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Raw DS Article: UND, Get Angry!

March 24, 2010

Last week, I spent a fairly significant amount of time visiting the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder. While my intended purpose was to spend quality time with the many friends I have at the school for a meal or two and St. Patrick’s Day drinks. One of the first things I noticed driving around the school was that the pedestrians are just as clueless in Boulder as they are in Grand Forks. Thankfully, the Prius I drove around those nights had good breaks and an un-stuck accelerator. I’m a people-watcher at heart, and any trip to Boulder is a prime opportunity to observe what’s currently at the forefront of all that is liberal/crazy/hipster/going on with people I went to high school with. In effect, Boulder is the anti-Grand Forks…a progressive community nestled next to the Flatirons (a beautiful part of the Rocky Mountains) with a great bar scene and students that are in-tune with their surroundings. After a night of St. Patrick’s day revelry in which I shared the Celtic spirit with Irishmen from Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Japan, and the USA, I wasn’t ready to come back to the flat, wet place known as Grand Forks.

Upon my return, however, I breathed a bit easier as I spent some time with my friends, as well as getting back into my studies. That breating easy, however, became less and less as I walked through the Memorial Union this past Wednesday to signs warning me of a HOT HELL if I didn’t follow the teachings of JESUS CHRIST. It became clear that I had entered a den of Jehovah’s Witnesses, sitting awkwardly and pretending to preach their gospel from behind a desk at the Memorial Union. I’m almost sure that 99% of the people who walked by likely didn’t care to interact with the old people with outwardly hateful messages on posters around the counter. The thing that really got me about this is not the fact that my fellow students and staff were ignoring it, but that no one tried to call the Witnesses out for what, in effect, condemned a majority of us to hellfire and brimstone. At any other college campus I’ve stepped on around the country and the world, groups like this would have been challenged/laughed out of their hateful and ignorant places years ago.

A common thread found in Dakota Student articles I’ve written since 2006 revolves around my dislike of the closed-mindedness I’ve experienced as a student, both as someone from out of state and as a Jew, on this campus. While the Bibles placed on my computer keyboard living in the dorms and the lack of understanding by faculty on campus of my need for Jewish high holy days off are one, very aggravating thing, what makes me even more confounded is the almost-complacency of the student body, and of the citizens of Grand Forks as a whole, when it comes to very divisive issues that aren’t the “beloved” Fighting Sioux nickname.

A few weeks ago, a Mississippi teen was barred from attending her prom by her high school’s administration because she had the audacity to want to bring her girlfriend. I’ve spent time in Mississippi and other parts of the South, and realize that many of the stereotypes of the people there being closed-minded “hicks” are further proved by actions like those experienced by this girl. What makes matters worse is the fact that this girl’s classmates have expressed anger and hostility toward her drive for equality. Had her community stood up and gave a resounding “NO” to this outward display of hate, the story wouldn’t have likely garnered the attention and embarrassment it now faces.

Mississippi, while far away distance wise from North Dakota, is not that far away when it comes to ideologies. One might even go so far as to say that the south is very similar to North Dakota/Minnesota, only with better food and sweet tea. As a matter of fact, one of my first reactions to this story was surprise that a story similar to this hasn’t happened in a small town in this region. More importantly, my slightly cynical point-of-view is that it’s only a matter of time before something like this does happen.

What sets my experiences at the University of North Dakota apart from those I’ve had elsewhere? In almost every other place I’ve run into people that are willing to stand up for something they believe in or think is wrong. The amount of complacency I see in the community here is equally frustrating and sad. It doesn’t just have to do with religion—I’ve had to see the student body sit back and let things like the Pride Card be forced on them from the school’s administration. If the people in the city and state were more willing to have an open mind and be tolerant of others, imagine the difference that could be made in the perception of those of us from outside the region!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 9:22 am

    Thanks for this Martin, I’m glad you’re going to keep fighting.

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