<\body> Stories in America: A Conversation With a Progressive South Dakotan

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Conversation With a Progressive South Dakotan

Their numbers may be small, but South Dakota, like every so-called "red state" state in this country, has a progressive community and they're outraged over the recent passage of the unconstitutional law that would force a girl who is raped by a male relative to have his child.

South Dakota, a state with 770,883 residents, made national and international headlines after Governor Mike Rounds signed the abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. With only one clinic providing abortions in the entire state, South Dakota's women have been struggling for reproductive rights for some time. Only now are they getting widespread attention.

While South Dakota has a higher percentage of women with health insurance than the nation as a whole, it is below average for women's employment and earnings and social and economic autonomy, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research report on the Status of Women in South Dakota.

A few facts about South Dakota's women:

*Only 16 percent of South Dakota's state legislators are women, compared with only 22 percent nationally.
*South Dakota ranks 48th nationally for women's political participation.
*Women in South Dakota are the least likely in the country to own their own business and are among the least likely to work in professional or managerial positions.
*South Dakota does not require insurance companies to cover contraception.
*Almost half of all Native American women in South Dakota are poor, compared with approximately 10 percent of white women.
*Median annual earnings for women in South Dakota rank 50th, tied with Montana.
Source: The Status of Women in South Dakota

Two years ago, the state's progressives formed a group called "Grassroots South Dakota: Ideas for Progress," to educate people about those issues and encourage vocal opposition. "Obviously we haven't been doing a very good job," says member Sheila Flynn. Today the group has 900 members.

Flynn, a 56-year old South Dakota native, teaches high school literature.

Tell me about the progressive community in South Dakota.

There are many progressive groups: the Sierra Club and the clean water groups, but they are so splintered. We thought we could bring them all together and have a stronger voice.

What's the political climate like now that your state is getting so much national and international attention?

The political climate is conservative, but I think there are conservative men and women who are stunned by our legislative inaction. The legislature didn't deal with healthcare or education or water. They tabled those and came out with this restrictive ban on women's health. We have 9,000 more people without health insurance this year. Even very, very conservative Republicans are shocked that women would no longer have a choice in South Dakota. I don't think they thought it would happen. They thought someone would swoop in and stop this nonsense.

When the Republican Party wed themselves to the religious right, people in South Dakota thought that would be the end of the Republican Party. Obviously, we were very wrong about that.

There are lifelong Republicans in South Dakota who have changed their party affiliation in the last five years.

Do you know many Republicans who've changed their affiliation?

Yes, they have told me that Bush scares the heck out of them. These are people who fought in World War II, so there is a shift happening.

Then again, in a small state it takes very little money to influence an election. We're not a populated state so you can really swing things with a just a few votes.

What does your group plan to work on this year?

We plan to get out the vote on Native American reservations. We really want to fight the disconnect between what people want the government to be doing and what the government is doing. We don't have a paper trail with our voting system and we also plan to work on that.

Have you seen a rise in religion? Are there more fundamentalist churches in South Dakota today than say 10 years ago?

Yes, I have students who think the Left Behind series is non-fiction. When I tell them they should look at the other side of this issue, they look at me like I'm going to hell.

On the other hand, we have the United Church of Christ in Sioux Falls and their membership has tripled in the last year.

The fundamentalist movement is new to South Dakota, but they already have a loud voice. Our local school board just enacted a new sex education curriculum and they were there crying about it at every school board meeting. They make huge waves and they get things done. We have to be asking people who run for office some hard questions.

What is the sex education curriculum?

They're just books, but according to these people, the books are encouraging sex. Our kids need information about safe sex.

As a teacher, do you worry about speaking out?

I am more open progressively outside of the school now than I was five years ago. We can no longer be quiet.

I try to challenge kids to think, but sadly, we're in a climate where they don't think they have to listen to another perspective. It's reflective of the climate. It's red and blue and I don't need to listen to your side.

What message would you like to send to people who are shocked and outraged over what's happening in South Dakota? People are calling for tourism boycotts and saying nasty things about South Dakotans.

