I am proud to call myself a North Dakotan. At some points, I've faltered, given how our legislators represent the state I call home, but at the heart of it all, I find my true "north."
Yet, in the past weeks, I've been disappointed by the suspicion and hatred directed at fellow North Dakotans. It's come from those criticizing Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for her political positions, to praising Rep. Kevin Cramer for his "conviction" in supporting tax legislation that hasn't even had a tangible effect yet for the average person, all the way to claiming that a person's "right to bear arms" outweighs everything else, including the unalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
North Dakota has shaped me into the man I am today, and the experiences I had growing up shaped my personal and political beliefs. Do I lean Democratic most of the time? Yes. Would I like my taxes to decrease? Probably. But I also understand that roads and infrastructure updates and improvements are worth my tax dollars, as are many social programs that may not directly affect me, but help those around me.
North Dakota is a community. There's a reason that when we travel the world and someone finds out where we're from they ask "Do you know so-and-so?" We are a tight-knit group that is willing to support others through thick and thin, regardless of our differences.
Many will claim North Dakota has strong roots in Christian values. I say, great. But to make that claim and be vehemently against something like sanctuary cities or supporting the Dreamers of the DACA program is fundamentally non-Christian. At the core of many religions is compassion and kindness, to offer what we have to those who have none.
I know that some will read my words and be angry. I know others will quietly nod in agreement. But the strong community of North Dakota needs to understand that in these times of chaos and seemingly endless stories of madness, the answer is not violence or weapons, not isolation and building barriers. The answer is what makes North Dakota a special place to call home: it's our kindness and compassion towards others.
Connor lives in West Fargo.