and soul had been stripped away and barriers of language and background were dissolved. I realize now the extent to which we are all refugees in one way or another, human beings trying to make our way in an often cruel and difficult world.

The truck pulled into a town at dusk and we stopped outside a supermarket, where Ortega bought milk, bread and sandwich meat. When the passengers gathered around picnic tables at nearby park, the refugees made sure I was fed.

We set off again into the darkness. Most of the people dozed off, holding loved ones. The only sounds were the hum of the road and the beautiful tenor voice of young Richard Espinoza, who sang a plaintive folk song in Spanish.

Then something happened I will never forget. As we were jostled about in the crowded truck, I felt a tap at my shoulder. It was a young man who had pulled his daughter onto his lap, making room for me to lay down and sleep.

*****

The truck finally pulled into Ortega’s Houston apartment complex long after midnight. I shared a meal of rice and beans with my new friends, then said my goodbyes and disappeared into a cab.

But I’ve seen their faces again this last week, on the news. Nearly 30 years later, as I think of my fellow refugees, I wonder what their lives have been like since we shared that remarkable journey. My fervent prayer is that they have found the United States everything they dreamed it would be

RON SCHALOW: The Congressman With The Chain-Link Head

When I was a youngster, chain-link fencing started to pop up on a few yards on south hill in Minot. I remember thinking, “Gosh, I hope no kids get trapped in there.” Then I saw the gate. They all had gates. What a relief. Easy egress. These were a noncage fences.

Now, when I was at the zoo in Roosevelt Park, I was happy that most of the animals were behind bars and magical metal wires woven together like fine linen. These animals were in what I like to call cages. The critters weren’t free to leave — or make long-distance calls.

They were cool about it, except for one bonobo named Arnie, with a species bias that really got him going. He kneeled every time they played the national anthem, which was played every time there was a ballgame across the street at Corbett Field. He didn’t like humans, Minot or the cage. Arnie also called it a cage. Everybody did.

The chain-link fences were ugly, but lawns and dogs need confinement. I guess the wood picket fences weren’t doing the job. Or maybe they were trying to keep me out. I will be posthumously outraged.

Most parents in the day preferred free-range children versus the caged ones. Wandering age varied, but I remember lots of little people like me, relishing their freedom on the mean sidewalks of 1960s North Dakota. Most little dudes were pushed outside after the first step.

Toddlers were on a short leash — or kept in one of those compact mobile jails with 17 toys. Infants spent nights confined to a bed brig with wood bars and only a nominal chance of escape without the proper tools.

Full disclosure: I purchased chain-link fencing about 35 years ago, but I did not incarcerate man nor beast with the steel wire. I’m neither proud or ashamed. And I had no personal affection for the product, which will be going up in price due to Trump tariffs.

Now for the horror. The ongoing imprisonment of brown children is a national disgrace.

Some pundits have suggested that this shameful episode is Trump’s Katrina. No. 4,600 Americans have died in the decimation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria because the jackass chose to limit the government response. Puerto Ricans got a small fraction of the resources dedicated to Texas for recovery from Hurricane Harvey. All on DT’s watch.

Caging children is in a despicable category of its own. Some of these kids will never see their parents again. They’ll be scarred for life. The parents will live this nightmare, over and over. That’s fine with the Trump cult, including sycophant prince Kevin Cramer.

King Nitwit and his administration have offered over a dozen reasons why these kids were being shipped here and there without their parents. They blamed everyone but the racist in chief, the dumb one when Eric isn’t present. They lied and lied. Then lied some more.

And Kevin Cramer parroted the horse shit because he has staked his entire political future on the sex offending blowhard, who has no clue on how to do his job. So, Kev has morphed into the silhouette of the bloated Bronx dung beetle. Cramer knowingly told the same lies as the pompous pork loin and then made up some baloney of his own.

Cramer doesn’t care about the human misery. He only cares about Trump. He is concerned about Trump more than the people of North Dakota.

Furthermore, Congressman Kevin Cramer is not a bright person, I say with no due respect. He makes it impossible not to write about his silly antics.