The progressives in South Dakota are truly heartsick about this. And they're all ages. I think there is a perception that just old hippies are concerned with these issues and that's not true.

I don't blame people for saying nasty things. We're not proud of our state right now.

Did you grow up in South Dakota?

Yes, I'm a fourth generation South Dakotan. I have five children. They all left the state for college and came back to raise their children. I don't think they would have come back if this was the climate a few years ago.

Have you always been progressive?

I have always been progressive, but not active. I didn't get active until the 2000 election. That was frightening. The idea that our Supreme Court selected our president was frightening. I worry that that's part of the problem. We go from one alarm to the next alarm. People are on hyper alert and feel helpless. My energy is going towards getting rid of every person who voted for this bill. I'm hoping the national interest in South Dakota will take the wind out of the their sails and get their voices out of our legislature.


At 3/10/2006 12:00 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

I'm going to the mountains for a few days and am giving my computer a well deserved break. Have a good weekend.

At 3/10/2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

Have a good time, Rose. And thanks for putting up with me.

At 3/10/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Awesome article... Left Behind...nonfiction?

Scary kids.

At 3/11/2006 3:01 AM, Blogger A Girl From Texas said...

This all seem so sureal. Almost like whatever is happening, it's happening in another country, not here. This religious movement is so evil and outrageous and they seem so organized and focused.

What really bothered me the mostwas what Bill Napoli said about the only situation in which he would support an abortion.

Here you can read it and see it.


At 3/11/2006 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Napoli has criminal Munchausen by Proxy psychosis--he has orgasms imposing smelly, possibly lethal bladder and bowel tears (fistulas) on "sinful" mothers by full-term babies. Fistulas are the dirty secret why marriage was banned for priests, why the Apostles wanted to trade in their wives, and why Jesus never condemned Jerusalem's RU-486-like weed plucked by his women followers. Christianity was quickly hijacked by pedophiles and Scot Petersons who wrongly condemned contraception and abortion to keep themselves supplied with fresh molestable altar boys and trophy mistresses. During the witch craze, pregnancy scars were considered proof of "devil worship." The church forbade sex with menopausal women and on most "Holy Days" of the year. Birth defects were caused by "sinful sex" on Sundays. Even with better gynecology, 30-50% of all U.S. moms still suffer embarrassing incontinence--hence all those chirpy, pukey ads for Depends and Poise. Why do you think Hyde, Gingrich, and Randall Terry are so self-righteous about their cheating??? In the Third World, fistulas are a public health crisis. They are common in underage moms whose pelvic bones are too narrow for full-term babies. Eventually, the babies' stuck heads rot off, their torsos get expelled, and if their moms live, they continually leak feces and urine. They may also be lame from nerve damage. Please note, "prolifers" prefer babies suffer these excruciating deaths over mercifully quick late term abortions, early abortions, "baby killing" contraception, and "mutilating" sterilization. My best friend was gruesomely killed by her last daughter--my friend's elevated estrogen during that pregnancy caused her estrogen-sensitive face cancer to return. Her nose, upper and lower palates, left eye and ear rotted off. That's mutilation and matricide! If childbirth caused fathers' penises to explode, abortion would be the Vatican's holiest sacrament. This matricide battle was fought nearly a century ago by nurse Margaret Saenger whose mother was killed by 17 pregnancies, and Mary Ware Daring whose third child nearly killed her and sent her husband into adultery. The religious fundies they fought even opposed pain killers for labor pains. Imagine caesarians without anesthesia! Women need to talk graphically about these countless childbirth horrors. Moreover, fundies ignore their own coffee, alcohol, tobacco, herb, soy, mercury, radiation, and age-induced miscarriages that, by their own standards, deserve last rites and funeral masses. To drive that hypocrisy home, we should go through their garbage and stage public funerals for the tampons of know-it-all "prolifers." Priests would rebel if they had to perform last rites for smelly, bloody tampons. It would remind them why they reject women and hide out with other career gynephobes. I called one Catholic biddy who held funeral masses for the ashes of an abortion clinic's medical waste and asked why no funerals for her "sanitary napkin babies." She exploded and hung up. What's good for the petri dish or abortion clinic "baby" is also good for the tampon "baby." Randall Terry needs to be harrassed about his adultery and his new broodmare's coffee abortions. I suggested years ago to the embryo stem cell research advocate, The Christopher Reeve Foundation, that "prolifers" would rescue petri dishes instead of real people from burning buildings. Saddam should have surrounded Bagdad with fertility clinic petri dishes to avert the Shock and Awe! Dems should introduce "gotcha laws"--like criminalizing fathers, pols, and priests whose imposed childbirths maim or murder mothers. Imagine politicians, pedophile priests, and the wife-dumping adulterer Randall Terry doing life for every woman killed in childbirth??? Imagine adulterous Repug Congressman Don Sherwood doing 5 years because his wife wears Depends or got breast cancer from bearing daughters! Viagra should be banned for single men. Married users should have their names published, in case their wives aren't getting any, but the mistresses are. Viagra prescriptions should come with waiting periods and pamphlets with ugly pictures of breast and face cancers caused by pregnancy. Pro-choicers should hire cheater decoys to catch adulterous Repugs on camera. Dems should ban non-procreative ejaculations by anti-choice men and coffee-drinking by their ugly broodmares. Vagina cop Judy Brown of American Life League should be harrassed about her funding by pedophiles, marching orders by Nazi genocider Pope Paul VI who funded the slaughter of 500,000 non-Catholic "sinner" Serb Christians in 1942, and her slut daughter. Dems should ban pain killers for Repug childbirths because that's how "God punished Eve." Women should go on a global birth strike to avoid childbirth bladder and bowel injuries, related cancers, and to thwart pedophile priests. Send "prolifers" to jail for the next woman murdered by childbirth! Market "baby-saving" undies to fundies--briefs that save sperm and napkins that collect miscarried embryos. Finally, bumper sticker this: It takes the GOP to rape and pillage the Global Village.
--Heil Mary

