I think I need to initiate a throw down with Forum writer Robert Morast. In his opinion piece published on Inforum he said, “Gwen Sebastian’s turn on “The Voice” this past Monday reminded me of everything that’s wrong with North Dakotans.”
Say what??!! Everything that’s wrong with North Dakotans? EVERYTHING? That was quite the statement.
Morast went on to say that he wasn’t hating on Gwen. His primary complaint was that he thinks the “yah, sure, ya betcha” that Gwen laid out on The Voice as a North Dakota native served to demean North Dakotans by painting us as “simple, folksy people who exist in a place detached from the cultural flow of America.” According to Morast, “The rest of the nation already thinks that. We don’t need to reinforce the untruth.”
So it wasn’t really EVERYTHING that is wrong with North Dakotans that was stuck in Morast’s craw as he first laid out – it’s the repeating by a North Dakota native of the Coen brothers’ capture of small town North Dakota lingo that caused the chafing of his posterior.
Wow…that is attaching an awful lot of potency to Gwen’s utterance of “yah, sure, ya betcha!” By Morast’s representation we are led to conclude that one little phrase has accomplished widespread slander of all things North Dakotan. The phrase apparently reinforced for all television viewers far and wide the belief that we are a state filled with “simple, folksy people” who are “detached from the cultural flow of America.” Yet, we watch The Voice – which I should note would be the first point of argument put forth to anyone who actually believed in the misnomer that North Dakota is culturally detached.
Yeah…sorry Morast, I am not buying your doom and gloom message. I think you have attributed far too much power to a simple phrase in a movie. North Dakota is defined by the heart of its people and its down to earth personality – it isn’t a California or a Florida or a Texas (thank goodness) – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hip or cool to live here. I might suggest that North Dakota redefines hip and cool by its own standards. Take the state’s identity on other fronts such as economic health, quality of life, cutting-edge innovation, commitment to education, notable weather, community commaraderie, reigning college football champion in the FCS, etc. - North Dakota defines itself at every turn as a state filled with all the right things necessary to be deemed a great place to live.
I am a transplant to North Dakota. I have only been here 14 1/2 years (give me a few more decades and I might start to be considered a real North Dakotan). I knew the first time I visited the state that it was one of the greatest states in the nation. I concluded that in short order based on two things: the people and the beauty of the state.
But you don’t need to listen to me about how easy it is for others to see what a great place North Dakota is…the secret is out Morast. North Dakota has got it going on. I know it, you know it, Gwen Sebastian knows it – damn, who doesn’t know it? But North Dakota is a modest state that embraces its easygoing nature, so its citizens when out and about in the world do tend to downplay the potency of the state’s profile. That quiet, unassuming, unruffled nature – the one that is evidenced in “yah, sure, ya betcha” – is who we are to some extent and I think it is lovely – dontcha know.
So take it down a notch Morast and spend time worrying about things that are really likely to give folks the wrong impression of our state (like sexed-up tourism ads)…or better yet, start a Gwen Sebastian fan club with some of that spare time you have. You can have hats and shirts made that say:
Can Gwen Sebastian from Hebron, North Dakota win The Voice?
Yah, sure, you betcha!
Day nine hundred and forty-nine of the new forty – obla di obla da