I’ve been recapping my 2020 accomplishments, including a new book and a sculpture in our art park. But today I want to talk about an accomplishment that’s less of an accomplishment and more of something that happened this year. But it’s still big, so it seems worth including.
We got a new dog. Her name is Kat, short for Katarina. (Yes, we are the best at naming things.)
She’s a three-legged rescue dog, originally from Texas, and came to us by way of Wisconsin. She’s maybe two years old (we’re not sure), she’s most likely a pit bull, and she’s great.
We got her on Mother’s Day, which is fitting because Abby is the dog person, and Kat came to us shortly after we lost Nick and a few months before we lost Mazie (yeah, 2020 sucks).
With 2020 nearly behind us (yay!), I’m looking back on some positive accomplishments during this pandemic year. Last time I looked at my book Better Politics, Please. This time I wanted to look at the “Community Cairn” public art project in West St. Paul.
Since 2020 has been such a dumpster fire, I thought it might help to recap a few accomplishments. One of the big ones is my latest book: Better Politics, Please.
I came up with this idea before the pandemic struck, but really fleshing it out and making it happen was a total pandemic project. I needed that. I needed something to focus on in the midst of all the chaos.
A project I worked on for 15 years came to an end at the close of 2019. I went into 2020 not knowing what was next (whoa, boy howdy!). Better Politics, Please was a fun way to try something different. It gave me a lot of hope, despite a real lack of hope in the rest of the world.
I’m grateful for all the help that made this project a reality. I couldn’t have done it without the many people who supported it.
I haven’t given a coronavirus update in a while, mainly because it’s frustrating and foolish and hard to write about. But I think it’s important to document.
I last left off in the middle of summer. Late summer continued in relative safety, as many things opened up again and restrictions relaxed as we headed into school. Many of us were cautiously optimistic. While normal summer things like vacation and the state fair were cancelled, being able to get outside and eat in restaurants felt like a return to normal.
I always try to blog about the election before it happens. It’s partially a coping mechanism and partially my need to document what’s happening. Elections are a very strange tipping point in time where everything changes, so it seems key to capture your thoughts before they’re influenced by the change.
In previous elections, I’ve blogged about candidate and made endorsements and tried to help people sort through all the confusion. I didn’t do much of that this year, mostly because of my work with West St. Paul Reader and my attempt at a non-endorsement policy there (which I broke; I endorsed Lisa Eng-Sarne for ward 3 city council). In 2018 I even blogged my entire ballot (and all my picks won). I also didn’t go that route because of my Better Politics, Please book. Not that better politics means you can’t support anyone, but it just gets awkward to go after candidates hard while also trumpeting this better approach. There’s a bit of friction there.
Sometimes blogging is freeing and helps me get thoughts out of my head so I can make sense of them. But other times it just feels like too much work. That’s a little of how it feels now.
And honestly, that’s what the last four years have felt like—unending exhaustion.
So let’s talk about it—briefly, cuz exhaustion—and then we’ll see what happens on Election Day.
I’ve held off on making endorsements this year in a number of local political races because of my work with West St. Paul Reader. However, I am enthusiastically endorsing Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council.
The Bullying, Lying Opponent
Given the competition, my endorsement should be no surprise. I wrote extensively about her opponent, David Meisinger, in 2018 and his bullying, intimidating behavior.
He hasn’t changed.
This year he’s making false, misleading statements, implying that he’s the sole ‘law and order,’ pro-police candidate while also suggesting we’re living in “lawless” times with “unchecked crime and disorder.” He’s wrong on both counts. No candidates in West St. Paul have attacked police or even suggested defunding police. And there is no significant spike in crime in West St. Paul.
Anyone supporting him should be asking some serious questions about the statements he makes, his lack of transparency, and his completely inappropriate behavior.
Vote for Lisa Eng-Sarne
But why waste any more time talking about him? Let’s talk about Lisa Eng-Sarne.
Eng-Sarne first ran in 2018 in a four-way primary for the Ward 3 City Council. At the time, I supported Wendy Berry. But I also wrote letters to the editor encouraging people to pick Berry or Eng-Sarne. I could only vote for one, and I ended up with Berry. But I also supported Eng-Sarne when a seat opened up on City Council and someone had to be appointed. So Eng-Sarne has represented my ward on City Council since January 2019, and I’ve been impressed with her work.
What a rollercoaster ride this has been. I could probably say that about every book project I’ve done, but this one really felt like it. With a pandemic, civil unrest, and now a Supreme Court fight, this has been a trying time.
And that’s why I think this book is more necessary than ever. People will always disagree, but we need to find a way to do it without condemning each other to hell. That sounds extreme, but that’s how people treat one another today.
Sometimes I think we need to find something to celebrate in people we disagree with. We need some small measure of common ground. I don’t pretend to be a peacemaker who can bring all sides together and create harmony, but I think that can be a productive start.
Instead of picking fights, let’s start conversations.
Let’s Make Civic Engagement More Civil
I hope that’s what this book can be. It’s 35 stories of politicians from both sides of the aisle, from all levels of government, and finds something in who they are and what they say that can be inspiring.