It is a good thing I don’t live in Bismarck. Heaven only knows how much time I would spend at the Capitol frothing at the mouth while trying to convey to legislators the idiocy of some of the things they spend time on. Things like the counseling before divorce bill (which I had quite a bit to say about upon its first iteration in a prior session-read that here) and the license plate design bill. Both of these efforts are rehashes from past legislative sessions (mandatory counseling – 2011; license plates – 2009) – and both just leave those with their wits still about them shaking their heads.
Image from The Forum
“As the question is debated in the state Legislature, Forum readers submitted a bumper crop of personal opinions, with respondents split about 50/50 on whether the current plates do a good job reflecting the state’s image. ”
The plate above is a design from The Forum for the story, but make no mistake about it, the oil identity is one of the pieces that seems destined to be featured if a new plate is designed. The reader’ perspectives shared in Olson’s story leaned most heavily toward the notion that the money could be better spent on the state’s needs, not on the frivolity of a new state plate design.
Per The Forum: “If passed, the bill would allow for redesigns of the state’s various classes of license plates, which are made at the state penitentiary. The bill also appropriates as much as $6.2 million for the redesign.”
This bill -Senate Bill 2326 – is currently still in committee. Per The Forum the sponsors of this bill “include Sens. Gary Lee, R-Casselton; Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks; and Dave Oehlke, R-Devils Lake; and Reps. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo; and Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo.”
I will admit, I am additionally incensed by this bill because it appears that a newly designed plate will pay homage to the state’s oil identity. Frankly, I do not warm to that. I don’t believe North Dakota’s way of life has benefited from the oil patch – not even with the bucket-loads of money that has come with it. I believe we have sold off what was uniquely North Dakota with little regard to the ultimate cost. And mind you, I am not talking environmental cost (which is a whole different, more complex, and equally frightening story).
I am talking about the core identity of this place – the identity that has bonded generations to the land. The North Dakota we know and love is a place of kinship and simple gratitude. It is an unassuming place where we take care of each other and assume goodness. It is where our sense of place is firmly rooted even in the darkest days of winter. To be truly North Dakotan is to feel the essence of what it means to love and cherish the blessings that come with some of the challenges of living in this state.
But the oil patch repercussions, those are not of this place…they are not of the identity we embrace. National Geographic Magazine has a great article in its March edition which queries, “The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply—but at what cost?” I find it comforting that even the outside world looking in can see that life as we know it in North Dakota is being changed by activities in the oil patch. It gives me hope that even as residents’ protests appear to fall on deaf ears within the state, they are being heard loud and clear beyond the borders.
I pray for the North Dakota we know and love…I pray that we will be able to curb the damage being done in the name of profits. Squashing the expenditure of millions of dollars on new plates and the notion that oil is an embraced part of the people of North Dakota’s identity is a small step in the right direction. We do not want to be the next Texas…we want to be North Dakota.
Let your legislators know today that you expect them to Re-Discover the Spirit of North Dakota before it is too late. You can find their contact information here. Tell them that you are not drinking the big oil money Kool-Aid and neither should they.
Day one thousand three hundred and twenty-one of the new forty – obla di obla da