Oddly as it turns out, no one in the history of time has more fondness for the steel chain-link fence, than Kevin Cramer.

Fencing, and calling it a cage, because the little ones were locked in … Is that Cramer’s major takeaway from the cluster-eff the country is witnessing? Afraid so.

Does the cruelty register? Cries of beautiful dark-haired littles? Nope. Just the use of an accurate word, and the snowflake is offended.

I was surprised about something, though. Somebody is actually listening to Scott Hennen and Rob Port. Port doubles as the teddy bear that Kevin weeps into at night.

This nuttiness has gone national, but Cramer’s comments bear repeating. He also has a fundamental misunderstanding of chain-link fencing, and fences in general. He thinks, among other things, that calling the fencing “cages,” is overblown rhetoric. That was also worth repeating.

Keep in mind that this master of gibberish once said the following:

“But by the way, did you notice how poorly several of them were dressed as well? It is a syndrome. There is no question, there is a disease associated with the notion that a bunch of women would wear bad-looking white pantsuits in solidarity with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her loss. You cannot get that weird.”

Actually, some Democratic women wore white as a homage to suffragettes and as a silent protest against “Donald the misogynist” during the state of the union speech So, Cramer, also a sexist, got offended by women not getting locked away and uses words like disease, syndrome and weird.

White pantsuits drive him nuts, but putting children in cages is normal to the Trump toady. He just doesn’t like all of the “hoopla” surrounding the inhumane imprisonment of children. Now that’s weird. Sickening, actually.

And ballparks are not cages. I observed or played baseball in hundreds of ballparks. Not once was I prevented from leaving. Did Kevin have different experiences? Where was this? Kenya?

Fences can be used to keep people or critters out — or keep kids in. It doesn’t matter that you can see through the cage. You can see through prison bars, too. Good gawd, dude.

And 67 percent of Americans find the whole mess repulsive. Not just liberals, as a grown man with a smartphone, and a staff should have known. But lying is more fun.

The kids aren’t crying because of the type of fencing that keeps them interned. It’s the separation from parents. Calling their situation as being in a cage is totally accurate. Is that too complicated for a U.S. congressman to understand? Evidently.

The president will be in Fargo next week. Trump will talk about Cramer, and his thoughts on cages, for about 30 seconds, when the cocaine kicks in. And it will be too stupid for words.

Likewise, I’m not even going to try to argue with the bizarre thoughts that run through the mind of the Cramer mastermind. You can read his exact words below.

Then, he goes on KFGO on Thursday and repeats the same nonsense. Kev didn’t get a different result, though, so that’s a red flag. And yes, you can see through his head. For safety reasons.

From Talking Points Memo

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., pushed back hard on the idea that keeping border-crossing children in chain-link cages was inhumane, defending the practice in two local radio shows on Wednesday.

Cramer, who’s running against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in a top-tier Senate race, called the facilities “humane” during a Wednesday appearance on KFGO, a local radio station that broadcasts in the Bakken oil fields.

“By the way, chain-link fences are around playgrounds all over America, all over North Dakota. And chain link fences allow line-of-sight visual connectivity with children and families,” he said as he discussed reversing President Trump’s policy to let families stay together at the border.

“You know, there’s nothing inhumane about a chain-link fence. If it is, then every ballpark in America is inhumane.”

Cramer then went on to say he supported changing the law to allow families to stay together when they enter the country illegally and supported House Republicans’ dueling pieces of immigration legislation that are expected to receive a vote this week that would address this issue.

The comments came before Trump announced he’d reverse his recently implemented strategy of separating children and parents at the border with an executive order, reversing his previously held false position that only Congress could act to stop it.

Cramer doubled down on his comments when asked about them later in the day on WDAY, another local radio station, calling the focus on the cages “hoopla.”

