By Sabrina Hornung
Remember the legacy of the NPL.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting and dinner hosted by the Dakota Resource Council in Bismarck. I came in feeling a little defeated, jaded with not only regional politics, but national politics and pretty much anything in between.
Michael Lansing, historian, academic and author of “Insurgent Democracy: The Nonpartisan League in North American Politics,” gave us a really effective lecture that hit me like a pep talk.
I left inspired and ready to take action.
He spoke on the legacy of the Nonpartisan League (NPL), which was formed in 1915 and led to our state-owned bank, state-owned mill and elevator– that are all still used and loved by North Dakotans to this day. These were established because people were sick of being exploited by corporate and political interests from Minneapolis and Chicago, and thrived from membership and grassroots organizing.
Can you imagine? When people get together, there’s power – and do I dare say hope?
Meanwhile in 2023 North Dakota, our politicians have an oily residue lining their pockets and we have a governor that’s actively selling us out and volunteering our state to be a carbon dumpground.
In his speech, Michael Lansing warned us about the danger of nostalgia, about revering these movements with a Those-were-the-days mentality and reimagining them in an updated format.
118 years later we’re fighting a similar fight, so how do we approach it? How do we update it?
Though I do like the idea of cruising around the countryside in a Model T organizing and getting folks together, my Equinox will have to do, in fact those old NPL guys probably would have preferred the all-wheel drive of the Equinox, to the rear wheel drive of the Model T…especially on those country roads, but I digress.
As the previous administration opened up Pandora’s box of divisiveness, let’s not forget what was left inside the box once all the ugliness was let out.
Lansing also mentioned the importance of politics over protest, which resonates now more than ever. Sure, I've been to plenty of protests and you might have too. Sure, it feels good to march in solidarity with a group of people you agree with, but it perpetuates the us vs. them mentality and now is not the time for this. Also, thanks to a boatload of propaganda, peaceful protest is now associated with social deviance.
We need action NOW, and we need to have some serious conversations, even if it’s with folks we don’t necessarily agree with, but we might all learn something. It’s an exercise in perspective and sharing perspective and learning that we might have more in common than we think. Even if we agree to disagree I still might learn something.
Unless it involves some level of discrimination. Then we need to have another talk...
Lansing referenced the essay, “From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement” by Bayard Rustin; it was written in February of 1965. The essay is easily accessible via a google search, and one passage that really resonated with me was
“What is the value of winning access to public accommodations for those who lack money to use them? The minute the movement faced this question, it was compelled to expand its vision beyond race relations to economic relations, including the role of education in modern society. And what also became clear is that all these interrelated problems, by their very nature, are not soluble by private, voluntary efforts but require government action—or politics.”
Get involved. Get informed. Speak up and arm yourself with knowledge. If you don't, things won’t change and if they do they’ll only get worse.
Educate yourself about your candidates and don’t just vote for someone based on their party. Treat them how folks treat their fantasy football players. How can Americans know and care more about football than people making laws that directly affect their everyday lives?
You might be saying, but what can I do? You’re out there screaming into the void and it’s not doing any good… write a letter to the editor, the governor, your representatives and senators, run for office, become a member of an organization that aligns with your values, be civically engaged on a local level and attend your school board, county or city meetings or pick up your local newspaper and get acquainted with these meeting minutes and stay caught up on the haps.
And most of all, VOTE.
Speaking of the DRC
Congratulations to Dr. Madeline Luke who received the Art and Grace Link Volunteer Leadership Award from the Dakota Resource Council. Dr. Luke and her husband Dr. Gary Krapu founded and financed the Anne Krapu-High Plains Reader Journalism Scholarship Foundation. The present recipient is Laura Simmons of Fargo North High School and Northwestern University.
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