In just its second year, SiouxperCon brands itself as the Sioux Falls area’s (I can’t bring myself to say “Siouxland”) “most anticipated… nerd event“… which description doesn’t really distinguish SiouxperCon from a really good Democratic Party event. But the comic books, anime, board games, video games, science fiction/fantasy literature discussions and awesome costumes will.
Events include South Dakota’s biggest Cosplay Contest, celebrity entertainment and Nerd Idol, numerous panels, the Siouxper Brawl video game tournament, vendors, local artists, comic book creators and artists, board games, Princess Tea Party, Pokemon tournament, Comedy Show, Movies, Improv, live music and dance!
…Featured guests include: DC Comic Book Artist Tom Nguyen, IDW Comic Book writer Erik Burnham, Comic Book Legend Gordon Purcell, Comic Book writers Sean E. Williams and Eliot Rahal, Eisner Award winning creator Bill Willingham, Movie/TV producer Ken E Levin (Hellboy, Road to Perdition and Preacher), WWE Wrestler Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore, and “How It Should Have Ended” artists Otis Frampton. Also featured will be the original Delorean from Back to the Future, the 501st Legion, South Dakota Ghostbusters, local vendors and local artists [SiouxperCon, press release, received 2017.04.28].
Of special interest: Saturday, 7 p.m., Jacob Kleinsasser presents Star Wars vs. Star Trek. You think Tornberg vs. Lederman gets nasty? Try blasters vs. phasers!
SiouxperCon VP Shane Gerlach tells me that the inaugural SiouxperCon last year drew over 1500 unique visitors who helped raise $4000, which SiouxperCon donated to charities REACH Literacy and JY6. Gerlach says SiouxperCon 2017 is aiming for 2,500 guests.
The local xenophobes club is bringing another anti-Islam rant session to Aberdeen tonight. The session with Clare Lopez will do nothing to advance Aberdeen’s economy or culture. It certainly will not advance fact. Part of a cluster of fact-free celebrations of bigotry happening around the state this month, this “Americans First, Task Force” program seems to serve no purpose other than to stoke an angry conservative voter base just in time for another election.
Just as at the strip club, a woman will stand before a leering audience and peddle lies. She will tease her audience into believing that behavior that would be unacceptable in most public settings is perfectly fine in this darkened room. She will tease her viewers into thinking they are viewing deep, exotic truths that make them stronger and more manly.
Observing this spectacle serves little good; it only degrades the observer.
The viewers will go home with some vague sense of manly achievement, but they will awaken surrounded by the same disillusion, the same details of their same pathetic lives that somehow cannot be resolved by the fantasies they imbibed the previous night. And they will continue to look for opportunities to objectivize, to otherize, and to subjugate to make themselves feel better about lives that a thousand slideshows about Sharia will never change.
So go ahead, Aberdeen, let Clare Lopez hypnotize you with her twirling pasties about Muslim conspiracies and Joseph McCarthy. Let her stroke your dark, sweaty fears. And be sure to let us know when you wake up tomorrow how listening to these lies makes you a better person and Aberdeen a better town.
But understand if the rest of us look away from your embarrassing lies.
Some commentators on Dakota Free Press and elsewhere have suggested that the protest by and on behalf of American Indians against the Dakota Access pipeline were a waste of money and media that could have been better invested in solving poverty, addiction, and other problems.
I offer a tentative hypothesis: might this successful political action against corporate colonialism rekindle cultural awareness, warrior spirit, and hope that activists can translate into action back home?
[Frank] Archambault founded Iktčé Wičháša Oyáte [A Common Men’s Society] shortly after he arrived, with his five children and grandchild, at the “water protector” encampments in August. He saw that there was work around the camp that wasn’t getting done, and he saw that there were men around camp not doing work. Now the group helps run security and coordinates work crews.
It’s a big change from Archambault’s previous life in Little Eagle, South Dakota, a community of about 300 people within the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. A recovering meth addict, Archambault describes the existence he left behind, before he joined the movement fighting the Dakota Access pipeline: “Sad.”
…“This is like an awakening,” Archambault said as he surveyed the camp from his spot on the hill. “Something I’ve been struggling with my whole life is doing something to be proud of.”
