John Andrist: Searching for Civility Amid Conflict


A recent, brief visit with Tina Simonson Moe rekindled memories of her mom, Ailsa Simonson, and the special relationship we shared.

Ailsa was a full-blown Democrat activist in her heyday, probably the strongest party leader Divide County ever produced.

She rose to the position of state chairman of Democratic women during the party’s North Dakota zenith, at a time when Democrats owned the governorship, most state offices, and occasionally one of the legislative majorities.

And I was one of the fiscally conservative crowd in the same town. We could scarcely have been further apart.

And yet I always admired her passion and self-assurance, and had infinite respect for her. I’m hopeful she felt the same about me.

When I covered meetings of the school board, of which she was a member, I thought she was one of the best.

And we became particularly strong friends when she worked for me in the newspaper office.

We commiserated about many things. In her lengthy battle with cancer, when she was able to see the end, she made a point to stop and see me. Her mission was to say goodbye to special friends, and I felt honored that she had chosen me as one of them.

It was all before my time in politics, when I spurned being an active Republican, but my writings no doubt gave me away.

Somehow our friendship rose above our politics. At one time I confided in her, somewhat wistfully, telling her of my interest in some day serving in the legislature.

And her response, as I recall, was to gently say she understood, while concurring it could not be. It was during the period when Democrats owned our district, and perhaps she was just trying to protect me.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I honestly believe I learned much from folks on the other side. Foremost was to appreciate them for what they were, and look beyond whatever I felt was a limitation.[/mks_pullquote]

We were, in short, the best of friends, easily able to surmount any philosophical differences.

Another guy who became quite special to me was the late Sen. George Rait, about as straight Democrat as a guy can get and such a genuine human being.

It appears there is little of that kind of congeniality in today’s political world, although I do believe it exists quite a bit on the North Dakota level, and possibly more than we realize on the national level.

Ex-presidents have the propensity to become the best of friends when they are through calling down one another.

I honestly believe I learned much from folks on the other side. Foremost was to appreciate them for what they were, and look beyond whatever I felt was a limitation.

In any event, although I transitioned to a pretty loyal party guy in my own long legislative stint, close friends from the other side still hold a special place in my heart.

I hope there is more of that than there appears to be at the federal level.

Understanding rage

Did you ever experience rage, either as a perpetrator or victim? It’s downright nasty.

It happened in Fargo last week. An overly endowed woman in a tight parking lot requested help to get into her car from two Islamic women in the next car.

It is unknown exactly what was spoken, but the woman with the problem lost it and said terrible things.

When those things were revealed on Facebook it went viral, because of the racial overtones, and all kinds of nasty, judgmental Facebook posts reverberated throughout the community, resulting among other things in the offender getting fired.

The next day a wise police officer got them together, where they profusely apologized to one another. One report said the Islamic woman intended to go to the employer who fired her adversary and plead for her to get her job back.

We don’t all react with rage. Some just react to emotional overload with silence.

I can only remember experiencing rage a couple times in my own life. But seared in my memory is the shame I felt when it was over, and my desperate need to ask for forgiveness for over reacting.

I’m just so thankful there were no cell phone videos and viral, judgmental posts with which to deal.

Facebook, too, has a nasty face.