Goodbye, South Dakota

At 12:55 pm CDT on Friday, May 27, my status as a lifelong South Dakotan ended. I crossed the state line en route to the city in which my wife and I now live. Two of our three daughters and our granddaughter live in the university town larger than Sioux Falls.

Family was the motivating factor. Our daughters had been dropping hints about us moving for a couple of years. Initially resistant, my wife decided in March that she wanted to see our granddaughter grow up as COVID prevented us from seeing her as much as we’d have liked. That’s also why it’s been dark here. In just two months, we bought a house in another state, sold our house, packed up our belongings, had movers load things up, and did all the other things that go with relocating. I’ve lived in six different communities in South Dakota but have never resided outside the state.

Sadly, I have to admit I’d come to regard South Dakota with contempt. I’ve been “Noemed” and “wing nutted” to death. It’s simply no longer the state I’ve known for more than half a century. During my life here, there were three different Democrat governors (granted, one was appointed and served only five months). Democrats held the state’s U.S. House seats for 37 years. Between 1962 and 2008, we had four Democrat U.S. Senators who served 60 years. In fact, from 1973-1979 and 1997-2005 both Senators were Democrats.

Thus, I remember a time when the state and its politicians focused on problems, not party propaganda. Today, Noem travels the country as a devout Trumpette, focuses on right-wing hot button issues, and encourages people to gain “free-dumb” here. A governor’s job is to address the state’s core issues (poverty, lack of health care, and children, to name just three), not echoing Trumpisms and issuing venomous press releases on issues that don’t genuinely impact South Dakota.

Let’s not forget the legislative branch. Senators Thune and Rounds prefer elevating politics over principle. Like much of Congress, they’re devoted to obstructing Democrat-sponsored legislation and presidents (including Supreme Court Justices) and toeing the Trump/GOP line. There’s no real search for, let alone any effort to, reach across the aisle to try and solve national issues. Sadly, the state Legislature is worse. There’s such Republican domination that a whacko element of the party can influence state policy and the state’s future. To call them right-wing maniacs is an understatement.

And while it may be the case in many cities, Sioux Falls kowtows to developers and the financially well-off. There’s little concern for what the citizens want and little to no transparency.

Given today’s political atmosphere, where I now live may not be better. Yet I won’t have the historical knowledge and perspective that makes South Dakota unbearable for me. After all, there’s some truth in the saying “ignorance is bliss.” I think being near my kids and granddaughter, I’m going to be blissful as can be.

So, best of luck, South Dakota. I couldn’t keep circling the drain with you.

What once you thought was a paradise is not just what it seemed
The more I look around I find, the more I have to fear

“Where Do We Go from Here?”, Chicago, Chicago II

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  • Romance novelist who wrote essay called “How to Murder Your Husband” is now on trial for murdering her husband

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Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind

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[S]ome people’s idea of [free speech] is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.

Winston Churchill, October 13, 1943

Loco Lawsuits: The woeful tale of Leo, the Bichon Frise

On February 11, 2000, Sara McBurnett was driving to the San Jose airport to pick up her husband. Their 19-pound Bichon Frise dog, Leo, slept on the front seat. A black SUV with Virginia license plates passed her on the right shoulder and cut in front of her into the lane to her left. McBurnett also needed to change to the left lane, but her bumper tapped the SUV when she did so.

The driver of the SUV got out and stormed back to McBurnett’s car. When she rolled down her window, he shouted, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Leo was now on McBurnett’s lap, and the man reached in, pulling him out of the car. He then threw Leo into lanes of traffic, where several vehicles hit him. When McBurnett retrieved Leo and put him back in the car, the SUV took off at high speed. Leo died on the way to an emergency veterinarian clinic.

A Bichon Frise (not Leo)

The story drew international attention, and a local radio station collected $120,000 in reward money to catch the SUV’s driver. Tips led police to arrest Andrew Burnett, charging him with a felony for cruelly killing an animal. During his June 2021 trial, his attorney said Leo bit Burnett’s hand and, because a tooth stuck in his hand when Burnett jerked back his hand, the dog was pulled through the window and fell to the ground.

It took the jury less than an hour to find him guilty. In sentencing Burnett to the maximum three-year sentence, the judge called Burnett a liar and his version of events “absolutely ridiculous” and “preposterous.” After the sentencing, McBurnett called Burnett a “pathological liar.”

In July 2003, an appeals court unanimously affirmed Burnett’s conviction, saying there was substantial evidence that he caused “the cruel death of Leo.” Burnett also argued he wasn’t responsible because Leo supposedly ran back across the road before being hit by a white van. The court called the contention “absurd.” He also complained

Evidently having plenty of time on his hands in prison, in February 2003, Burnett filed a lawsuit over Leo’s death – against McBurnett and the San Jose Mercury News.

Representing himself, Burnett claimed his spine and neck were injured when McBurnett’s car tapped his and that she tried to hide the extent of damage to her vehicle to downplay him being injured. He also claimed McBurnett defamed him in the media and that the newspaper “knowingly and maliciously” printed libel about him. All of this, he alleged, not only caused him lost wages but “mental pain and anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, fright and shock, ad mortification.” He claimed damages of more than $1 million. Burnett asked to proceed in forma pauperis. The court denied the request and the lawsuit evidently proceeded no further.

These weren’t Burnett’s only experiences with the judicial system. Within months of his conviction for killing Leo, Burnett pled no contest to providing false documents to a traffic court to avoid paying speeding tickets and was convicted of stealing equipment from and destroying a van he used while working for Pacific Bell. In 2015, he requested reducing all of his convictions to misdemeanors. The courts rejected the request.

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.

Mark Twain (1899)

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