…Before getting involved in the Standing Rock movement, Jasilea Charger, 20, was working at a Taco John’s and living on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation, in her hometown of Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
On the reservation, she said, she felt “stuck”. She lost friends and family to the suicide epidemic. Her father died before she was born, and her mother has “lost her way”.
…“When I go home, I’m not going to be the same,” said Charger. “People back in our community deserve to know what it feels like to stand strong and pick each other up.”
America is a nation of immigrants… so we must make real, legitimate steps to help people attain the promise of America and realize the same dream as our ancestors did.
…For Aberdeen, refugees ought to be welcomed, supported, and integrated into our community. The number of minority individuals who I know who have expressed fear and concern that they need to “lay [sic] low” is disheartening. We can and must do better [Travis Kiefer, “America’s Best Days Are Forward,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.11.10].
We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.
Aberdeen and South Dakota depend on young builders like Kiefer who can travel abroad but feel comfortable coming back to stake their claim and apply their talents and experiences to making South Dakota greater. We also depend on the refugees and immigrants whom Kiefer and other smart patriots can welcome, because they understand that while America’s faces change, America’s ideals remain the same.
Ronald Reagan would agree. Let us welcome new Americans, for their sake and ours.
Last week KELO again created more click-bait for their Facebook page when they produced a headline that read “State: Phelps Spent More Than $200k in Gear Up Grant Money On Meals, Personal Items.” Now the headline reads exactly the way the State wanted it too. It makes it seem like Phelps had simply went on a spending spree where he was living lavishly by shopping at Sam’s Club and scamming the tax-payer out of tens of thousands with meals at the “swanky” Olive Garden. It makes me wonder if KELO had ever taken the time prior to all this to visit a Gear Up summer program prior to this? Did they know that many of the kids who attended this program would come with little more than the clothes on their backs and that the program would supply these kids with what they needed? KELO must be aware that many Lakota students come from homes that are so poverty ridden that school supplies would never be a priority in a family’s budget. Then again maybe they are as out of touch with our people as it seems [Brandon Ecoffey, “Has the AG’s Office Ever Backed Native Issues?” Lakota Country Times, 2016.06.30].
I worked for an Indian organization one summer. One of the things I noticed was that when board members or others working with us came to Rapid City, the organization would take people out for lunch or dinner to conduct business. I thought it was excessive. In my white way of thinking you could just do business in the office and have people go their merry way. I came to realize that feeding folks was part of the cultural norm among Native Americans [Donald Pay, comment, Dakota Free Press, 2016.07.03].
I’m not sure potlatch philanthropy and multiculturalism qualify dinner at Seattle’s Space Needle as an acceptable use of federal education grant money. One gains status from giving one’s own resources, not grants from Uncle Sam.
But we can certainly understanding Ecoffey’s concern about cultural bias from a Native-detached media that could be sitting up and barking for a Native-hostile Attorney General:
Those of us out here on the western side of South Dakota have learned to take a wait and see approach to any case filed against a Native person by the office of Marty Jackley. Each time there is an issue involving Native interests his office has conveniently taken the side most detrimental to us. Just look at the stances the state has taken against the Indian Child Welfare Act and in favor of the Keystone pipeline. Are there any issues that the AG’s office has decided to back Native people on? [Ecoffey, 2016.06.30]
KELO-TV is running a series of AP articles on the psyche (psychosis?) of the electorate. One of those stories includes this observation from jittery Kentucky pastor Richie Clenenden, which explains how anxiety over the legalization of same-sex marriage may lure conservative Christians into voting for the unconservative, unChristian Republican nominee:
Clendenen said he saw “a lot of fear, a lot of anger” in his church after the Supreme Court ruling. He said it made him feel that Christians like him had been pushed to the edge of a cliff.
“It has become the keystone issue,” he said, sitting in his office, where photos of his father and grandfather, both preachers, are on display. “I never thought we’d be in the place we are today. I never thought that the values I’ve held my whole life would bring us to a point where we were alienated or suppressed.”
Trump uses rhetoric that has resonance for Christian conservatives who fear their teachings on marriage will soon be outlawed as hate speech.
When Trump says that last sentence, he affirms the position anxious Christians like Clenenden want to take. Trump models for anxious Christians the untriangulated, unfiltered, uncompromising firmness they want to pose against the culture they think wants to shut their churches down.
