My wife and I are residents at Becketwood Cooperative in Minneapolis. Daily mid-morning and mid-afternoon about five to ten gentlemen meet in the basement workroom for coffee, talk, and snacks.  All of these men are in their mid-eighties to lower-nineties. Almost without exception they are WWII veterans and received their education under the GI Bill.  All without exception are highly educated and retired from meaningful professional careers. Deep friendships have evolved. One group rule is that political conversation is banned. Too divisive and a threat to friendship. A conversation sprang up with politics at the center – soon right vs. left – the donkey vs. the elephant. – some at the extremes of the political spectrum. Talk regarding Teddy Roosevelt came up. One brother stated: “Now that damned cowboy is in the White House” – statement borrowed from  Republican leader of  TR’s time. Party leadership saw TR as an internal party threat so they made him VP and out of the way. An assassin’s bullet felled McKinley so now “that damned cowboy is in the White House”. One might ask our Becketwood colleague whether he is opposed to the National Park System of which TR was a leader. I doubt it. Since “that damned cowboy is in the White House”  does it imply opposition to all of the progressive reforms of which TR was a leader?  A gentle reminder  indicating we should “be critical of those things of which we are most certain.” We Americans are, I think, more uptight when discussing political questions rather than discussion of matters religious. The “Benevolent Dictator” of the group, a sensitive gentleman, reminded all of the “no political talk” rule. Heated discussion ceased replaced by war, work, and family reminiscences.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,


  1. In my generation, it is rare to find an outspoken Republican. Perhaps it is because we are in the land of 10,000 liberals. I like it here, but find that it is too bad that discourse of the political nature cannot be made. Do you find relgion a common ground, Professor? In some of my circles religion is banned from discussion. It seems politics has taken over the group for religion. Have I opened a can of worms?

    1. Land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 liberals – are we still the state of Humphrey and Mondale and Wellstone when we have state gridlock and shutdown? What I had in mind is questions of Christian denominations or other religions in a separation of church and state nation. We don’t discuss that very much or usually get too excited. Internal diivisive denomination religious talk was surely part of my experience.

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