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THREE CHEERS FOR MY HOME STATE (SOUTH DAKOTA)

I have long been grateful that I was born and grew up in the State of South Dakota.  There is something quiet, and unassuming about the state, and the people there. It is a beautiful state, with an unbelievable variety of topography, from desert-style buttes in the northwest, to the mountains of the Black Hills and, of course, the world famous Mount Rushmore, to the Badlands, the open ranges of the western state, the plains and gentle rolling hills of the agricultural east. The people, too, are diverse, from the Lakota Nation which is indigenous to the state, and from whom I learned that gentle, mystical reverence for the beauties of nature, a reverence for "the Grand  Father" who breathes in all living things, to the Dutch, Norwegian, and Germans who brought with them their love of philosophy, literature, music, and who instructed me and imparted a love for these things as well. From the Lakota sweat lodges of Rosebud and Pine Ridge to the Dutch festivals of Millbank, it is a rich diverse state, for its many cultures, and variety of scenery. I grew up having to learn about Chief Sitting Bull, Lewis and Clark, Dostoyevsky, Goethe...on and on I could go. There is a quiet, unassuming pride to the state and its people.  People in South Dakota know that the rest of the country views them as "fly-over" people, and, frankly, most people in the state simply hope the rest just keep flying over. No income tax, low cost of living... cost of your yearly car tags? about $35.00. There is appreciation for the fact that, for all its faults, Western civilization grew from a complex set of circumstances, from a broad philosophical tradition, from long traditions of jurisprudence, and that these things, for whatever the faults of that civilization, are worth preserving.

I say all of this as background to the following article:

south-dakota-anti-sharia-bill-1253-approved-by-house-judiciary-committee

Well, judging from the comments posted in response to the article, I can assure the reader that there's nothing in the water in South Dakota, nor is anyone there thinking about punishing adherence to Islam with 20 years in prison in some sort of Judeo-Christian mirror image of sharia. What there is, is the realization that, for all the talk about Islamic tolerance of other religions, it remains just that: talk. As my co-author (Dr. Scott DeHart) and I pointed out in Yahweh the Two-Faced God, sharia is the result of the "infallible consensus" of Muslim scholars... there is no room, in a fully Islamicized culture, for the tolerance of philosophical atheism, or agnosticism, or, when one gets right down to it, even for a kind of Neoplatonic hermeticism or anything else. And we have seen the attempts of some courts and organizations in this country to impose just that. And it is a dangerous precedent indeed, for once established, there is nothing to prevent the imposition of other forms of fundamentalist religious law - from Calvinist dominionism to a Catholic Opus Dei-like social teaching.

South Dakota is not a rich state, nor a large state, nor even a politically powerful state. But it has stood up, and said NO to those forces and groups that would turn their back on the heritage of Western civilization. To be sure, those religions, Islam included, have played a decisive role in the formation of that civilization. But they - their claims to the contrary - were not the only such forces. One may speak equally of the vast Graeco-Egyptian-Mesopotamian tradition of philosophy and Hermeticism, Of Roman and Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, of the German Enlightenment and Kant, Feuerbach, Fichte, Schopenhauer, of the French tradition - Descartes and Voltaire, Montaigne, Pascal, of the British idealists and empiricists, of the Italian humanists... Of Newton and Darwin and Einstein... of Bach, Mozart, Haydn.... on and on we could go.  From the sweat lodges of the western part of the state, to the churches and synagogues and coffee houses and universities, the symphonies and the pow wows, all of it in all its rich diversity, and ethic of tolerance, the people of South Dakota have said yes to, and a NO to attempts to roll back the clock.

For those interested, cut and paste this link for the PDF of the actual bill: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/Bills/HB1253ENR.pdf

What is interesting is that this bill, considered carefully, is a response not only to sharia, but to the implications that have emerged from some courts being willing to entertain it in their deliberations, namely, that no form of religious code - be it sharia, Calvinist Old Testament dominionism, rabbinical Talmudism, or anything else - is to be considered. To this inherently Jeffersonian principle, I say, three cheers....

See you on the flip side....

14 thoughts on “THREE CHEERS FOR MY HOME STATE (SOUTH DAKOTA)”

  1. This is disappointing, Joseph. The anti-sharia laws are preemptive actions against problems that don’t exist. We should be concerned instead with preserving and reinforcing America’s existing laws and traditions of separation of church and state. The real threats against these laws and traditions are the right-wing reactionary Christian groups — not Islamic-Americans.

    Perhaps I am not fully appreciating the scope of your views on this matter — but it seems to me that you are getting caught up in a furor that is being whipped up by the very sinister forces that you so fiercely declaim.

    1. Those who know me know I am equally alarmed at the nutty religious Christian right as my co-author Dr de Hart and I outline in Yahweh the Two-Faced God. But these bills are reactions to the growing tendencies among courts to hear Sharia, and hence, I view these bills precisely as defending that separation.

