Northern Valley Beacon

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Monday, November 13, 2006


South Dakota blogs on the propagation, care, and feeding of bigotry

.A story circulated in the South Dakota press about an incident concerning an SDSU student who was attending the FFA convention where American Idol winner Carrie Underwood was appearing. The South Dakota student led a walkout during Underwood's performance because Ms. Underwood is a vegetarian and a member of the Humane Society. Jerry Hinkle of the Holabird Advocate has the best commentary on the manner in which he nominates the protestor for the PEDA (People Eating Delicious Animals Award). The young woman, Amanda Nolz, protested that Carrie Underwood was undermining animal agriculture that works so hard to provide food for the rest of us.

The problem was that Ms. Nolz charged Ms. Underwood with being a member of the humane society and an activist against meat-producing agriculture. Ms. Underwood is a vegetarian. So, Ms. Nolz passed out flyers at the FFA convention urging attendees to walk out when Ms. Underwood took the stage. Quite a few apparently did.

The story got a play in the blogs, with South Dakota War College lauding Ms. Nolz for her courage to take a stand. Then, some commentators asked who did the booking of a vegetarian and humane advocate for an FFA convention. We assume Ms. Underwood was booked for her talent as a singer, not her personal diet and attitude toward animals.

I suppose, by the standards of some bloggers, I am an activist against animal agriculture, although I have a freezer full of Brown County beef and have dabbled in the livestock business. Our family dog, Ingrid, is a greyhound rescued from the Denver track (she placed in 84 of the 86 races she ran there). In the photo, she is doing her impression of roadkill. The snowshoe Siamese, Simon, was found hung up in a chain link fence on Skyline Drive in Rapid City. Ziggy, the silver tabby, was adopted from a woman in Britton who rescues and finds homes for cats. Harboring animals such as these surely makes me an enemy of animal agriculture.

I also have a large vegetable garden on the banks of the James River. I eat veggies along with the beef, pork, poultry, and fish. Boycott me, baby.

The newspaper I worked for as farm editor was a big supporter of FFA and 4-H activities. (All of my children have been in 4-H.) I often had kids accompany me on my rounds as apprentices. (For obvious reasons, I am avoiding the term "intern.") It was made clear to us editors that our tasks as mentors was to give the young people experience and to guide them in the kind of behavior and conduct that produced good results. If a young person made a mistake, like confusing PETA with the humane society, we were expected to point out the error. If they chose to commit an act of rudeness against someone because they objected to that someone's personal tastes and preferences, we were expected to discourage them from displays of bad manners and suggest that there was a big difference between acting out on the basis of a bigotry and taking a stance on moral and ethical issues.

But in South Dakota blogs, young people get applauded for acting out of error and being rude. Ironically, shortly after Ms. Underwood appeared at the FFA convention, she won the CMA female vocalist of the year award.

Unfortunately, the War College missed a chance to laud what looked like some resentful shenanigans by competing singers. But we are sure the blog would have lauded any bad manners shown toward Ms. Underwood if it could.

The fostering of ignorant resentment is a non-partisan activity with blogs. I hit the bigot button bigtime on a liberal blog with a commentary on an incident in Aberdeen on election over the Referred Law 6 campaigns. Some young people who were pressed into service acted out in such a way that their actions received an extensive commentary on the editorial page of the local newspaper. I wrote a commentary in which the main point was that, yes, sometimes young people make blunders and get out of hand (see below), but we older people have to assume responsibility for such behavior because we do not offer effective support and guidance. And I said young people do tend to get full of themselves and make blunders, but I also said older people do no better. I was portraying a barrier that exists between the older and the young. It is something that impedes campaigns.

My comments triggered Todd Epp's stereotype machine. He said he could envision "The Newk hiking his pants up to his nipples, putting on a pork pie hat, wearing a powder blue polyester short-sleeved jumpsuit, and screaming out his front door, "You kids get of the yard!"

He left out the part about stealing, stinking, wearing loose shoes, and lusting after white women. Oh, that's another stereotype. Not the ageist one. But what's the difference?

I did raise some concerns about the factionalism in high schools as a reflection of the divisions within adult society. Todd says it all sounds like his high school experience and kids survived it and went on to become productive adults. He referred to the 20-year-old film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." That is another irony, because while the film was popular with the younger set, critics termed it an exercise in stereotypes that exploited the resentments of the young. But the subject of factions and their effect on the educational process is something that educators discuss and try to deal with every day.

The fact is that there are many kids who do not survive. They drop out or get lost along the way. One of the huge frauds in the No Child Left Behind program is that school systems are not reporting the drop-out rates. In the post below, I relate the way in which young people themselves recognized and dealt with the divisivenss in their schools--which I state is a projection of the divisions in the larger culture. But this was treated as the rant of an old fool bashing kids.

It is probably easier and more pleasurable to construct a stereotype than to read the actual words and attend to the actual points.

Kids have a lot to learn and deal with. Sometimes they make mistakes. So do adults. That's why we have education. As someone who spent 30 years in classrooms and have two teen-age children, I am well aware of what kids face, what they do, and why they do it. Analyzing the impediments to their learning is not kid bashing.

I know I also raise much resentment because I find blogs to be ignorant, petty, mean, and prejudiced. Like Todd Epp says in regard to another blogger, I think their main value often is that they reveal a level of thought and expression that we ostensibly, at least, would like to surmount.

Having one's words misrepresented and given some ridiculously untenable interpretations has become an essential feature of web logging. Blogging is a kind of pack commentary. Todd raised a stereotype, and people who obviously had not read my post chimed in with charges that my post said things that it absolutely did not.

I do not recommend that young people read blogs unless they want examples of what to avoid. And as for petty bigotry. As long as we have blogs, it will be alive and well and will endure. But not if I can help it.

Mr. Newquist,
Thanks for your kind words! I see that you have high standards when it come to posting comments, too. Bigotry is not my cup of tea either. I started PEDA as a way to celebrate meat eating as well as have a laugh at PETA. Believe it or not, I have vegetarian friends in California who like to grill South Dakota Buffulo. I have and do enjoy a good vegetable platter a time or two myself. I even listen to Carrie Underwood. In my real life (as opposed to my courageous, dynamic blogging persona) I have a live and let live philosophy.I don't mind vegetarians because that means more meat for me.
Can't we all just get along! I sure do hope so!
Keep up the good work.
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