We’re nice in South Dakota and the Midwest in general. We’re polite! We’re neighborly! We’re friendly and approachable!! We’re not like those big-city folk, people who won’t look you in the eye when they pass you on the street. Heck no!! We’re GOOD folk!!
There’s definitely anecdotal evidence of that friendliness. It generally is true, when you’re in a store, a restaurant, etc., people are usually relatively polite and friendly. It even manifests itself while driving. Ever since I grew up and started driving in southern Nebraska, I’ve been a steady practitioner of the “one-finger wave”, the acknowledgement of a passing car with a quick raised finger. It’s not expected while driving in the big city…you know…intimidating, scary places like Sioux Falls. However, I drive a lot of gravel roads, and when you approach a car on a country road, the one-finger wave is almost obligatory.
We’re GOOD people in Nebraska and up here in South Dakota! That’s what people like to tell themselves anyway. In reality? Not so much. Yes, there’s a thin veneer of politeness, a fragile shell of general friendliness that perhaps you don’t find as much in a New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. But that’s all it is…a veneer, a facade, covering up the same human flaws that are found no matter where you go. In fact, it’s pretty obvious to me that there’s a level of hate, of bigotry, of intolerance that goes beyond anything I felt while living in Washington DC. It’s pretty obvious that the veneer of “Midwestern nice” does NOT extend beyond the superficial, to anything that actually benefits society as a whole.
Let’s face it, where I grew up in Nebraska, and now living in South Dakota, where we’ve been for 24 years, the political climate is very “red”. It’s conservative as hell, with Congressional reps who are conservative Republicans, Governors who are conservative, state legislatures that are conservative. There are some more liberal pockets within the likes of Lincoln, Omaha, or Sioux Falls, but overall? They’re not even states where politicians really even have to campaign. If you have “Republican” after your name, you’re going to win here, period. I’m as liberal as can be, and we just had a Senate and House race this past November. To be completely honest, I don’t remember the NAMES of the two Democratic candidates that ran in those races. Why? They’re irrelevant. They’re just a formality, but there’s no real chance they’d win.
It’s the long-standing political climate which is why I say the politeness, that “Midwestern nice”, is all a facade. To put it more succinctly, it’s complete bullshit. It’s VERY evident from a political standpoint, in terms of who people vote for, what side of an issue they support, the crap that’s written every day in the local “voices” section of the local paper. That niceness? It ONLY is offered in superficial, meaningless situations…such as when passing someone on a country road. The reality is much uglier. What do those who are “Midwestern nice” really stand for? Intolerance, selfishness, and greed certainly are given much higher priority than any real, meaningful level of “nice”, of caring for your fellow man. Let’s take Obamacare and what’s happening in Washington right now with the effort to “repeal and replace”.
In a state like South Dakota, a program like Obamacare isn’t viewed from the standpoint of how it helps the sick and the poor. It’s not measured in terms of lives saved. No, when discussed in a state like South Dakota, the ONLY thing that matters is 1) the fact that the federal government has some role to play in it, and 2) the cost to a taxpayer and government taking “their” money. Because it’s a government program, it’s inherently bad…period. Just like in other red states, even when a “freebie” comes along like the offered Medicaid expansion from Obamacare several years back, it’s turned down without a second thought by our Republican state government, simply based on ideology. Never mind the fact that THOUSANDS of poor and sick South Dakotans could have been covered. No, it’s a government program, and even worse it was a government program offered under a liberal (black!!) President.
I’m done, South Dakota. I’m done helping to perpetuate the myth of Midwestern “nice”. For a region that wraps themselves up in a warm, fuzzy facade of religious belief, conservatism, and friendliness, your actions certainly speak otherwise. You can’t consider yourself Midwestern “nice”, yet throw a fit when government dares to tax you for programs that benefit society as a whole. You can’t can’t be Midwestern “nice”, yet express your bigotry and racism towards anyone who’s not a white, Midwestern “Christian”. You can’t be Midwestern “nice”, yet place your own greed and selfishness above helping the sick, the poor, the needy.
In short, you can’t consider yourselves to be Midwestern “nice”, but ACT the way that South Dakotans typically act. What’s become ABUNDANTLY evidently over the last few months since the election is just exactly WHO South Dakotans are, and it sure as hell isn’t Midwestern “nice”.
I’m done with the one-finger wave on a country road. Sorry, dude driving that pickup towards me, with your shotgun in the backseat, your “Make America Great” bumper sticker, your barely concealed hatred and bigotry…you will no longer receive any such kindness from me. I now reserve my “special” one-finger waves for very special circumstances, such as the “good Midwestern folk” who live in this house I pass every day on my way home from work (photo on the left). At least you’re not hiding what you are! More than most people I meet around here, you are VERY open in representing what Midwestern “nice” really means.