At 3/11/2006 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First I thank you for allowing me to post a comment without having to identify myself and sign up for a club. You see I believe this illegal administration will use that information to build a case against me for being a liberal and jail me. So much for freedom in the U.S.A.

Second, I moved to Rapid City in 1991. My family are 7th generation Californians, but the Republican party and the first Bush administration had pillaged California so much and the cost of living was so high you had to either be of the Manor Born or live like a peasant. We left because even with 2 college degrees and 2 decades of work experience my husband and I could not afford to buy a house in California. Our children were raised in apartments along side the children of the "illegal" immigrants. And we learned that they are the nicest people and we learned just how hateful our own people are.

We moved to South Dakota to be closer to our family there. They have lived in the Black Hills area since Colonel Custer was riteously killed in a nobel cause by the Souix. They have been sitting on OIL WELLS and drawing money from John Deere Tractor franchise for generations. They never heard of poverty or hard work... wondering if you would bear fruit. Well it hurts when you work for 30 years and "play by the rules" and you end up on the road homeless with your kids, wandering the midwest looking for a new life.

But we have the bravery of our forefathers, and we struck out for a better life.

What we found in South Dakota apalled us. We were used to the kind people of Los Angeles, who be they black or white, Mexican or South or Central American, European, or Asian, or even Middle Eastern, all live together in what is the best example of harmony yet to be seen on earth. The news likes to take stories of racism and hatred and make L.A. look bad, but they're lying. And now that the good people of South Dakota can see how the news LIES... I hope you will listen.

The time we lived there (6 months) we were shocked at the hatred shown by the fine upstanding Catholic people who hated the Native people of the area. When the Air Force Base brought in African Americans, the white AIRMEN used to go to the fence line and take pot shots with their guns at the soldiers walking guard on the fenceline. This was all a big joke. The store owners in Rapid City consider the Indian population to be a pack of thieves and stare them down, tracking their every move when they enter their stores to do business.

Hostility and Hatred Reins in South Dakota. And you people have been ignoring it for decades. Your own children leave the state in droves never to return. The teacher interviewed has the pleasure of her children returning because she is different.