“I think [chain-] linked fences is irrelevant to the crying of children. My commentary is on the chain-link fence,” he said when asked about the comments and whether he’d heard the audio of children wailing after being separated from their parents. “There’s all this hoopla because I think there are people on the left that clearly want the country to fail at this. And they would like the chain-link fence, they called it ‘dog cages.’ Well, chain-link fences have been used to protect children from predators on playgrounds, baseball diamonds, all sorts of sports courts and what-not. To me it’s not the chain-link fence, that’s not the issue. That’s a ruse by some on the left to try to create an image that’s far worse in description than it is in reality,” he said.

“The actual value of the chain-link fence is you could see through it, that’s the value of the chain link. If they put up a Sheetrock wall between the children and the workers, the people there to protect them, to me that would be far worse,” Cramer continued. “The chain-link fence, let’s not use that as some sort of a weapon. There’s a broader conversation about the separation of families in general, but as I’ve said before, that happens throughout the country many times. Kris (his wife) and I have been foster parents. We know all about the separation of children from their parents who do the illegal things, it happens in every city of the country every day.”

Senate Republicans initially had opposed having Cramer, a close ally of Trump’s, as their candidate for Senate precisely because of his penchant for controversial comments. After failing to find a better alternative, they circled back to him. Cramer initially said he wouldn’t run but changed his mind after Trump pushed him to jump into the race.

Cramer has since stirred up some controversies, including comments that Trump wasn’t campaigning as hard against Heitkamp as some other vulnerable Senate Democrats because “she’s a woman,” and sought and received an endorsement from a virulently anti-gay group that compares transgender people to pedophiles.

This is the latest instance of a remark that may generate some backlash. — Talking Points Memo

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Rules Of Engagement

As a blogger and Facebook presence, I use my forum to give my opinions but have always steered away from engaging in debate with others online, especially people I don’t know … until now.

Perhaps it is because my posts and blogs are shared a lot and I get tagged in them, but in the past week, I have been trolled by more than a few people, spouting inaccuracies, and I am no longer holding my powder.

Not because it is me they are attacking. I’m an old hand at being attacked. But because they are defending a policy that I believe is morally bereft and indefensible.

I want to actively engage with people who are supporting what I believe is an evil policy of our U.S. government, challenging false statements and forcing them to think about the morality of what they are supporting. But I want to do so in a way that honors my values.

After talking to a few people about it, I thought it might be helpful to share my rules of engagement.

1. If possible, have face-to-face or one-on-one discussions with people you know. It promotes relationship and is the best way to change hearts and minds. But it is OK to confront hatred, ignorance or meanness. Sometimes we can’t leave it unchallenged or unchecked.

2. Treat others the way you want to be treated, whether in the cyber world or the real world. The view from the high road is always better.

3. Facts matter. Be relentless in relying on them, share them freely and if you make a mistake, acknowledge it and correct it. I posted an inaccurate picture, was called out on it, apologized and corrected it. And then posted accurate photos. It reminded me to check and double-check because inaccurate information provides fodder to deny accurate information.

But remember, just because someone says something often enough doesn’t make it so. Lies are lies.

And we cannot “agree to disagree” when what the other person believes is wrong. (I, for example, will not agree to disagree that the world is flat or that this current crisis can only be solved by Congress. The administration can do it with a phone call and refuses.)

4. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I serve a Lord who is merciful, compassionate and always sides with the oppressed. I don’t assume everyone shares my faith, but I will boldly proclaim that I make my choices guided by my understanding of God and am not afraid of confronting those who claim the name of Christ with the words, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me and whatever you do not do to the least of these you do not do to me.” There are some things worth fighting for, and this is one of them in which Jesus picked a side. If that makes others squirm, so be it. I stand with Jesus.

4 Jesus was a criminal. So was the Apostle Paul. Committing a crime is not an excuse for cruelty. “Remember those who are in prison as though you were in prison in with them; those who are tortured as though you are being tortured.” — Hebrews13: 3

5. Ask questions and tell stories. It promotes dialogue. Share why you feel this is wrong and tell your own story. I go to refugee camps. I’ve seen and heard firsthand what people experience. Tell your story and why you care. Don’t let people reduce you to a trope or caricature.

