by Molly Ivins
project to rename North Dakota just Dakota is a splendid addition to the national political agenda. Let me put in my two-cents worth now: I think it should be called the State Formerly Known as North Dakota.
Furthermore, I think we should all develop firm opinions on the issue and have heated debates, a nasty brawl on "Crossfire" -- the Rev. Jerry Falwell versus the Rev. Al Sharpton -- and the Weekly Standard and The Nation going at one another hammer and tongs. Fox News, fair and balanced as always, can expose the pro-Just Dakota camp for the com-symp, egg-sucking intellectuals they actually are. The conservatives will stand for tradition and The Way Things Have Always Been, the liberals staunchly, and politically-correctly, in favor of improvement, reform and allowing people to call themselves whatever they choose. Dakotan-Americans is fine with us. George Will can dismiss the whole idea condescendingly, and Tim Russert can claim Just Dakota is not as cold as Buffalo.
Then some of us could Dakota-drop. "I've been worried about Just Dakota's image for years. I mean, it doesn't even have Wall Drug." Here's the important thing: If Just Dakota ever secedes from the Union, it will instantly become the third-most-powerful nuclear force on earth, which I feel is adequate reason to let them call themselves whatever they want.
My friend Richard Aregood's son J.T. really likes Just Dakota. Of course, he's from Jersey. Richard and J.T. visited Grand Forks and Medora a few years ago, and two years later Richard had to go back on business. Local folks would sight him and sing out, "Here comes The Tourist," on account of he was the only one they ever had.
That reminds me of a good Ann Richards story. Ann and her daughter Cele visited Siberia about a year ago. They hired a guide/translator, and as they were getting acquainted, he inquired politely, "Is this your first trip to Siberia?"
Just Dakota has the Badlands, a tribute to honest advertising; whereas Texas is full of such mind-boggling misnomers as Fort Bliss and Clear Lake. Just Dakota is a whole state where you can't find a cappucino. Still home to the seven-jello marshmellow, cottage-cheese surprise. Just Dakota is also the site of Buffalo Commons, the splendid effort to return the High Plains to the pristine state they knew before we made the monumental mistake of putting a plough into that dry earth. I know vegetarians don't like to hear this, but God made an awful lot of land that's good for nothing but grazing. That and windmill farms.
Another interesting thing about Just Dakota is that it was greatly influenced by both the progressive and populist movements, so many of its economic institutions are co-ops. One hesitates to mention this to conservative Just Dakotans, but the place is actually sort of socialist.
Just Dakota also has lots of buffalo and buffalo chips, and prairie dogs and a Teddy Roosevelt Museum. Also, it has saloons that serve buffalo steak and eggs for breakfast. Just Dakotans are not given to easy chat. The whole state still believes Loose Lips Sink Ships. Their conversation openers tend to be stoppers, such as, "Sure is cold." The only possible reply is, "Yep." I personally have been to Zap, J.D., the site of a memorable spring-break riot many years ago. No kidding: The whole joke was college students from all over the Midwest going to Zap, N.D., as it was then, for a wild time during spring break. But unfortunately, it worked a little too well. Some outhouses were burned.
The Bush administration needs to leap on this issue immediately to keep ahead of the curve. We're talking major political power here, with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (OK, so he's a Southerner -- but the Dakota connection is thicker than water) and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (originally from Just Dakota, not Texas). They should put Karl Rove on it right away, bringing to this delicate matter all the finesse he showed with Jim Jeffords, Intel and Vieques.
I realize that Rove's "strategery" is to "secure the base," the ultra-conservative right, but I think they need to reach out to the moderates on this one. And if I know my Washington press corps, there will be universal agreement on that, except for Bob Novak, who will argue for a capital gains tax cut, instead.
Besides, we're talking major economic development here: Think of the employment for printers alone in changing the stationery, for sign painters who do the population signs and so forth.
Besides, it beats another column about the Chandra Levy case.
July 12, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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