The local liberals are frightened little puppy dogs afraid of the bullies that the conservatives are.
Well, the way I was brought up is that if there is a bully on the playground, you surround him and call him out. You make him prove his worth. You set him straight and make him understand he does not rule the world, but instead is a member of a larger population that he would do well to learn about.

South Dakota offers nothing for young families to do. The parents get off work and fly to the bars to get drunk and gamble as much of their earnings away as they can do without becoming homeless; allowing their children to cook their own dinners and take care of themselves. I have seen this in countless families in 4 cities around the state. These people are having fun and they don't care if it is at someone else's expense. Have another kid to put into the mix? SURE he can offer another deduction and become another chore person around the homestead. They're throw away people.

We were shocked and apalled when we heard of a farmer in nearby Laramie WY; who was found shot to death and thrown into the ditch on the side of the road. Upon discovery, the police went to his farm and arrested his high school age son. They brought him to the station, booked him, got him a state appointed lawyer, and had him in front of the judge in 3 days. He was found guilty of murder and on the fourth day given his sentence... death. He sits languishing in jail to this day....

We decided to leave the area quickly.
We went to another state where they believe in the American Constitution and in the freedom it affords. The bullies are at our doorstep here too, but we organize and beat them back. It is a local chore but we must do it.


She said, "Even very, very conservative Republicans are shocked that women would no longer have a choice in South Dakota. I don't think they thought it would happen. They thought someone would swoop in and stop this nonsense."

Well, someone did swoop in and it wasn't the Savior you were all looking for was it? It was someone else entirely wasn't it?

You, the good people of South Dakota have dirtied your own back yard and you will not see it undone until you do the work that it takes to stop all this nonsense. It starts in your own homes at your own dinner tables. The opinions and attitudes, and yes, the religious opinions that have wrought this upon you must be ceased.

You must cease and desist in your current path or you are doomed to live in a state that is no longer free. How does it feel?

In the meantime, I suggest that each and every woman in the state who does not agree with the governor, should refuse to have sex with her man. Period. Look up your history books, if you can find some that are not rewritten to remove this fact:


It takes a village ladies.

At 3/11/2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shock it has been for you to move to South Dakota!! My sympathies are with you. For me, tho, this whole development is not a shock at all....for I grew up in Idaho, beautiful,beautiful, Idaho, where they are still whispering about the fact that Lewis and Clark had a black person with them. These Western (and mid-Western) states are still not even in the 20th century mentally. Why should the white people who live there be contemporary when they are in the power (money) position?
An anecdote to illustrate: when I was about 12 yrs. old, I was riding in a car with an elder from the local Presbyterian Church (to which I belonged) during a snow storm in January. We were on our way to a basketball game. All of us were very excited (meaning, the children, who were looking forward to be game), when, going up the grade in the middle of nowhere, we spotted a car in the ditch.
The Elder said, oh, look now for anyone walking along the road (note: he did not stop to check the car itself). So, the children peered out the window, looking for any survivors.
Suddenly, we saw a man trudging through the snow, and screamed, "there is someone!"....
The Elder slowed his car and the man came into view. A priest. The Elder said, " oh, we can't stop for him," and drove off, leaving him in a blizzard to his own devices.
Luckily, the childern in the car had, in fact, listened to the lessons taught in church., and we were horrified. Every single one of us. We talked about it for months among ourselves.
It also led us to speak to other injustices and bigotry that we saw in our community on a day to day basis.
The upshot: every single child in that car grew up to be a person who practices tolerance and open-mindedness. I know because I continue to have contact with my childhood friends, to this day.
Do not despair, my friend. And, as a footnote, not a one of us has lost our faith in a loving God. Blessings to you.

At 3/11/2006 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding to my mid west story. I would love to see more and more people come forward and tell their stories too. Maybe some of the bullies will see their stories from another person's point of view and begin to realize how awful they have been to live with.