6. Kindness is a virtue. Selfishness is not.

7. Silence is complicity.

RON SCHALOW: Cramer’s Caging Of The Lambs & Silence Of The Trump Cult

That rumble of keystrokes you hear on horizon is the sound of every North Dakota GOP official pounding out a condemnation of President Trump’s new barbaric policy of taking children from their parents and securing the tykes in cages. You won’t see that use in the chain-link fence catalog.

Wait, nope. It’s just that stupid building climbing raccoon. Gawd. I already gave the big rat a ham sandwich. What now?

Actually the only noise coming from North Dakota Republicans is the faint tinkle of testosterone dripping off their bodies and the hush of calcium evaporating from the spine.

Or they agree with Trump’s evil policy and they’re too bashful, or to flaccid, to mention it.

I think I’ve “liked” the political Facebook page of every legislator in state. Some don’t have pages because they don’t know there is such thing. The rest of them are pretty quiet, although only a handful actually post anything with any regularity.

I don’t like to miss any of the personal videos. “They won’t tell you this in guvm’t schools, but grass creates as much oxygen as trees.” That isn’t close to true, but it’s good to know who we’re dealing with. That’s my excuse.

I’m surprised that Sen. Oley Larsen in Minot hasn’t laid the most obscure Bible verse in the book on us. The one that recommends parents hand their children over to strangers.

“Thouest the evil man stay evil lest he grabbest Lou’s second born.” —Doofusmoronity 11

The senator never really makes much sense. Larsen has claimed that he’ll offer a bill, in the next session, that would require teaching of the Bible in public schools. His Marshmallow rant is still on YouTube. It’s a hoot.

Oley is part of the trio in District 3, which claims to be most religious in the state. They failed this test, but these dudes campaign with real Dilly Bars, so they’re serious.

There are quite a few North Dakota politicians who can’t wait to mention their religiosity. Pat Finken, Kevin Cramer’s campaign manager, wrote in an op-ed that Kevin is deeply religious. Deep. His faith is so deep that Kev was able to find the forgiveness needed to absolve a window peeper. A sex criminal. Cramer took that stance on a radio show, and it needed a little spin.

Then, there is John Hoeven, who quotes us a slice of air:

“No one wants to see children separated from their parents. We must enforce the existing law, but we should do so in as humane a manner as possible.” — Sen. John Hoeven

But the deeply religious Cramer is all in with Trump on the child torture fun. It’s Democrats fault. It’s a lie, but Kevin doesn’t care. The New York dick rates higher than God. Cramer hasn’t a speck of morality. Trump has never been in a church on purpose and is an ethically bereft sociopath. Our POTUS is void of empathy.

“The issue of how to deal with the children of parents trying to come to this country illegally has rightly become a focus of our immigration debate. While we are a nation of laws, we must always show compassion in the enforcement of those laws, especially when dealing with children who are often innocent bystanders. Democrats must set aside their political ambitions and work with Republicans to fix our broken immigration system and secure our borders. Only then will we truly address the problem in a way that prevents separation of children from their families, respects the law of the land and protects the American people.” — Congressman Kevin Cramer

This isn’t part of a debate. It’s a hostage situation.

So, where is the compassion, congressman? You are complicit in this wicked abuse.

Political ambitions? You chose a vile, cruel, sadistic route to avoid annoying the orange spaceman.

Speak up Republicans:

“You could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted,” John Sandweg (former ICE director) explained.

That scenario could be hard to swallow for immigration hardliners who argue against spending welfare dollars on immigrants and are opposed to a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally.

Sandweg says he has seen permanent separation happen when a parent is deported without his or her child.” — NBC

Ponder on that, Oley, and the North Dakota GOP.

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?

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — There Is No Moral Defense Of Evil Acts

I will never forget the first time I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., because by the time it was over, I wanted to crawl out of it in shame.

I was a young pastor, serving as the keynote speaker and Bible study leader at a continuing ed event for people who worked with youth, and part of our program included a tour of the Holocaust Museum.

Because I was one of the leaders, I was wearing a clerical collar during the tour, and with each step, the collar became tighter around my neck.

