Northern Valley Beacon

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Friday, August 26, 2005


Elegy on the occasion of reprieving Ellsworth

Today was a day of elation for South Dakota. The reprieve of Ellsworth from the chopping block, assuming that any Pentagon rebuttal to the BRAC vote does not succeed and that the President goes along with the vote, means we will not have to watch another community in South Dakota begin that deadly atrophy that has turned so many communities throughout the state into graveyards.

As an old guided missile crewman, I still have not gotten over the closure of the missile bases in the Dakotas. While the Cold War seemed to obviate the need for them, the unrest in the Middle East and the known efforts of some nations and some militant groups to get weapons of mass destruction and means of delivering them seemed to make the total abandonment of the missile network hasty and premature. The sites of offensive weapons would have been the logical places to set up the defensive apparatus. For a long time, places in North Dakota, while abandoned, were maintained for the possibility of a new role in security. No one even talks about that possibility anymore. The widely accepted assumption seems to be that we need a suitcase defense, not an air defense.

Today was also a day for our current political culture to show how incredibly inane it is. Oh, there were many obligatory comments about how the Congressional delegation and the Governor's office and the Ellsworth Task Force worked so hard together and should all share credit. Then, some turned around and touted John Thune as a hero, as if the reprieve of Ellsworth, however temporary it may be, was all his doing. Nothing makes one want to avoid all politics more than being exposed to the truly assinine.

One of the more incredible arguments was that Rapid City seems to have obtained an economic reprieve, but should now get down to business and replace that government-based part of the economy with private enterprise. It wouldn't be so dependent on the government for the livelihoods it provides. For people from Aberdeen, where Imprimis left 800 people out of work, or Huron where Smithfield Foods left almost 1,000 people without jobs, the assumption that private enterprise is somehow more stable than the government simply does not wash. In fact, the history of the U.S. in recent decades is a history of job losses throughout the country.

And then we have the heartening examples of Enron, Worldcom, and so on. They certainly lent economic security and stability to the people they have touched.

The successful arguments for maintaining Ellsworth were based on hard, convincing data assembled and presented through hard work. We hate to see that fact nibbled and eroded away by all that niggling crowing about who saved Ellsworth. The facts and people who listened to them and understood them saved it.

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