I have not lost my faith either. I trust in Our Lord Jesus completely.. . .
and to the best of my memory he was the one who walked out of church publicly declaring them to be hypocrites...

I agree and to that I add "thieves"...

And so I remain a Christian in the same vein as Christ... one who does not go into the House that has been turned into a den of thieves....

Obviously I interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ differently than money changers do, but then, my need for HIM is spiritual, not financial.

And to end this on a more worldly note, I say "KEEP YOUR ROSARIES OFF MY OVARIES"..........


At 3/11/2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Sophia said...

I am a life-long South Dakotan, life-long liberal/progressive. I am a member of Democracy in Action, a progressive political PAC in Rapid City. We have over 300 members. There are several such groups, though we are unquestionably outnumbered by conservatives.

I offer my sympathy to the writer who moved to SD. I'm sorry it was so difficult for her. I do urge her and other progressives here to support one another, not condemn. Encourage and strengthen one another. We are here and we can work together and do better.

We had a pro-women -choice, -children rally 3/9 in Rapid City and Sioux Falls. I attended the one in RC, which I live near. Organizers hoped for 200 demonstrators. We had over 400. The crowd was raucus, the anger and resolve palpable. There were elder, gray-haired women and men. There were high school girls and boys and everyone in between.

There were some anti-choice people across the street. Their numbers were about half ours. It was great.

I want to say that there is hope for SD. Many people attended the rally who never have participated publicly before. They were angry, and using that energy to fight back. It will be a fight, no question about that, but we are fighters. We also welcome any help offered in good faith.

The idiotic and mysogynistic comments made by Napoli offends us all. He is a small-minded attention-seeker who will say just about anything. He likes to fancy himself as a maverick outsider, but such is not the case. He is a far-right extremist pig.

We'll need and welcome your help. We will keep fighting.

At 3/12/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger benjibopper said...

Just want to thank you for adding some rational discussion to the political blog world. I've been slugging it out on an anti-Islamic site and getting gangbanged by a bunch of haters who seem particularly hostile to my Canadian-ness. Nice to to visit a place more sane and remind myself why America remains full of wonderful people despite its current administration.

At 3/13/2006 12:20 PM, Blogger MJW said...

Rose, thank you for posting a very encouraging and positive story about South Dakota. Most South Dakotans, even most of the conservative majority, are not a bunch of wild-eyed radical fundamentalists. That said, the republican/evangelist propaganda machine, which certainly did not originate in South Dakota, has been spreading across this nation like a plague in recent years, and, yes, even some South Dakotans are falling under its evil spell. Your article does a nice job of showing that most South Dakotans are not like that. For example, two of my aunts and one uncle, who live in South Dakota, and who are in their 60s and 70s, think Bush is a travesty and a disgrace to this nation and, according to at least one of them, is also a threat not only to our democracy but also to the rest of the world (at least that how I interpreted her criticisms).

I have just one comment to make (before I post a separate comment to confront one of your other readers): I would like to point out that potential business women in South Dakota are not being held back by old-fashioned men. I know the statistics you cite are not your own, nor do they actually imply that men are holding women back; however, they do tend to give the impression that "outside" forces (meaning men, or a conservative atmosphere, or even the state itself) are somehow holding women back. I've known a number of women who have owned, or still own, their own businesses in the small towns of west-central South Dakota, including one who owns and operates the newspaper in my home county.

At 3/13/2006 12:40 PM, Blogger MJW said...

Dear former Californian,

[Actually, this comment is addressed more to the people who may have been fooled by your comment above rather than specifically to you. If you get bored with my editorial before you finish reading it, please skip down the Capital Punishment statistics.]

Among many other things, you write, "Hostility and Hatred Reins [sic] in South Dakota."

I am a progressive, independent from South Dakota, who leans slightly to the left in most cases. Normally, I base my arguments on logic, facts or clearly observed reality, and I shall do so here too, but I must start by saying:

What a bunch of bull!

