Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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At least the Sunday newspaper for January 1 was not full of silly puffery projecting what a future Aberdeen has. In the last quarter century, the town has experienced a persistent trickling away of population. Despite the efforts to recapture some of the economic enterprises that sustain a town, they have been mostly in the realm of chamber of commerce cant and false bravado. Railroads built the town. When they left, nothing was found to replace them. The "leadership" has been superb in its ability to ignore the economic facts of the place.
So, today the New Year's edition of the Aberdeen American News was devoted to a festival of domestic violence. We say "festival" because the subject was not treated with hard facts as to its prevalence or penetrating information as to its causes. It was treated with the tonque-clucking smarminess of town cafe gossips. While they put on a show of abhorrence at terrible things happening to other people, they revel in them. It somehow makes them feel superior to those who are the subjects of their patronizing sympathies and nose-sniffling disdain.
We do not make light of domestic violence. It needs to be addressed with intelligence and serious study of its causes and effects. We are involved in raising funds for resources and trained people to deal with a problem that devastates lives. But it does generate some bad journalism. Bad journalism is the reason many very serious issues and problems are not competently addressed. It serves those who would rather sit idly around and cluck their tonques.
The lead story for the new year, then, is domestic violence. That lead story may well reflect the intellectual and creative profile of the community. Communities generally get the kind of news coverage they want.
A sidebar story is about the May 1993 incident in the neighboring town of Hosmer when a man killed his wife, his three children, and himself. I remember the incident vividly. At the time it happened, I was sitting in the library of a Big Ten university where the landscape was abloom with spring plantings and the air was fragrant with the season. A person with whom I was working came over to me and said, "You're from South Dakota, aren't you?" My academic colleagues are puzzled about why people voluntarily live in South Dakota. When I replied that I was, indeed, from South Dakota, the colleague gave me a report of what he had seen on television news. He was particularly struck by the fact that the incident took place across the street from an elementary school. When I informed him that the town which was the scene of the killings was only a few miles from where I lived, he gave me a look of puzzled sympathy.
Later that day, the subject came up with colleagues. One of them commented that the crime will never be solved. He explained that the perpetrator was known and the police files could be closed, but the real motives would never be examined. He was right. Folks tend to remember the incident, if at all, as an occasion for tongue-clucking
And so, we begin another year in Aberdeen.