Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Six Reasons You Shouldn't Leave Our Country, and Instead, Should Move Promptly to North Dakota: An Open Letter to Progressives Beyond North Dakota

Dear Progressives in Other States,

The last time I took the train to Oregon, I gathered a bit of knowledge. It had nothing to do with nude beaches or jasmine flowers or drumming on the city lawn. Not exactly.

It began at the locally-owned market in the vicinity of the local, organic berries of all kinds.

A casual acquaintance said to my long-time friends something about the Pacific Northwest seceding from the Union. Body language told me, this was common knowledge among my West Coast friends, this idea that Washington, Oregon, and maybe even California should simply strike out on their own. They're so ahead of the rest of the nation, why should they hold themselves back? I began to wonder if people on the East Coast harbor such views. Do both of our coasts dream of leaving us?

I wanted to holler...something. I should have hollered...something.

But, being Midwestern, I smiled.

Now, many months later, I have finally gathered my thoughts. I call them, the "Top Six Reasons You Shouldn't Leave Our Country, and Instead, Should Move Promptly to North Dakota: An Open Letter to Progressives Beyond North Dakota.”

1) You want to make a difference in the world, a really significant difference in the world; you know your life is inseparable from the world, from our planet. Where you live, Halliburton is cursed for its role in the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Here in North Dakota, we are faced each day with unchecked oil and gas development at the hands of Halliburton and other out-of-state companies - with oil spills, oil well fires, hydraulic fracturing chemicals leaking across the land and into the water. Yet the director of our Department of Mineral Resources, our only regulatory agency, is also charged with oil and gas promotion in North Dakota. He testifies each week to the North Dakota legislature on behalf of oil and gas developers; he speaks excitedly about "Oil Can! Day," which celebrates the industry, even supplying Halliburton catalogs for the event. Our world, in North Dakota, could use your help.

2) You love food. Local food. Organic food. Sustainable agriculture. These are words you wear like talismans. If you lived in North Dakota, you could support our budding organic food movement, our efforts to nourish community-supported agriculture, our longing to have access to the many foods that are grown here but then shipped out of state. Indeed, did you know both U.S. Senators from North Dakota sit on the 21-member Agriculture Committee? That's where the national Farm Bill lives and breathes – or doesn't. That's where the fate of our food gets decided. If you lived in North Dakota, 10% of the Ag Committee would be (to some degree) beholden to your views on farms and food.

3) You want a more peaceful future. You have bumper stickers that say, “Bark less, wag more.” It pains you to see so many young people getting sent into desperate wars at their peril. But did you know that 45% of military recruits come from rural areas, areas like North Dakota? We lose too many of our young people before they get a start. All the while, we look to you for alternative ideas, alternative points of view; “alternative” is your very way of life. Maybe you could help us dream of alternatives.

4) I have noticed that many of you, whether Native or otherwise, draw hope and direction from Native teachings and traditions. (I first learned of the sacred work of the “Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers” out in Oregon, for instance.) If you come to central North Dakota, you will find yourself surrounded by land, culture, and history that is deeply rooted in traditional Native ways of life. You could also give your muscle to Native struggles.

5) We often hear that North Dakota's stable economy (a rarity in our time) is the result of the oil and gas development I mentioned above. Does it make you a little curious, then, why Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, and other states with massive gas development don't enjoy the same prosperity? After reading the insights of many economists, I believe our secret is the Bank of North Dakota, the only state bank in the country. North Dakota's revenue is safe from subprime lending, derivative markets, and other imaginary methods of money exchange. As Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall reported last April:

"Currently there are five states (Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Washington, Minnesota) with bills pending to explore the creation of state owned banks or lending institutions. In addition state candidates in eight other states (Florida, Oregon, Illinois, California, Vermont, Idaho, Hawaii, Virginia) are running on a platform that calls for the creation of a state owned bank as a way to stem the hemorrhage of state funds to private banking institutions."

If you come to North Dakota, while there's much to teach - there's also much to learn.

6) If seceding is in your blood, we have a few secessionist bills of our own.

So, catch the Empire Builder Amtrak any day of the week from Seattle or Portland - or connect through Chicago's Union Station.

If you're still bent on seceding, please just take the rest of the country along.