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I'm sorry about using the word "Dumb."

Kirk Bangstad

So I got pretty harsh this last week when I heard that there was a “Recall Evers” petition-signing event in Rhinelander, and I became more irate when seeing my neighbors commenting about the uselessness of wearing masks, so I just started calling both sets of people “dumb.”

I think for me, the word “dumb” was my way of explaining, via “shorthand,” that I no longer wanted to spend my time convincing people that a) Governor Evers is the only branch of government in this state that’s trying to protect us from the coronavirus, and b) wearing masks are helping keep people alive.

At some point, arguing is futile, but it’s definitely a personality defect that I lost my temper and resorted to name calling.  I’ve been pretty good at being civil throughout this campaign, but I think my rhetoric got a little out of hand. 

On this Sunday, a day I try to look back over the previous week and attempt to think about how to be a better person, I apologize to those I’ve called “dumb” or “boneheaded.”

As my mother taught me at an early age, “if you have nothing good to say, it’s better to say nothing at all.”

I will try to do that from now until the Election on November 3 and keep it as positive as possible.

Now I’d like to talk about the word “dumb” a bit, and break it down by examining the frustrations I have with some in our community.

I’m frustrated that some of my neighbors refuse to believe that universal mask wearing can save lives.

I’m frustrated that some of my neighbors refuse to believe that Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression is destroying democracy in our state.

I’m frustrated that some of my neighbors refuse to believe that lobbyists, corporations, and dark money are creating policy through the Republican party that hurts Wisconsin; from PFAS pollution, to diverting money out of public schools to underperforming private schools, to Foxconn—the biggest scam our state has ever seen.

This frustration, when my fuse is short, leads me to the easy conclusion that low brain power must be the cause of why some of my neighbors can’t see things the same as I see them. However, that conclusion is a result of my own low brain power, because I’m being too intellectually lazy to deconstruct what’s really happening.

I’ve written about this before, but I truly believe we are not providing enough education to students in media literacy or critical thinking from grade school through tech school/college, and that this is negatively affecting our democracy.  Media literacy and critical thinking are the biggest weapons we have against misinformation, and we’re currently being psychologically assaulted by propaganda machines in every corner of the internet, Breitbart, and Fox news.

I also believe that without some updated version of the now defunct Fairness Doctrine, which would regulate the misinformation hurled at us from sites that aren’t news but read as such by too many, we are destined to be a weakened nation. 

So no, my neighbors aren’t dumb, but I believe many have been misled, and haven’t been equipped with the skills to realize their fears about the future, the success of their children, their jobs, their health,  etc. are being manipulated to vote against their actual best interests.

Unfortunately, because of the pervasive “anti-intellectualism” that is so harming the Northwoods and our country today, this last paragraph will be construed by some as condescending, and by others as out-of-touch elitism.  I ask you not to go down that road.  I talked to many of you at the brewpub over the last 6 years, and employed many of you, and was respectful to most of you throughout that time.  My reflections are those made from my views while washing dishes (where this quite unflattering pic was taken) to bartending to sharing a beer with you while listening to local bands, not from an ivory tower.

What do I mean by “voting against your best interests?”

“Best interests” to me means achieving the American dream of home ownership and saving enough for retirement.  That dream has been slashed for so many Wisconsinites over the last decades, and the anger at not being able to achieve that dream has been misdirected towards a conjured up “lower class” of “takers” that don’t really exist, but can be blamed by those for whom a middle class lifestyle is always just out of reach.  If we instead placed the blame on the rich, who have bent government to its will over the course of a generation and created  public policy that has transferred wealth to them from the middle class,  we could do something about it and transfer that wealth back to where it belongs so more of us could achieve that American Dream.

This means the poor and the evaporating middle class have to work together to elect progressives, and reject the party of Trump that pits the “have-nots” against each other.

Please vote for the American Dream on November 3, there is a clear choice of how we can unite to achieve it.

Written by Kirk Bangstad on 10/25/20

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