From beginning to end, your comment is nothing more than an angry, irrational, dishonest, self-serving, elitist rant. You have the nerve to attempt to paint the majority of South Dakotans with a single, broad and incredibly prejudicial brush stroke after spending a mere six months in the state. I'm sure, during that time, you personally met at least 10,000 of South Dakota's 770,883 caucasian and Native American citizens, so that you could form an accurate assessment of the population as a whole [sarcastic exaggeration intended].

Racial Prejudice?
Contrary to what you write, the majority of conservative South Dakotans are not filled with hostility and hatred. While I disagree with the majority of my fellow South Dakotans most of the time on political issues (sometimes angrily), they are quite tolerant and very open-minded socially. I have personally witnessed this on many occasions. I'll give you just one example. It is aimed at your ridiculous accusations that the majority of South Dakotans are prejudiced: A far-right fringe nut from out of state (he was a large, athletic, but friendly looking type) came to my ultra-conservative friend's door one day long ago (in my adopted home town in South Dakota). He was selling pictures to raise money for his cause. He didn't tell us about his cause (which was fomenting hatred among the races) until we had each purchased a picture. When we realized we had been duped, my friend and I looked at one another with barely concealed looks of disgust. As soon as this large, athletic nut walked out the door, but was still within a couple of feet of the open window, my ultra-consertative friend said to me in a loud, angry voice, "What a fruitcake!" I was still watching the guy, so I knew he had heard my friend. What's more, I was glad he had heard him. Based on my experience, that's how most South Dakotans will react when confronted with racial prejudice, even far less obvious examples of it.

Liberal South Dakotans Intimidated?
I used to get into political arguments all the time in my tiny, adopted hometown in west-central South Dakota (I had grown up in a nearby small town). In the days of the first George Bush and Bill Clinton, my ultra-conservative best friend (the same one mentioned above) used to get me so worked up (often on purpose) that everyone within earshot in the local restaurant/lounge (the only retail hangout we had in which to eat supper) could easily hear my progressive/liberal opinions.

Funny thing, though: In spite of my so-called "liberal" beliefs, the residents of the community continued to treat me like royalty. I had never felt so welcomed anywhere else in my life. Therefore, this is the conclusion I have reached: If I am treated with the utmost respect and courtesy by my fellow South Dakotans, in spite of my progressive views, then I am pretty sure that most other liberals/progressives in South Dakota are treated equally well. Of course, if someone is intentionally obnoxious, biased, blindly self-righteous and loves to stereotype South Dakotans, then most South Dakotans might be inclined to ignore that person.

One More Example of "Intimidation"
One Saturday night in the 1980s, I was happily discussing democratic politics with one of only 46 registered democrats in Harding County, SD. This fiery young woman was born and raised there and was married to a "tough cowboy" who was/is a conservative (I had only been living there a couple of months, so I didn't know most of the residents very well). We were in a crowd of wild partying rancher types of all ages (I was the cook and bartender in the establishment, working for my dad). We spoke very loudly about liberal issues and liberal politics. We were completely surrounded by conservatives, most of whom were of the cowboy persuasion. We discussed those liberal issues for what seemed like hours without the slightest hint of hostility toward us from the rest of the crowd. We even spoke in very positive terms about Rev. Jesse Jackson (although I'm not so fond of him anymore). Not a single conservative South Dakotan confronted us, or argued with us, or intimidated us, or called us names, or even looked at us out of the corner of his or her eye. Nor did any of them boycott my dad's business because I was so outspoken. So don't you dare tell me that hostility and hatred reign in South Dakota.

Our Representatives Are Not Representative
I have spent most of the last thirty years living in and out of South Dakota. Whenever I have lived outside of South Dakota, as I presently do, I have always proudly bragged about its friendly people, among other things. Only recently, with the passage of the anti-abortion law, have I been embarrassed to admit where I am from; however, as I should have expected, my fellow South Dakotans appear to be rallying to overturn that law at the ballot box, and I believe they will succeed, if the tentative organizers of the referendum don't lose site of the forest for the bureaucratic trees, as I fear they might.

