The Long Way Home March 25, 2022

I guess I’ve always been skeptical. As a kid, I was sent to Sunday School, Daily Vacation Bible School, and three years of Confirmation classes. I learned the Lutheran truths, as much as a suburban kid could in Minnesota.

Then, I started to think about religion and its powers in a new way. There are so many of them after all. I knew that not all of them could be right, and I am pretty sure they could all be wrong. Thus began my skepticism of power.

When talking about politicians and others with power with my dad (he was a bit more trusting of bosses than I, but not much) he used to say, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.”

After high school, I decided to crush my mother’s dream that I’d enter the seminary and I began a career following in my dad’s footsteps in the freight business. After some schooling in transportation regulations and a handful of entry-level jobs, the owner of the company that I worked for in 1980 named me its president at the ripe old age of 26. Me, the one skeptical of power, now had power over a real freight business. I didn’t know much about running a business, but I learned fast. I relied on advisors, paid and not, yet I remained skeptical of all the advice. Using what I thought would work, and discarding the rest. Turns out I continued to put my pants on one leg at a time.

As the 1980s progressed, our company was threatened with a large number of claims and lawsuits resulting from the lack of Congressional follow through when they deregulated trucking in 1980. The only thing to do to keep our business alive was to get involved in lobbying Congress for relief from its screw-up. Joining with industry peers I made several trips to our nation’s capital to lobby on our collective behalf. And I got to meet some people with real power as we tried to get legislative relief from the so-called Filed Rate Doctrine.

One thing became clear during my first visit. Members of Congress and their staff have a very shallow pool of knowledge about trucking--real life on the ground let’s say. They put their pants on one leg at a time.

Over the coming years, I met and worked with a number of leading power figures in DC--some with real power, others who would go on to have it in this century. If a Congressperson was ignorant of my business, I needed to be skeptical about everything they promised.

Politicians and government officials have always been liars, enabled by the stars of the press. Lying, more out of ignorance than malice, but lying nonetheless. The politicians and the pundits can’t all be right. The truth is, they can all be wrong, and most likely are.

Accepting that truth makes skepticism necessary and keeps cynicism at bay, allowing us to address the real challenges of housing, jobs, and the environment that our communities on the North Shore are facing now.

So let’s all get our pants on, one leg at a time, and get to work.

 Published 1/28/2022   Northshore Journal