I recently read Mr. Port’s article (whom The Forum so sincerely intends on uplifting) on Rep. Ruth Buffalo’s recent visit through Carrington, N.D.. As is usual, Port manages through (in an almost literary manner) misdirect his reader from the real issue – xenophobia in North Dakota.
Let me take a step back. Over 100 years ago my great-great-grandparents came from Norway and established themselves in North Dakota and Otter Tail County, Minnesota. They were Norwegians. I am half Mexican, half Norwegian.
In North Dakota I have seen great love, remarkable compassion, considerable despair, tragic sorrow, kindness and forgiveness. However, what I have really never really experienced even after a decade after traversing gorgeous plains, buttes, valleys, and the icy landscape of North Dakota is a sense of immediate (and, so, vulnerable) welcome in our small towns.
Wherever I have gone there is always a sense of insecurity, instigation or inquiry. Nowhere in these individual journeys have I felt someone open his or her door and say “Come on in,” but instead have been interrogated with “who are you,” “why are you here,” “you’re not from here” – and, the perennial question—“why did you move to North Dakota?”
So, forgive me, but when I read a seemingly well-intentioned letter about a so-called “rogue” legislator socially reforming the prairie landscape, I listened. I attentively examined the Carrington letter up until the very end where it concluded with the following: “Leftist social justice is NOT welcome in rural North Dakota.” And then I realized how small towns (like Carrington, and other parts of so-called rural North Dakota) haven’t changed.
My great-great-grandfather, and his family who moved from Norway (another continent) to establish North Dakota bled their souls into our fertile soil. Their story—which is part of the tapestry of this great nation—is one of tragedy and triumph. Should I apologize for my great-grandfather’s Nonpartisan socialism born of the prairie grasslands? My great-grandfather’s eating a meal with Dr. Martin Luther King, and believing that every worker deserves a living wage?
There is a much bigger lesson to learn, and it is that parochial, small-town, Xenobia is not welcome in North Dakota. Whether you are left wing, right wing, social (or not social), you are are welcome in my hometown.
Madame Buffalo, Mr. Port, and the owners of the café in Carrington—I invite you to my home to celebrate the values that I love of this country and North Dakota: liberalism (the right to think what you wish), democracy (the right to debate what you think is right and to vote how you want to), and kindness (to do what is right).
Thank you very much for your time.
Lopez lives in Fargo.