About The Drinking
I'll ignore your biased, ignorant insult of South Dakotans, in which you say they are nothing but a bunch of drunks who go to the bars every day after work because they have nothing else to live for. Instead, I shall focus on the facts/evidence. For almost three years I tended bar in South Dakota (and also in Montana). I did this sort of work in one of the remotest parts of the state (Harding County, as mentioned above) as well as in the most populous city (Sioux Falls, population 100,000 at the time). I even used to go to different bars as a customer on different occasions (although I'm not much of a drinker). All the bars, in practically every town, were very nearly empty most of the time, day and night, weekday and weekend. It has seemingly been that way for decades. Those few people who did come to the bar on a regular basis when I was a bartender usually only had one to three drinks before going home. Most bars in South Dakota, as in many states, are struggling to make a profit. Let's assume you are right, though. If the majority of adults in Sioux Falls went to the bars every day after work, the city would need at least several hundred additional bars to hold all of them. Pierre, the smallest state capital in the nation, would need at least 50 to 100 additional bars to hold the adult population of that town. I can, therefore, assure you that most South Dakotans (and Montanans) go straight home after work (and, no, most of them probably do not stop by the liquor store on the way home either).

Finally, Capital Punishment
You point out that the "barbaric" states of South Dakota and Wyoming have the death penalty. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that your wonderfully enlightened, "liberal" California (whose citizens elected a wannabe dictator from Austria as their governor) has the death penalty, too. Get a load of these statistics:

Number of persons executed in South Dakota since 1930: 1
Number of persons executed in South Dakota since 1976: 0

Number of persons executed in Wyoming since 1930: 8
Number of persons executed in Wyoming since 1976: 1

Number of persons executed in California since 1930: 302
Number of persons executed in California since 1976: 10
Source: Info Please

Death Row
Number of persons on death row in South Dakota: 4
Number of persons on death row in Wyoming: 2
Number of persons on death row in California: 649
Source: Death Penalty Information Center

Do those numbers simply reflect California's much larger population? Not entirely. I did some figuring. According to the above statistics:

There is one death-row inmate for every 247,000 Wyoming residents.
There is one death-row inmate for every 192,750 South Dakotans.
There is one death-row inmate for every 55,385 Californians.

With percentages like those, I, a staunch opponent of the death penalty, will take "barbaric" South Dakota and Wyoming over "enlightened" California any day.

In Conclusion
The next time you attack the people of a state wholesale, you should first live among those people for a long time and interact EXTENSIVELY and SINCERELY with all elements of its society. By that I mean you need to interact with the PERCEIVED "oppressors" and the PERCEIVED "victims" of oppression. With time and experience, I think you will find that there is plenty of well deserved blame and well deserved credit to go around. As a bartender, I've seen the best and worst of both worlds.

At 3/14/2006 12:11 AM, Anonymous patty said...

It's so refreshing to hear from people who live in South Dakota. I wish you all were interviewed on television.

At 3/14/2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad to see my story of six months in SD got at least one other person to speak of his experiences there in detail. It was very well written and it is the kind of thing that needs to be written.

Although I told the truth as I experienced it; my purpose was not to vent anger but to stimulate someont out there to write about their life in SD.

My experiences re: the bar life was in the area of Sturgess... fyi...

My experiences of racism was in Rapid City and the targets of racism were African American and Native American plainly and visibly. I don't think a white guy from Nebraska is particularly suited to comment. Hopefully a Native American or African American from SD will see this and write.

I found that many of the people there were very nice just for the record and as for my own treatment? I was treated very well... always invited... always treated well. But then again I am a white lady with money.....

you know... someone who might be your good customer in the future...

Before I close, my sincere apologies to anyone I may have offended.. it was not my intent; I was simply wrapped up in my memories when I typed it and I don't go over my stories again and again second guessing what I write. I just say my peace and move on.

peace out

At 3/15/2006 1:50 AM, Blogger MJW said...

Dear Californian,

Apology sincerely accepted.

