COLUMN: Don’t rest on divides; climb past them

This is my Sunday column for the Nov. 13, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I’ll be discussing this and other Iron Range news, including mining project updates (hot hot!), on 91.7 KAXE’s Morning Show at 7:20 a.m. Monday. Listen live or pick up the archive later at

Don’t rest on divides; climb past them
By Aaron J. Brown

Whether you’re talking about the Iron Range, Minnesota or even America as whole, it feels like we have been climbing a mountain for generations and now have tumbled forward onto some kind of plateau. We’re not to the top of the mountain yet; but this flat land is serviceable, despite the wind and hard winters. Moments like this give people the chance to fight and divide over every little thing.

Last year the Tea Party united fiscal conservatives over the largess of government. This year Occupy Wall Street protests the growing divide between rich and poor, the mounting power of corporations in our lives. Several versions of a cartoon have been circulating online that shows the overlap of these two movements, one being deeply relevant and the other full of miscreants (which is which is a matter of your politics). But our problem is not government or corporations, per se. It’s that government and corporations have a cozy relationship with each other and a distant relationship with us, the voter and/or customer.

This would normally be a great recipe for a new political party or a great reform movement, but the divides in our country are not really just about politics. There are many things Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street supporters could find in common, if it weren’t for the fact that they so viscerally despise one another on a cultural level.

Combined with the previously mentioned marriage between government and corporate interests, this brings us the sad fact that President Obama and his Republican opponent will spend a combined $1 billion on political advertising next year, mostly on emotional appeals that feed on our fear and hatred of the other side. The Citizens United Supreme court decision ensures that another billion in soft corporate and union (but mostly corporate) money is poured into the ruckus. Another billion bucks will be spent getting Americans to hate one or more people running for Congress. And then there’s the local races!

Meantime, back in the real world, a story by Kathryn Kohlhase in last Sunday’s edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune detailed the crisis situation faced by the Hibbing Food Shelf. Food Shelf director Carol Voss describes having $12,000 in the bank to pay for food through March 2012. More than 900 families remain on the food shelf’s computer list of clients, which are now entirely based in the relatively small city of Hibbing.

Quoting the story, “Last year, we had 700 a month during the holidays,” [Voss] said. “No way could I touch that now.”

Voss even cut her own wages in half to pay the bills. Despite all of it, money is only trickling in.

Another quote, “The money’s not coming in like usual,” she said. “It always has come before at the last minute, but this time it’s not.” … “A lot of people who donated money before, we’re now helping,” she said. “And we have new people coming in every day.”

We shouldn’t rest easy in a society that spends $2 billion on soul-sucking political garbage TV and can’t even figure out how to get people in poverty through transitions, educate them and get them into the workforce so they can help the next generation.

The real divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans. The divide is between the out-of-touch power structure, including leadership in both parties, and the apolitical, struggling lower and working classes. These are the people working nights at the gas station or nursing home, going home tired to kids that need help with their homework. These are the grandparents raising small children. These are the people watching their pay hold steady or drop while food, gas and insurance prices rise.

Right now these folks are on or near that food shelf database. If things get worse they’ll be in the street. I don’t mean living on the street. I mean banging on the doors of the kind of people who think our problems can be summed up by political invective and useless sound bites. I can’t wait. Maybe when this is settled we can go back to climbing that mountain, together.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog and the host of the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.


  1. I see young adults as really squeezed. The wages haven’t gone up as much as prices, AND those with benefits are paying way more for them. I often think of my first job in about 1966. Minimum wage was about $1.15/ hour for restaurant workers. I was paid $2/ hour to take pizza orders and do minor kitchen work. The pizza makers earned $4/hour. That be like earning $27/hour now. Why did this owner pay so well? Probably because he honored workers
    And he knew WHOSE work and skill made the business a success.