The reason?  Well, simply put, because Lutheran clergy, for the most part, either sided with Hitler, defending his actions or else remained silent. Of the 18,000 Protestant clergy in Germany at the time, only 16 percent said “No” by becoming part of the Confessing Church, that stood in opposition to Hitler and his nationalistic propaganda, lies and destruction.

And the museum did not ignore this fact. It pointed out, vividly, how the Nazis used the Bible to defend their actions and co-opted the church in the process.

Pastor Julius Leutherser embodied the beliefs of so many pastors when he preached, on Aug. 30, 1933, “Christ has come to us through Hitler,” citing the passage from Romans 13 that states, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”  (Rom. 13:1)

The complete misinterpretation of this passage allowed over 80 percent of the clergy in Germany to simply look the other way in the face of the Holocaust.  After all, the leaders and the laws were put in place by God, and who were they to disagree with Adolf Hitler’s favorite passage?

That is why my blood began to boil when I heard U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cite Romans 13 to defend the repugnant decision of the current administration to make a substantial policy shift from previous administrations and forcibly separate parents from their children when they came to the U.S.seeking asylum.

Later in the day, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed his sentiments by saying, “It’s biblical to enforce laws.”

Sessions, Sanders and all those voicing similar views stand on the shoulders of those German pastors who defended Hitler, as well as American preachers who used the same passage to justify first slavery and later Jim Crow laws, when they  turn to Romans 13 specifically and the Bible in general to support immoral acts.

As a pastor, nothing angers me more than people using the Bible to defend actions that would make Jesus weep.

Quoting Scripture to defend something as abhorrent as ripping a 4-month-old baby out of  his mother’s arms, as she pleads for asylum from abuse and violence, is antithetical to everything that Jesus stood for.

After all, Jesus was about an infant when he and his parents fled violence in Bethlehem to become refugees in Egypt. And somehow, I don’t think it would have been good or godly to rip Jesus out of Mary’s arms.

The story of the temptation of Jesus shows that even Satan could quote Scripture for his own benefit. Which is precisely what Sessions was doing.

When people use the Word of God to make evil actions seem justifiable, they are breaking the Second Commandment and using God‘s name in vain. They are using God for their own purpose, defending something that directly defies  the God of love made real in Jesus embrace of those who are rejected and forgotten.

No human with an ounce of compassion or human decency can defend what the U.S. government is doing with the enforcement of a decree from the executive branch to rip small children away from their parents.

It is despicable to muddy the waters even further by throwing the Word of God in to justify it.

The Bible says far more about the care of orphans, widows and strangers in a strange land.  For example, Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

In addition, God is clear that there are unjust laws and warns against those who make them. In  Isaiah 10:1 the prophet writes, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”

I could go on all day, finding passage after passage that paint a picture of a God of love who cares about the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden. Who sides with those who have been abused.

Even if one argues that these people have broken the law, the Bible states clearly that we are to “Remember those who are in prison, as though we are in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourself were being tortured.”  Heb. 13:3.

Breaking the law does not justify acts of cruelty.

Jesus himself was subject was a convicted criminal who was whipped and crucified and whose murder was defended because of a belief that it was “Scriptural to enforce laws.”

This should not be a partisan issue. It isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an issue of what it means to be a decent and just nation.

Since Sessions and Sanders like to reference the Bible, I suggest they reread the book of Amos. It describes what happens to nations that behave like this. It isn’t pretty.

Or perhaps, since they are fond of emphasizing the aspects of the Bible that talk about the law and quoting Romans 13, they might want to read further down, where it says, “The Commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom.13:9-10)

I was filled with shame when I walked out of the Holocaust Museum because I was part of a church whose leadership remained silent in the face of unadulterated evil action.

I will not be quiet now and I will defend the Word of God that is being taken hostage by those who would use it for this vile purpose.

God is clear about the poor and oppressed and always stands on the side of the last, the lost and the least, demanding we treat everyone with love, which is the highest law.

History will not look kindly on those who remain silent. There is no moral defense of evil acts. And there is no ground to remain neutral.

Silence in the face of evil action means you have chosen your side.