Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Some complain just to complain

It’s once again time for my annual rant about school starting before Labor Day. Both my loyal readers know that I’ve been repeatedly disappointed that we don’t have a state law that says schools in North Dakota cannot start before Labor Day. I will quite likely continue feeling this way right up to the point that I arrive at Buehler-Larson Funeral Home… affiant sayeth no more.

So summer’s coming to a close and there’s nothing we can do about it except watch old man winter creep up on us and give us some weather worth complaining about. At this stage of life I really don’t have to worry about when school starts because I don’t have to go myself and my kids are now cutting their summers short so they can get their kids off to school. So my summer usually extends well into October before I give up the ghost and head back to my Saturday morning routine at Cappuccino on Collins.

Summer around here is really unique; there’s always something going on somewhere – motorcycle runs, Grill Fests, rodeos, bands in the park, Buggies-n-Blues, gigs on the Capitol mall, river ratting, road races, bike races, auto races, demo derbies, county and state fairs, on and on… and those who say there’s nothing to do around here in the summer might just be the type of folks who have some sort of need to always complain about something.

Those folks kinda remind me of some of my old farmer friends who never seem to be satisfied with the weather. It’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy, too calm, too cloudy, too sunny, and never just right… the upside is that complaining about the weather is a fairly safe sport… and usually not subject to someone overreacting to your opinion.

One has to be careful when selecting topics to complain about. For instance, I like to complain about the Republicans when everyone else seems to enjoy complaining about the Democrats. Unlike most folks, I’ve been known to walk into a gaggle of friends locked into the Tea Party or anti-Obama crowd and let them know that I’m really tired of them mimicking the likes of Rush Limbaugh’s anti-Obama blather. Then I usually fully insult them by asking what they really know about that Obamacare they’ve been villanizing. Despite their boisterous vehemence, they usually know very little about the issue other than what Fox News or the latest political ad has told them.

I also think that there are more pressing issues in this country than gay marriage, contraceptives, and abortion. I don’t have a legal solution for gay marriage or abortion (those are personal issues). But I do have a solution for the Catholics on contraceptives, so here goes: the bishops and priests could have their parishioners sign a release of medical information then send those to their parishioner’s health insurance company. Once these releases reached the insurance companies I’m quite sure the insurer would be happy to let the church know which of their parishioners have been using contraceptives and the rulers of the church could then handle their parishioners however they want to and leave the rest of us alone. Sure seems a lot easier than trying to pass laws that would in essence impose their religion on my religion.

I’m worried that we have lost our moorings as a country; in particular there’s less and less critical thinking going on. We Americans have become intellectually lazy, and unable or unwilling to actually pry into issues, we’d rather be fed blather than expend energy seeking the facts… and this is not a good statement about our educational system.

There are at least two sides to every story and it’s always difficult for one side to see the other because when folks lock into one side they really don’t want to see the other. I’ve always tried to understand all sides of an issue before acting on what I know… and that’s what I hope our kids learn in school.

Facts can be elusive, the truth is often hidden somewhere in the middle and more often than not it takes effort to get to the bottom of things… and that effort seems to be waning in the world today. So I can only hope that our schools can help alleviate this ignorance and maybe the next generation can get this country thinking again.

So back to school kids, and here’s hoping that your learnings will help you leave things better off than we oldsters have…