Actually, I am not from Nebraska. I consider myself to be "exiled" by circumstances here. I dream of returning "home" as soon as an opportunity presents itself. My family has lived in South Dakota for five generations (since 1871). My great-granddad and my granddad (of pure Bohemian stock) could both speak the Lakota language fluently (my great-granddad may have been more fluent with the Lakota sign language, but I'm not sure), and the only way to learn that language in those days was by learning it from the Lakota people themselves.

I grew up in South Dakota fairly close to one reservation and not too far from another. In the early 1970s, a small percentage of my fellow students were Native Americans. Many of those were of mixed Native American/European ancestry. They were all treated with the same level of respect that the caucasian students received (by both the students and the teachers). Their ancestry was a total non-issue. There was never a single instance of an "us-them" attitude, as far as I could tell. In fact, some of them were among the most popular students in our school.

My dad taught in the "Indian Boarding School" in Pierre, SD, for one year in the late 1960s and also coached their wrestling and basketball teams. I, therefore, spent a lot of time with his students, going on road trips to sporting events, etc. Some of those students rode with us in our car, probably because the school van wasn't large enough for everyone. I was in first grade at the time and loved going on those trips and sitting in on after-school practices. My dad loved those experiences too and, on a few occasions, invited some of the students to our home for supper, whereupon my brother and I would wear them out playing with them or visiting with them. They were all wonderfully polite, friendly kids, even on their own "turf" (at least I don't remember any who weren't friendly).

My dad also taught at other schools in South Dakota and Montana that had a fair number of Native American students, and he treated them with as much respect and dignity as he did the white students (maybe more in some cases, because he was not fond of spoiled kids with wealthy, influential parents).

He quit the profession in 1974 and returned to it in 1985. Upon his return, he taught on a reservation in Montana. I'm sure he initially had visions of reliving the good old days. He rented a house in the small reservation community in which he was teaching. He had been a very strong, very self-confident person all his life. He could easily take care of himself in tough situations, yet he moved out of that town after only three or four months because it was so dangerous. He said he had to keep his curtains closed and doors locked at all times when he was home because he had received several threats (can you guess why?). I believe he had been warned by other teachers not to live there, but he chose not to believe them. A number of his possessions were stolen, too. I was in my 20s at the time, and I was very surprised to hear him admit to being afraid of anything or anyone. It was a first. He moved to a town off of the reservation and drove a 120-mile round trip every day for the rest of the school year and then called it quits. To make a long story short, the "atmosphere" had changed dramatically for the worse since he had last taught Native Americans, and it was quite a let down for him.

When my dad passed away three years ago, one of his former Native American students from the 1960s (in a mostly "white" school) saw his obituary and wrote to him to thank him (in spirit of course) for inspiring him never to quit and, as I took it, always to believe in himself. This student took my dad's advice to heart and made quite a success of his life (not in terms of vast wealth, but in terms of achievement). It was, and always will be, the most moving letter I have ever read.

You should be aware that there is a lot of unkind behavior coming from both cultures; however, it is being perpetrated by a very small percentage of people on both sides of the "cultural divide." In my opinion (based on extensive experience), neither side is any more or less guilty than the other side, even when (or should I say, especially when) it comes to prejudice based on race. Racial prejudice is definitely not a one-way street. I have witnessed it first hand.

I shall conclude by making a suggestion to you. I offer it with complete sincerity and not with sarcasm or anger: Instead of viewing South Dakota's "race relations" (as you might phrase it) from a detached, third-person perspective, or taking only my word for it, I strongly encourage you to return to South Dakota, preferably to a small town on or near a reservation, and find some way to become an active participant in those relations. The best way to do that is to be employed in a business that is patronized heavily by both whites and Native Americans. Do so for at least six months. I suspect that your perspective won't be exactly the same as it is now -- in more ways than one. Once you have done this, please return to Stories in America and tell us about your experiences.

At 3/15/2006 8:38 AM, Blogger MJW said...

P.S. - For the record, many Nebraskans are of Native American heritage, many of them having coming here from South Dakota, just as I did. In fact, they make up a slightly larger amount of the population in some of the places I have lived and worked in this region than they did where I grew up in South Dakota. I worked in a school setting here for five years.


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