  2. Tea Party similar to “Occupy”? Really?

    1.NY: 10/1/2011 — Police Arrest More Than 700 Protesters on Brooklyn Bridge
    2.Madison, WI: 10-27-2011 — Madison Occupiers Lose Permit Due to Public Masturbation
    3.Phoenix: 10/28/2011 — Flier at Occupy Phoenix Asks, “When Should You Shoot a Cop?”
    4.NY: 10/18/2011 — Thieves Preying on Fellow Protesters
    7.Cleveland: 10/18/2011 — ‘Occupy Cleveland’ Protester Alleges She Was Raped
    8.NY: 10/10/2011 — ‘Increasingly Debauched’: Are Sex, Drugs & Poor Sanitation Eclipsing Occupy Wall Street?
    9.Seattle: 10/18/2011 — Man Accused of Exposing Self to Children Arrested
    10.10/12/2011 — Iran Supports ‘Occupy Wall Street’
    11.Portland: 10/16/2011 – #OccupyPortland Protester Desecrates Memorial To U.S. War Dead
    12.Portland: 10/15/2011 — #OccupyPortland Protesters Sing “F*** The USA”
    13.Chicago: 10/17/2011 — COMMUNIST LEADER Cheered at Occupy Chicago
    14.10/15/2011 — American Nazi Party Endorses Occupy Wall Street‘s ’Courage,‘ Tells Members to Support Protests and Fight ’Judeo-Capitalist Banksters’
    16.Boston: 10/11/2011 — Boston Police Arrest Over 100 from Occupy Boston
    17.New York: 10/11/2011 — “You Can Have Sex with Animals.”
    20.New York: 10/25/2011 — Three Men Threatened to Kill 24-Year-Old Occupy Wall Street Protester for Reporting Rape
    42.Dayton, OH: 10/22/2011 — Protester: ‘F*ck The Military, F*ck Your Flag, And F*ck The Police’
    52.Bloomington, IN: 10/26/2011 — Man Claims Occupy Bloomington Protesters Drugged, Handcuffed Him
    59.Minneapolis, MN: Bricks, Rocks, ‘Riot Supplies’ Discovered by Police
    80.Missoula, MT: 10/20/2011 — Drunk 11-Year-Old At Occupy Missoula, Adult Arrested
    84.Boston: 10/24/2011 — Occupy Boston Vandalism of Banks
    86.Portland: 10/28/2011 — Portland Police: Buckets of Excrement Scattered Around #OccupyPortland Camp
    88.Seattle: 10/18/2011 — Armed Felon Arrested at Occupy Seattle
    102.NY: 10/30/2011 — Woman Assaulted in Her tent
    124.San Diego: 10/29/2011 — Businesswoman Closes Shop After Threats By Occupiers
    128.Tampa, FL: 10/29/2011 – Occupy Tampa Protesters Arrested After Scuffle With Police
    133.Sacramento, CA: 11/2/2011 — Occupiers Smash County Vehicle Windows
    136.Portland: 11/2/2011 — Occupier Shoves Police Officer into Moving Bus
    148.Atlanta: 11/3/2011 — Protester Turns On Fellow Protester With Knife
    155.Los Angeles, CA: 11/5/2011 – Two Assaults Raise Concerns About Crime at Occupy L.A.
    159.Olympia, WA: 11/2/2011 — 3 Occupiers Arrested for Suspected of Robbing Local Wine Merchant
    188.NYC: 11/8/2011 — Occupier: ‘I Wouldn’t Give a F**k if 9/11 Happened 911 More Times’
    195.Berekely, CA: 11/10/2011 — 39 Occupiers Arrested
    196.Westwood, CA: 11/9/2011 — 11 Occupiers Arrested for Blocking Traffic
    197.Fresno, CA: 11/9/2011 — 40 Occupiers Arrested
    198.Toledo, OH: 11/1/2011 — 2 Occupiers Arrested
    199.Houston, TX: 11/9/2011 — 10 Occupiers Arrested
    201.Oakland, CA: 11/10/2011: Fatal Shooting Over Drugs
    202.Oakland: CA: 11/10/2011 — Protesters Attack News Crew Covering Fatal Shooting
    206.Olympia, WA: 11/11/2011 — Occupiers Asked to Pack Up After Assault, Drug Arrests
    208.Salt Lake City, UT: 11/12/2011 — Protest Shut Down After Body Discovered In Tent
    214.San Francisco: 11/12/2011 — Occupier Slashes Police Officer With Razor, Another Injured
    222.Salt Lake City, UT: 11/12/2011 — 19 Occupiers Arrested
    223.St. Louis, MO: 11/13/2011 — 27 Occupiers Arrested
    224.St. Louis, MO: 11/12/2011 — Occupier Arrested
    225.NYC: 11/13/2011 — Occupier Slugs Police Officer
    226.Oakland, CA: 11/10/2011 — Occupiers Withdraw Resolution to Remain Peaceful
    227.Portland, OR: 11/9/2011 — Occupier Requires Life-Saving CPR After Drug Overdose
    228.Portland, OR: 11/9/2011 — 4 Reports of Substance Abuse
    229.Olympia, WA: 11/12/2011: Growing Number of Drug, Violence Complaints
    230.Atlanta, GA: 11/10/2011 — TB Breaks Out at Occupy Home Base
    231.NYC: 11/13/2011 – Occupy Wall Street Costs Local Businesses $479,400
    232.11/11/2011 — Occupy Death Toll Hits 7

  3. Anyhow, back to the topic at hand:

    It’s no surprise that our political discourse is so deeply damaged when you consider that so many media outlets (think: broadcast TV) depend upon billions of dollars in campaign spending for their very survival. And at the same time we expect objective reporting from these entities? There’s a reason most people don’t put the toilet in the kitchen.

