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Love It or Leave It
Mar 21, 2012
I harbor no illusions that my interaction with the South Dakota blogosphere has been anything like a scientific investigation. I am no aloof observer shielded by the pretense of objectivity and passive voice. I participate. I advocate. I catch heck and often throw heck right back.
Yet I have noticed a certain kind of heck that Lefties like me seem less inclined to throw than our Right-wing neighbors. “Love it or leave it!” is one of the great red herrings of debate: you're losing on the merits of the argument, so you try to marginalize your opponent by marking him as a disloyal complainer.
“Love it or leave it”: it's a cheap shot, available in any argument. It ignores that fact that love isn't a choice between ignoring problems or leaving the moment you bump into them. Love—of country, of brother, of life partner—is about saying to the people you love, “Hey, I see you've got something wrong there. What can we do to fix that?”
Yet on more than one occasion, when I have published criticism of economic development policies in my hometown of Madison, blog commenters have occasionally replied that I should move away from Madison. When I cite data on South Dakota's abysmal teaching salaries, commenters occasionally urge me to quit griping and move to Minnesota. On another issue, a reader called me “socialist scum” and warned, “We kicked you bastards out of this country once; it looks like we will have to do it again.” (I still can't figure out if this neighbor believed King George III was a Marxist or if he was just experiencing delirium from watching Red Dawn too many times.)
I get riled up in political arguments. Yet I don't think I've ever said to a conservative, “You don't belong in South Dakota.” I don't hear my fellow liberals in the South Dakota blogosphere making such excluding statements, either. Maybe we liberals simply express our exclusivity in some other way. But when I hear “love it or leave it,” I hear conservatives, not liberals, saying, “My home, my state, my country doesn't have room for dissent and difference.”
Telling someone to leave his homeland isn't just bad argumentation; it's downright unneighborly and un-South Dakotan. We have room in the public sphere for everyone.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.