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Meeting the “Other America”

February 1, 2017 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Columns No Comments
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By Nicholas Reid

Ever since the presidential election last November, there has been a lot of talk about the “two Americas”: coastal and continental America. The many differences between these two sections of the United States are numerous and oftentimes divisive. In this article, I shall explore continental America from the viewpoint of a coastal American living in the heart of Continental America, Rapid City, SD.

One of the defining aspects of continental America is an intense patriotism and love of the United States. Most continental Americans are patriotic, and the American flag is prominently displayed in and outside many houses, businesses, and public places. Continental America is a place where the crowds at football games will join the singing of the national anthem after the microphone for the choir cuts out so that everyone can still hear the national anthem. Continental America is also very supportive of the military and most people are, have been, or are related closely to a member of the military.

Another defining characteristic of continental America is that it’s deeply religious. Churches and chapels can be found at almost every block, and many of them are packed so full on Sundays that there are not enough pews for all of the people. Many local businesses are also closed on Sundays, making the city downtown almost like a ghost town.

Continental America, as a whole, isn’t racist, or at least they try not to be. Of course, due to the current practice of accusing people of such myriad transgressions as “white privilege,” “microaggressions,” “implicit bias,” and “cultural appropriation,” many people in coastal America (and some in continental America, too) consider continental Americans to be backwards, racist hicks deserving only of contempt for their rejection of modern, progressive values. These people have obviously never met (or cared to listen to) a continental American. Continental Americans, particularly those near reservations, are acutely aware of the plight of Native Americans in modern America. Many of these people also volunteer their time to try and help alleviate some of the extreme poverty found on many reservations. Far from being nasty, continental Americans are generally quite friendly to complete strangers, regardless of ethnicity. It’s not uncommon for two complete strangers to ask each other how they’re doing while just passing each other on the street.

However, continental America is not in good shape. Years of poor economic conditions have taken their toll on the area. Even in the nicest areas of Rapid City, business turnover is high and many storefronts are empty at any one time. Most of the people in the area live in houses built before 1980, and few are the first owners of their houses. Drug epidemics, particularly the current opiate epidemic, have hid the community hard. Drug related arrests make up a majority of the cases of the Rapid City Police Department, surpassing even DUIs in terms of volume. Continental America has been mishandled, ignored and sometimes openly disparaged (remember the “basket of deplorables”). Maybe it’s time to stop and listen to them.

Nicholas Reid is a graduate of the Loudoun County High School system and is currently pursuing a degree in geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He wants to become a paleontologist.

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