    Now, in the wake of the Citizens United decision, we can expect the spigot to open even wider.

  4. Well, Ranger, I seriously doubt you did all the research yourself on the laundry list you posted. perhaps ypu could provide a source?

  5. Sure Jackie…I attempted to provide the total list (with credits) initially but Aarons posts are limited in terms of bits and bites…which I understand & respect.

    You’ll notice the incomplete list has grown by 16 to 248 over the past two days. Foolish indulgence run amuck.

    Try to find a similar list for the Tea Partiers. You can’t. All you find is how clean they left the side streets where they protested. No drugs, no sex, no destroying property, no killngs, no defecating in the streets, no stabbings, no shootings, no throwing bricks at police.

    Aaron’s attempt to align the Tea Partiers and Occupiers is weak and baseless.

  6. You are deploying a logical fallacy in your argument. Some dumb kid misbehaved at a protest here or there. So what? I am looking at the motivations and purpose of these protests. (Note that I am not dismissing the concerns of the Tea Party protests). I stand by my argument and if you could take off your partisan blinders for a second you’d see that there is room for a discussion. I won’t spend time discussing this nonsense.

  7. Motivation and purpose of the Tea Party is clear…look it up:
    1) free market approach to economic vitality and prosperity 2) self determination and self reliance, personal responsibility and accountability
    3)constitutional and prudent approach to governance and the common good

    Movitation and purpose of Occupiers is ..???? or ??????

    “Some dumb kid misbehaved at a protest here or there. So what?”

    Are you kidding? Seven dead over 50 days of Occupy. None dead over a 1000 days of Tea Party. So what??

    Wow..violence, death and destruction HAS to be first and foremost of the Ocuupiers mission…if they ever find the courage to put on paper.

  8. I suspect the “list ” is from a chainmail running rampant by right -wingers, with bits and piece cobbled together to make something believable, true or not. I’d really like the source for the “7 dead”claim,and the circumstances

  9. Sorry Aaron…forgot to mention, I’m more than willing to discuss the “many things Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street supporters find in common”. With or without the Occupiers putting their purpose on papaer, I can’t find one. Help me out..

  10. Come, come now Jackie…open any newspaper with a circ greater than 2500. You’ll find all the Occupy deaths well documented. As Aaron said – “nonsense”.

    We’re trying to have a pragmatic Range discussion. Not an intellectual, diversionary tactics discussion like – “”It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘is’ is.” –Bill Clinton, 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair”.

  11. -They are both populist movements.
    -They are both driven by anger at those running society.
    -They both want major social change.
    -They both want to put the nation’s power into the hands of the majority of the citizenry.

    Yeah, I could tell you that Tea Party members are racist, and you could respond that OWS’ers are violent, and we could go ’round and ’round in circles having a non-productive conversation all day.

    In the article, Aaron points out some large social issues that our nation is currently facing. Rather than pointing fingers at each other, wouldn’t it be much nicer if we worked together to solve our problems?

    I mean seriously. If we could hating each other for like two seconds, I’m sure we would surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.

  12. Ok Tony, until Aaron finds time to answer…I’ll ask you. Where’s the common ground between the Tea Party and the Occupiers?

    I want to work with you on this…

  13. Limitations on the lobbying ability of big banks.

    A restructuring of the “too big too fail system”.

    Campaign finance reform.

    These probably aren’t bad places to start anyway.

  14. Ok..these wouldn’t be the first choices of the Tea Party though.

    We’d suggest starting with prioritizing and reducing federal spending. Along with that comes balancing the federal budget. Realizing everyone agrees the spending path we’re on is not sustainable and foolish, we all can demand it stop…today. OK?

    I’m willing to work on lobbying, and campaign finance reform. What’s the Occupiers position on these two issues?

    The only thing needed to be done on “too big to fail” is…well nothing. We have bankruptcy laws in place to handle any and all failures. Agreed?

