“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” –Martin Luther King
“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” --Martin Luther King
On April 4, 2023, Wisconsin chose love and light over darkness and hate and elected Janet Protasiewicz to change the balance of our Supreme Court, effectively ending a 12-year attack on our democracy that began with Republican governor Scott Walker in 2010.
On April 4th, 2023, Donald Trump was arrested, finally showing Americans that criminal darkness and hate are not above the law, even if you’ve been the president of the United States.
On April 4th, 1968, 55 years before the events of last week, Martin Luther King, who advised us to always choose love over hate, was assassinated.
While I don’t ascribe to numerology or astrology, I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of Martin Luther King’s words, his death, and how they relate to what happened last week. Similarly, I’m thinking about how all these events happened right before Easter, a time that coincides with themes of resurrection and new beginnings.
The last three years have been quite a journey, and I believe, like many, that this successful Supreme Court election marks a new beginning for me and the Minocqua Brewing Company.
I began the journey of making #progressivebeer and raising money to support progressive politics in Wisconsin out of the crucible of grief, fear, and anger.
My wife had died from cancer in December 2018 and a little over a year later, Covid shut down my brewpub and I was forced to lay off my staff because Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell played political football with that second round of PPP money.
I was angry, heartbroken, and scared at the same time. I hadn’t even figured out how to navigate life without my wife before I was faced with bankruptcy.
Somehow I channeled all of that grief, fear, and anger into a righteous desire to punish Trump’s political sycophants in Wisconsin and poke the bright red Republican bear “Up North.” That anger burned hot inside of me for about three years—enough to keep fighting the good fight, but also enough to smother two relationships with really wonderful women.
Somehow, after Janet was elected last Tuesday, much of that anger inside me melted away.
After going to Janet P’s election night party in Milwaukee, I drove back to Minocqua the next day and once again pleaded my case to build a beer garden next to my restored Texaco gas station “tap room,” so our many customers could actually drink our beer on-site. While pleading my case, I saw five town board members stare at me with anger and hatred in their eyes as they voted “no” on my beer garden once again.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t angry. I don’t think I have much anger left in me. I think I may have used it all up over the last three years. “Hate is too great a burden to bear,” said MLK.
I went cross country skiing the next day at Minocqua’s awesome Winter Park, one of the true winter gems of this little town. After getting 14 inches of snow last week, the trails were amazing, even in 35-degree sunny weather.
I saw a dear friend and mentor of mine in the chalet and we decided to ski together. He’s a good Scandinavian-American Christian, which to me means his faith is deep but also somewhat irreverent and always practical. As you might imagine, we get along swimmingly.
He reminded me that Martin Luther King was assassinated on the same day that Wisconsin elected a progressive judge and America arrested a cult-leading con man, and we spoke at length about what had transpired locally with my business.
“Kirk,” he said, “I have never once doubted your intentions, and I admire them, but…let me say this as respectfully as possible… I’m not quite sure I always agreed with your approach.”
My friend, in his own delicate way, reminded me of the Martin Luther King quotes I pasted into the beginning of this post.
At some points, especially when it came to dealing with members of the Minocqua Town and Oneida County Boards, I let my internal darkness and anger get carried away and didn’t lead with light. My darkness didn’t drive out the unjust darkness of my local government—it just led to more darkness.
I felt a need to publicly punish the Town of Minocqua for following Trump, ignoring Covid, refusing to enforce Governor Evers’ mask mandate, and obstructing me from running my business. And punish I did, for three years. It felt exhilarating throughout, but as most adults know, temper tantrums don’t generally lead to successful outcomes.
Last week, as I listened to Trump enumerate all the ways he’s been a victim over the last few years, and as I listened to failed conservative Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly’s bitter non-concession speech focused on his own victimhood, I realized that this continued fight with my local government was turning me into these guys—a whiny victim.
So this Easter, I’m going to re-dedicate the Minocqua Brewing Company to leading with light and love instead of darkness and anger, and I’m going to be happy with the fact that there's a beautifully restored little gas station in Minocqua that serves as a tiny mecca for empathy, science, love, inclusion, and diversity.
I’m going to attempt to reach members of the town and county board who I’ve publicly ridiculed and apologize to them—not because I was wrong to want equal treatment and due process—but because I came at them with anger and darkness as opposed to light and love.
And above all. I hope that we can forgive each other and start fresh in the spirit of resurrection and new beginnings.
And finally, I can’t wait for you to visit us when we re-open on May 12th for the summer tourism season. We're going to open with a BANG by releasing “Lady Justice, a Very Wise Weisse"--our tribute to the four progressive women who now hold the balance of Wisconsin's Supreme Court.
Be prepared to be a bit cramped every now and then—that space you drank in last summer, after which I was given a bunch of $400 citations for illegally allowing you to drink beer outside, is now going to be a parking lot.
The OBNOM WARS (Old Boys Network of Minocqua) are officially over. I’m waving the white flag. Life is too short, this town is too small, and summers "Up North" are meant for celebration, not protest:)
As for my political activism, I think I have one act left in me. The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC has raised over a million dollars to help get Governor Evers and Janet Protasiewicz elected, but there are a few things left to do—or “undo.”
With our new Supreme Court, I believe Attorney General Josh Kaul will successfully “undo” the draconian 1847 abortion ban in Wisconsin.
I believe the progressive Law Firm named “Law Forward” will bring lawsuits that will end gerrymandering in Wisconsin and overturn a number of voter suppression laws that have been passed by Republicans over the years.
The one issue that I’d like to help solve is our broken public school funding system. I’m hoping to talk to some really smart lawyers over the next few weeks to determine if it’s possible to successfully sue the Republican legislature for siphoning money away from our public schools through private school vouchers and for creating an unequal public education system by refusing to update our state school financing formulas.
In tandem with that issue, I’d also like to see if it might be possible to legally overturn Act 10--Scott Walker’s bait and switch legislation that broke the back of the teacher’s union and drove so many wonderful teachers out of our state. If organizations reading this post are taking the lead on any of this, I’d like to offer the support and fundraising muscle of the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC to your efforts.
So that’s the news from Lake Minocqua (no, not Lake Wobegon) on this Easter Sunday. Here’s hoping we all remember to lead with light, love, and forgiveness...one beer at a time.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC