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On Fear, Prejudice, and Real Threats to Our Community

I’ve responded here to two recent letters to the Aberdeen American News, one racist letter last week calling for shipping all people of “other cultures” to the penitentiary, then one letter this week promoting fear and the surveillance state.

In a letter to the editor published in today’s AAN (with links added here for enhanced blog enjoyment), I tie these letters and our Republican legislators together and call for real courageous citizenship:

A letter-writer tells us to report all sorts of “nothing” to law enforcement (“Be brave, speak out,” Public Voice, Oct. 18). Oddly, that call for a hyper-vigilant surveillance state lacks any examples of the “nothings” the writer has seen around Aberdeen to prompt her terror.

Permit me to provide some “somethings” that warrant genuine concern.

Another letter-writer in the Oct. 12 paper calls for rounding up “people of other cultures” in Aberdeen and sending them on buses, without any vetting or due process, to the penitentiary (“People we don’t need,” Public Voice).

Who has spoken up against that harmful prejudice?

Such prejudice sounds like an off-shoot of the dreary anti-immigrant slideshows that have sullied Aberdeen almost monthly since 2017. At one such meeting this August, a Watertown legislator claimed that Aberdeen’s mayor, economic development chief, and chamber of commerce are all collaborating with an international terrorist conspiracy. At other meetings, out-of-state speakers have accused local church leaders and social workers of terrorist collaboration.

Our local legislators have regularly attended these anti-immigrant meetings. I have yet to hear any of those legislators stand up for our Aberdeen leaders, businesses, churches and neighbors and rebut these vile, baseless accusations.

Such prejudicial, spiteful talk sounds a lot like the racial epithets that juveniles in Sturgis circulated on social media last week. That bad behavior cost Sturgis kids their homecoming parade and football game. But when adults in Aberdeen spout such nonsense, and when good neighbors don’t speak up against it, we don’t lose a parade. We lose reputation. We lose students, workers, residents, and dollars … not to mention our humanity.

Be brave. Be a good citizen. Turn your wishbone into backbone and speak out against the racism, ignorance and false fearmongering that imperil our Constitution, our American ideals, and our community prosperity.


  1. Jenny 2017-10-20 08:41

    Bigots never learn, Cory.

  2. tom 2017-10-20 09:44

    thanks for sharing these things — I keep telling myself there must be more of us than them — even if we have to be shamed into acting, I still believe it.

  3. mike from iowa 2017-10-20 11:46

    One county in Texas won’t loan money to residents for rebuilding unless they agree not to boycott Israel, of all places.


    Unconstitutionality is a real threat to our communities.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-20 12:14

    They may never learn, Jenny, but we must keep trying to teach them… or outnumber them and out-vote them.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-20 12:18

    Tom, there are more decent people than paranoid conspiracy theorists and racists. There are more of us who just want to leave others alone to live and work and play as freely as we do than there are of those who want to sow fear, division, and hate. I’ll even go so far as to suggest that, if the two letter writers who got my attention would sit down with me to talk politics, we’d find we agree on 80% or more of the basic, practical issues facing Aberdeen and South Dakota. It’s just that most people don’t bother to write letters about all the things we agree on… and a few people let themselves slip into spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about looney ideas and petty hatreds that seem entertaining to them but which ultimately will leave them feeling more empty and alone.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-20 12:19

    Tying hurricane relief to Israel? Good grief—some conservatives have a real problem with dealing with just one problem at a time.

  7. Pat Richardson 2017-10-20 13:24

    Do these people even understand what they are saying by wanting to bus these people and lock them up? This smacks of Hitler and the Nazis! Have they forgotten that their ancestors are and were immigrants too?

  8. Robin Friday 2017-10-20 13:39

    “People we don’t need”? Hmmm. Maybe that’s what the Lakota thought when they first encountered our ancestors.

  9. Robin Friday 2017-10-20 14:00

    “People we don’t need”. . .that’s reminding me of Trump’s phrase, “they’re not sending us their best”. I didn’t care too much for that one either.

  10. Robin Friday 2017-10-20 14:14

    Thank you for writing that, Cory. I must admit I don’t see the Letters to the Editor as much as I might, but I’m glad for people like you and words like yours in my life.

  11. Robin 2017-10-20 14:29

    Mike from Iowa- Your post is easy to answer- The Pharmas also own the drug that drug courts force addicts to buy to stay clean ( if substituting one drug for another is your idea of clean)
    A bigger question is why won’t the insurance companies cover Tramadol, Butrans or Lidocaine patches for pain ? Both significantly reduce long term pain and are relatively free from physical addiction.
    The psychological users are a different problem but we could easily cut the addiction rate in half with Butrans or Lidocaine patches.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2017-10-20 18:33

    Americans should always be vigilant about their surrounding but creating imagined boogeymen is stupid and a waste of time.
    As a Native American born and raised in Western South Dakota I learned to always be aware of the people around me. I have little fear of being attacked by an international terrorist, my fear is being attacked by a domestic terrorist or white supremacist.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-20 20:19

    Glad to help, Robin Friday!

    I’m with Roger: I’m more worried about being attacked by a domestic terrorist or white supremacist… and, unlike Roger, I’m not even Indian!

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