Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author, community college instructor and radio producer from Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range.


New labor movement might save America just yet

By: - August 18, 2022

“We’re being treated unfairly and we’re not going to take it.” — Kasey Copeland, Minneapolis Starbucks barista and union organizer, 2022 When the union organizer showed up, all the small town’s upstanding citizens agreed he was a disgrace. Here he was, still sweaty from yesterday’s train, slicked hair talking to workers about how they were […]


Stop vibing and start thinking

By: - July 18, 2022

Lately, I’ve been seeing the phrase “Good Vibes Only” more often. It’s one of those popular sayings that fit nicely on coffee mugs, t-shirts and decorative throw pillows. The term may go back to the 1960s, but was popularized more recently beginning in 2011. Interestingly, that’s roughly when our nation began to figuratively reject its […]


From Mesaba Energy to Foxconn, boondoggles light money on fire | Essay

By: - June 22, 2022

An old friend in Iron Range politics once said it was easier to get people riled up about $25,000 in wasted taxpayer money than $10 million. “Twenty-five grand is a pickup truck,” he told me. “Ten million is incomprehensible.” Pickups cost $50,000 now — more if you want your butt warmed while you idle in […]


Cost of living is our harshest tax | Opinion

By: - May 16, 2022

Sometimes I think about the one bedroom apartment in Hibbing, Minnesota, where my wife and I first lived. We weren’t married yet, just two kids playing house. The rent was about $325 a month. Our utilities cost even less.  It was the dawn of the 21st Century. She was a newspaper reporter earning about $22,000 […]


Automatic or the people | Essay

By: - April 19, 2022

Somewhere on the Iron Range a railroad engineer noses an 85-car train under the load-out chute at a taconite plant. One by one, each car fills with almost 100 tons of iron ore. The contents of this train will be worth several hundred thousand dollars to the company. If all goes well, and it usually […]


As Bakk retires, unpredictable new era begins on the Iron Range | Opinion

By: - March 18, 2022

Today, we observe the end of an era in Iron Range politics and the beginning of a shapeless and developing new order. State Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, announced Thursday that he will retire from the Legislature at the end of his term this year. This comes two weeks after the retirement of State Sen. David […]


A homespun stitch in time could save us | Essay

By: - March 14, 2022

My wife and I recently enjoyed a rare evening out. Like with most parents, such occasions allow small joys that our busy lives often prevent. I picked the entertainment, so Christina got to go to the fabric store. She likes to loom knit and thought she might try her hand at crocheting. My wife needs […]


Shifting lines and changing times on the big lake they call Gitchi Gummi | Essay

By: - February 21, 2022

The final “Jeopardy” clue on Feb. 14 got a lot more attention in northern Minnesota than most game show fodder.  “At about 90,000, it’s the most populous city on North America’s largest lake,” asked host Ken Jennings. Anyone from here knew the answer right away. We were raised with fervent, almost nationalistic pride in Lake Superior. […]


The troubled border between consumption and conservation

By: - January 26, 2022

Strange things happen in the borderland. This is true of borders between nations or empires — the root of Casablanca’s intrigue during World War II — but especially along the border between nature and human civilization. Bears fall limp on trampolines. Moose tangle in hammocks. Tourists lose themselves in the woods, their dying cellphones lighting […]


The poison in our standing water | Essay

By: - November 30, 2021

In some bohemian coffee shop you might find a lively argument about who is more unusual, the poet or the artist. But poets and artists might agree that few were stranger than the British poet-artist William Blake. He had prophetic visions, greeted guests to his home in the nude, and believed that he had daily […]


The value of junk in these new times

By: - November 8, 2021

I got my first BB gun when I was about 9 or 10. Aptly, I looked almost exactly like Ralphie from the BB gun-centric storyline of the holiday classic, “A Christmas Story.” So now you have the picture. Unlike Ralphie, I grew up in the 1980s on a family-owned salvage yard along the Mesabi Iron […]


The humbling of giants: The rise and decline of the Iron Range — Essay

By: - September 28, 2021

Mesabi means giant.  That means that I was raised in the land of giants on the Mesabi Iron Range of northern Minnesota. In my youth, I saw those giants as the elected leaders who fought for my homeland in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. When I was 10 I watched my grandfather, Marvin Johnson, run […]