The ironic thing here is that Trump represents the say-anything, do-anything, buy-anything culture that Christianity should fight. Donald Trump’s amoral materialism, manifested in the Republican Party’s willingness to sacrifice all values to the sole power-clinging excuse of “Anyone but Hillary,” is a far greater threat to Christianity and family values than same-sex marriage, Merrick Garland, or any other element of the Democratic agenda.
But when people feel “pushed to the edge of a cliff,” they don’t always think that deeply. They react. They harken to the voice that resonates with their immediate fears. And they vote for people like Hitler and Trump.
Related Reading: Evangelical Christian Alan Noble isn’t excusifying for Trump. Harkening to my statement about Trump’s amoral materialism, Noble says, “the concept of sovereign individualism, which dramatically shapes so much of our consumer and political culture, is a threat to human flourishing.” He disqualifies Trump as “a deceptive, infantile, racist demagogue with no political principles aside from his own self-interest.” Noble can’t justify voting for Clinton, either; thus he recommends voting third-party or abstaining from the Presidential vote, focusing on down-ticket races, and building a new conservative Christian movement as the paths of Christian integrity.
Dang it! Just as I declare that instant mobile voice and data communication is a basic utility, my neighbor Dr. David Newquist says electronic media have become lethal to humanity:
Cases of bullying among school age childlreln and among adults involving internet posts have resulted in numerous suicides. The internet has become a huge force in the human environment through computers, tablets, and cell phones. Many people devote the better part of their day to being online, so that the Internet becomes a major influence in their communication and thinking, in fact a dominant part of their consciousness. My colleagues who are still active professors note that the occupation of students with Internet sites is a formidable impediment to the development of critical intelligence. Students are so caught up in the blizzard of information that they are dysfunctional about separating accurate, verifiable information from the misinformation and disinformation. Cable news, talk radio, “reality:” television, and tabloid journalism have created a population that has lost the capability of critical thinking, of distinguishing between truth and falsehood. In fact, many people no longer care and simply fit into the trends of their electronic environment with no regard for what is intellectually and morally defensible [David Newquist, “How Electronic Media Became Lethal to Humankind,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2016.06.06].
As usual, Newquist’s full essay is worth the read, connecting this technological phenomenon (which is a big part of who I am and what I do) to “the softening of the mass mentality,” a resurgence of racism, and the rise of Trumpism.
Maybe Pollock is better off without that cell phone tower.
The House killed the last remnants of the medical cannabis bill Tuesday. Rising in opposition to a bill that had already been hacked from a comprehensive legalization of medical cannabis to a provision for the use of one marijuana derivative for one specific medical condition, Rep. Kristin Conzet (R-32/Rapid City) told parents wanting to give their kids cannabidiol to treat intractable epilepsy to drop Senate Bill 171 and leave South Dakota:
I don’t like the road that we are going down at this time. There are 39 options, that’s called 39 states, where if you have an issue, who wouldn’t move to that state? When I was sitting after the committee meeting, I got a phone call from my husband, and he said we’d be living in Colorado at this time if this was our daughter [Rep. Kristen Conzet, floor debate on SB 171, South Dakota House, 2016.03.08, remarks beginning at 6:51:46].
Rep. Conzet then doubles down on her branding of South Dakota as Greater Tuna with this defense of stick-in-the-mud-ism:
Now I don’t want to minimize the struggle and the strife that your family goes through. This is not a bill for South Dakota. We often wait. And that’s why we’re South Dakotans. We’re different cats. We have to wait and watch the rest of the country kind of muck up with the oil and the different things. We sit back and we pause and we make decisions that are the reason that we live here [Conzet, 2016.03.08].
There may be rational reasons for opposing medical cannabis. However, meta-acknowledging that we are a conservative state that responds slowly to new data and trends does not in itself justify not taking action. And no legislator should base a position on any bill on an invitation to opponents to go live elsewhere.
Erika Unger calls South Dakota home. Most of her family is here. But Unger is not. She is in Denver, practicing law and raising kids in a place she’s not ashamed of.
Unger writes about a discussion she had with fellow ex-pats about South Dakota’s social and political sins, the mad legislation and bigotry we peddle that overwhelms their powerful love for South Dakota and drives them away:
The group of us who came together in the little sliver of internet on my Facebook page comprised a generation of successful millennials that elude you. We’re the ones you beg to stay with speeches at our commencements; the ones you try and lure back with cheesy, outdated social media campaigns.