  15. In the mean time, the Occupier list grows.

    249.Houston, TX: 11/15/2011 — Occupier Arrested
    250.Minnesota: 11/15/2011 — Occupy Minnesota Costs Taxpayers $10,000+ Each Day
    251.Austin, TX: 11/15/2011 — Occupier Accused of Masturbating in Front of 16 Year-old Girl
    252.San Francisco, CA: 11/15/2011 — Deadly Dog Disease Spreads at Occupy Camp
    253.Philadelphia, PA: 11/15/2011 — Occupier Arrested for Assaulting Woman
    254.Philadelphia, PA: 11/15/2011 — Occupiers Vandalize Dilworth Plaza With Graffiti and Feces – Video
    255.Santa Cruz, CA: 11/15/2011 — Ringworm, Scabies Outbreak at Occupy Camp
    256.Oakland, CA: 11/14/2011 — Occupiers Cost Taxpayers $2.4 Million

    Still no luck in finding a comparable list for the Tea Party. Haven’t given up though…

  16. Hello??? It’s disappointing but not unexpected our dialogue to work on common issues has gone silent. Oh well..

    I did find a short list of the Tea Party accomplishments:

    The Republican share of the two-party vote in all 435 House races nationwide in the November 2010 general election. Overall, Republican House candidates won 42,672,135 votes to Democratic candidates’ 36,581,023.


    The number of Democratic state legislators nationwide, the lowest total since 1946. As a result of the November 2010 elections, Republicans hold 53.7% of the nation’s state legislative seats to 46.3% for Democrats.

    The Tea Party appears to have used the voting booth to accomplish their goals.

    In the mean time, the Occupier list of accomplishments grows..

    257.Wash DC: 11/16/2011 — Suspected White House Shooter Spent Time with OccupyDC.
    258.Pittsburgh, PA: 11/15/2011 — Five Occupiers Arrested for Disorderly Conduct, Blocking Traffic
    259.San Francisco, CA: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Storm Bank, 95 Arrested
    260.Chicago, IL: 11/16/2011 — Occupier Arrested for Child Porn
    261.NYC: 11/16/2011 — Dozens Of Hypodermic Needles Found In Zuccotti Park
    262.NYC: 11/16/2011 — Occupier Arrested for Making Terror Threats — Video … More.
    263.Dallas, TX: 11/17/2011 — 18 Occupiers Arrested
    264.Charlotte, NC: 11/14/2011 — Two Occupiers Arrested
    265.Charlotte, NC: 11/15/2011 — 8 Occupiers Arrested
    266.Ottawa, CN: 10/29/2011 — Feces, Urine, and Blood Covered Blanket Hung Over Tent
    267.Los Angeles, CA: 11/15/2011 — Occupier Charged With Masturbating In Front of Children
    268.Los Angeles, CA: 11/15/2011 — Occupier Arrested for Attempting to Light Food Vendor On Fire
    269.NYC: 11/15/2011 — City Claims Occupy Wall Street Protesters Were Stockpiling Weapons
    270.Wash DC: 11/15/2011 — Occupiers Block Traffic, Three Injuries
    271.NYC: 11/16/2011 — 150 Trashmen Needed to Clean Occupy Park Filth

    Why oh why aren’t they willing to use the voting booth…like normal hard working U.S. citizens?

  17. Responding to you is tedious. The goal post moves and I’m not here to debunk or refute the talking points coming from the sum total of the conservative press. I put out some ideas on my blog. I’m honored that you read and offer your thoughts. I discuss when I can, when I feel a productive conversation is possible. We go down this road every couple of months. 15 comments. 25 comments. Sometimes 40 comments. Back and forth between me you and maybe two other people. It’s tedious. It’s not a good use of time or emotion. I am not conceding any points, nor am I afraid of commenting. I just don’t want to.

  18. Tedium…coupled with hard work is the life blood of winners Aaron.

    If you think “we shouldn’t rest easy” means it’s ok to quit after 7 rounds of debate, let alone 7 times 70, you won’t make much of a dent on the Range, let alone the world.

    Do a small amount of research on Dan Gable, probably the worlds greatest high school & college wrestler (working out isn’t complicated, but it takes repetative hard work)…or on Pete Sampras and how he learned not to become bored with his 8th, 9th or 10th volley..

    I’ve come to the conclusion Aaron that you’re really not serious about changing anything. Yes, you “put out some ideas on your blog”. However as Thomas Edison said – “Turning an idea into something useful is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

    Unfortunately, you rarely get past the armchair one percent. When the 99% perspiration quit, nothing happens. Then you throw out another one percent idea.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, it’s your blog. I appreciate your indulgence. And for some strange reason I enjoy doing occassional topical research for you..

  19. The nice thing about all this is that time will tell all we need to know. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

  20. #280 in the list of Occupiers Successes makes one wonder how they would’ve celebrated if the assassin would have been successful…And the DEM’s continue to back ’em. It’s hard to fathom…

    272.Los Angeles: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Block Freeways, 26 Arrested
    273.NYC: 11/17/2011 – Mob of Occupiers Taunt, Bully Small School Children
    274.San Francisco, CA: 11/17/2011 — Lice, Fleas, Disease Spread in Camp
    275.NYC: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Create Citywide Mayhem, 275 Arrested
    276.West Jordan, UT: 11/17/2011 — Occupier Hurls Molotov Cocktail at Bank
    277.NYC: 11/17/2011 — Police Officer Slashed, Others Attacked
    278.NYC: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Throw Vinegar In Eyes of Police Officers
    279.Lincoln, NE: 11/5/2011 — 4 Occupiers Arrested at Bank Protest
    280.San Diego, CA: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Hold Moment of Silence In ‘Solidarity’ With Accused Obama Would-Be Assassin — Video
    281.Melbourne, AU: 11/18/2011 — Children as Young as 12 Given Drugs, Alcohol
    282.Los Angeles, CA: 11/17/2011 — Dozens of Occupiers Arrested at Bank Protest
    283.Denver, CO: 11/16/2011 — Residents Complain Police Response Slowed Due to Occupiers
    284.Denver, CO: 11/17/2011 — Occupiers Block Traffic
    285.Denver, CO: 11/18/2011 — Occupiers Charged With Inciting a Riot, Assaulting Police Officer
    286.Columbus, OH: 11/15/2011 — 7 Occupiers Arrested for Refusing to Leave Bank

  21. Ranger – yes, those incidents are bound to happen because the Occupy movement is not as well organized as the Tea Party and the OWS groups are much longer lived groups. Thus they are subject to tensions as well as outside influences that can be blamed on them simply because of proximity.

    The Tea Party, who leans towards a libertarian agenda (which I would tend to favor ideologically), somehow wants to ignore Congressman Walz’s STOCK act. So these Tea party people who claim to want a fair playing field for everyone somehow want to keep their insider advantage when it comes to stock trading information? Or when we talk campaign finance, it is never about how to fix it – instead a laser focus on public union contributions (which can be a conflict of interest). So the Tea Party seems to face misdirection in just as many ways, just in ways more insidious than the straightforward OWS movement.

    In the end, whenever we are using our freedoms to their fullest, people will sometimes cross the line. The lines are razor thin. And since you are providing a running tally of all the incidents, it seems the police are doing an excellent job of taking care of those that have crossed the line.

  22. Forwarded to me by a Floridian (former Minnesotan) friend…Hope you find it timely & pertinent to our discussion….

    11/20/11 3:11pm

    “Hello Naples Tea Party Patriots. To everyone who attended our rally at Cambier Park, I want to say thank you for demonstrating that charity comes from the individual heart, not from the government.

    Byron Donalds did a magnificent job organizing the event and coordinating our efforts with St. Matthews House.

    Thanks to all the crews who helped organize the food items and money that were delivered and put into the truck.

    Thanks to all of you who could not be at the rally but chose to hand deliver food items and money to St Matthews House or some other charitable organization directly.

    Thank you St. Matthews House for working with us and the job you do in helping those in need.

    And finally, thanks for leaving the grounds of Cambier Park cleaner than the way we found it.

    The Christian Science Monitor had a reporter and a photographer cover our rally and they will publish a story in their national magazine in a couple of weeks. Be on the lookout for it.

    The story published in the Naples Daily News was about what I expected. The questions I received from the reporter were a dead giveaway that the theme of their story would not be about the Naples Tea Party giving thanks, but more about politics and what the “nascent occupy groups movement means for individuals and the collective,” as the reporter clearly explained.

    It was as if….. how dare the Naples Tea Party hold a rally in Cambier Park, knowing full well Occupy Naples uses the same park every Saturday in order to come up with a real plan to save America. “Tea party, Occupy groups nearly cross paths,” read the headline to the story. One has to wonder what would have happened had the two groups accidentally gathered in the park at the same time?

    For a full description of our rally, you can read my blog entry at:

    Have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving”.

    Barry Willoughby

  23. Just to wrap this one up Aaron, as I expect we won’t hear much from you or Time as you de-link yourselves from the Occupiers going forth…It’s only D.C. remaining, and no one’s going near them..

    “Regarding the New York “Occupy” effort, Mr. Obama had kind words for the Occupiers. He shrewdly deduced that even if there weren’t many voters among the noisy campers many other left-liberal types would sympathize with them and Obama’s quasi-endorsement would help him sharpen his class warfare campaign message.

    Day after day the campers obliged. Finally, the stench, noise, public defecation, drug-dealing, rape, and assault were too much, and police moved in and cleared out the camp. Other cities followed suit, but not Washington”. – Peter Hannaford 1-20-2012

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