We know the benefits of living in South Dakota. We know and love the people there. We know you have jobs. We know that our Denver, Chicago and D.C. mortgages could buy us beautiful houses on the Missouri, in the Hills or on acres and acres of land. We know how awesome it would be to be in closer proximity to our families and for our children to better know their aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Unger’s agony supports David Newquist’s well-developed theory of flight from fraudulent democracy. People of good conscience like Unger and Miranda Gohn choose not to bear constant political conflict (not to mention low wages) when they can simply step across the border and enjoy substantially greater freedom. Why be a dissident when you can defect to Denver?
Dissidents and defectors—I was watching MacGyver last night (even my daughter recognizes it’s bad TV, but it’s mostly child appropriate, promotes effective use of Swiss Army knives, and helps us play digital archeologists, unearthing the cultural vibe of the 1980s) and was struck by the analogy between South Dakota and the Soviet Union. Faced with a powerful and corrupt one-party regime that has long abandoned its own ideals in favor of raw power and oppression, some dissidents remain to speak truth to power and challenge the Politburo. Others see too much risk and too little reward in reforming South Dakota from within and defect.
Dissent or defect—I make no moral judgment on the relative merits of each choice. I do not view Unger’s choice to defect as an indictment of my choice to stay and dissent, nor vice versa. I dissent for the same moral reasons that Unger defects, reasons that should make South Dakota’s leaders hang their heads in shame:
We left because it’s easier not to deal with those explanations and difficult situations. Or worse, we left because actually experiencing the effects of this ruthless discrimination and hateful rhetoric hurt us deeply.
Bottom line: we left because it’s easier to come back and relish in the things we love and return to the comfort of other places we now call home, places that don’t use twisted ideas of religious freedom and “conservative values” to perpetuate discrimination and hate of things they don’t understand.
South Dakota, we love you and we miss you. And you’re right: we’ve changed. But we’re not coming back until you [Unger, 2016.02.17].
South Dakota has no greater asset than the people we bear and raise, the people who love this state. And we are driving that asset (asset? heck—humans we love and who love us) away. That didn’t work well for the Soviet Union. It’s not helping Putin’s Russia. Driving away the people we love will only hurt South Dakota.
Something must have frozen over this morning—I wake up, read the papers, and have to admit that Donald Trump is proposing a healthy and inclusive vision of what it means to be an American.
In last night’s Republican Presidential candidates’ debate on the Fox Business Network, moderator Maria Bartiromo asked Senator Ted Cruz to elaborate on his contention that Donald Trump “embodies New York values.” Here is the transcript from Washington Post of Cruz’s response and Trump’s crushing counterattack:
… let me follow up and switch gears.
Senator Cruz, you suggested Mr. Trump, quote, “embodies New York values.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
CRUZ: You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are.
BARTIROMO: I am from New York. I don’t.
CRUZ: What — what — you’re from New York? So you might not.
But I promise you, in the state of South Carolina, they do.
And listen, there are many, many wonderful, wonderful working men and women in the state of New York. But everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro- gay-marriage, focus around money and the media.
And — and I would note indeed, the reason I said that is I was asked — my friend Donald has taken to it as (ph) advance playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, and I was asked what I thought of that.
And I said, “well, if he wanted to play a song, maybe he could play, ‘New York, New York’?” And — and — you know, the concept of New York values is not that complicated to figure out.
Not too many years ago, Donald did a long interview with Tim Russert. And in that interview, he explained his views on a whole host of issues that were very, very different from the views he’s describing now.
And his explanation — he said, “look, I’m from New York, that’s what we believe in New York. Those aren’t Iowa values, but this is what we believe in New York.” And so that was his explanation.
And — and I guess I can — can frame it another way. Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just saying.
BARTIROMO: Are you sure about that?
TRUMP: So conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley and others, just so you understand.
And just so — if I could, because he insulted a lot of people. I’ve had more calls on that statement that Ted made — New York is a great place. It’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people.
When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two one hundred…
… you had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed, and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup, probably in the history of doing this, and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air.
TRUMP: And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made [Sixth GOP Presidential candidates’ debate, North Charleston, South Carolina, transcribed by Washington Post, 2016.01.14].
Good grief—can no one land a punch on Donald Trump without knocking himself to the floor?