      1. jimaparks

        You said it., particularly the non existence. Actions like those by S Dakota also bar the obvious idea of consulting another country’s laws when drawing up a simple trade agreement.

        Hey England has a state church and no constitution should the S. Dakota refuse legally binding agreements with England? What about an actual Islamic theocracy like Saudi Arabia?

        But anyhow, rulings including Sharia are not something that’s happening for domestic cases, and the S Dakota legislators are acting like American Taliban.

      2. Hey Joe,

        We’re traveling on different paths but I notice some book just matches one article ( for example I just got Agamben’s book called the State of Exception where it was once permitted in Roman Days to torture or kill those with the status of “Homo Sacer.” It seems history may be repeating itself with all these new attempts at initiating very questionable rules or laws/)

        That is just one article of yours which is similar to book I took home before you posited it?

        What is this mystical notion of bubbles gravitating toward the center of the ocean. ( some say the bubble has to burst open before becoming or returning home? i don’t know about this. I am going to take that middle ground in this and say —- I hope we’re not MOTHS? I have been burnt or fringed enough to last a lifetime!)

        I do know most people want to go to Heaven but no one wants to die! Even if it is only a symbolic death which we learn about later or after the ritual like those tribal rites of passage into manhood? In more modern terminology we pass into or develop a form of cosmic consciousness.

        High – fallooting talk coming from someone who still spends a lot of time hiding in his turtle shell. Alan Watts that zen-wizzard once told a story = Our egos are like clams and the UNIVERSE is like some seagull saying to the clam, ” I Love You So Much I Could Eat You!.

        Now I am going to spoil this poetic effect and say, “It’s probably just that a snake trying to swallow it’s own tail?

        1. I forgot to add the seagull is pecking at the clam shell to get at the tasty morsel but I assume you caught on to that inplication but other might not get my drift.

          I am an expert at screwing up jokes or worthwhile sayings. Maybe I should learn how to DEAD-PAN everything?

  2. It does my soul good to hear someone able to speak with your eloquence about your love of your home state.

    I could say the same about Texas but I lack your felicity of expression, however I do understand and share the love of someones homeland.

    For any who don’t know, it is farther from El Paso to Texarkana than it is from Texarkana to Chicago. Oh and what there is to see over that almost 1,000 mile trek.

    I’ve been reading of the Muslim plan to create an Islamic United States with their brand of law. I’ve even read that they are setting up their own sections of subdivisions bringing in sharia law while the local authorities are looking the other way.

    Americans want everything NOW. Can anyone imagine an American five year plan as the Soviets had. Five years, why that’s too long. Give it to us now.

    I’m afraid these Islamic plans for America are long range. As with China’s plan to buy up and take over America, both groups easily plan in blocks of time with 50 years as being on the short side.

    To tidy up I’ll leave y’all with, “Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty state! That’s how our song begins.

    We saw a bit of South Dakota when we drove from Vandenberg AFB where I received my Minuteman Missile training and were headed to glorious Minot for an almost six year tour of duty. “Why not Minot – why not?

  3. I have seen squirrels in the Bronex some 25 years ago as well as birds but deer no not out of New York City proper. The only thing that would shape up the Islamics could be a religious war ala what racked Europe down to the 18th century between the Sunni-Shia and other islamic sects. And poster child for this problem would be the Bahais and their persecution by Islam even though they ironicly arose out of Islam and all they whated is to put a end to the religious conflicts around the world especially among Judeo-Christo-Islam as the saying goes no good deed goes unpunished.

  4. Robert Barricklow

    Yes indeed!
    Three cheers to the inherently Jeffersonian principle!

    When is South Dakota going to open a
    North Dakota Public-style Bank?
    (Also more Jeffersonian than Hamiltonian.)

    1. When for that matter is S. Dakota going to outlaw the actions of “christians” who’d impose a theocracy on citizens?

      I worry about the tolerance for christian terror by many who’d ban a made up threat.

  5. Too cold up there for my likings.

    My nephew was stationed in South Dakota for a while in the Air Force. He told his grandmother about his home off base. “Grandma – sometimes in the early morning we see deer eating in our back yard.” That must be nice for a change. Better then seeing muggers in the early morning when your off to work at some McDonalds!

    I heard this and it got me thinking. In the Ancient Days Cities were places of Protection and Rural Areas were dangerous while today Cities are places of danger compared to the Rural Countryside. (my wife disagrees with this, it’s not all heaven with pretty cottages, but I believe the commentor’s and your point still stands)

    I hate to spoil the fun ( then why don’t you not..?.)

    I can imagine some very kindly, generous Indians saying, “I am glad you enjoy living in OUR LAND.”

    Also about this Jefferson Thing of Yours — he wrote some good stuff but he couldn’t keep his hands or keep it in his pants with the hired help. (well, not exactly “hired” help? This doesn’t bother me probably because I am a man but some women I believe wouldn’t take too kindly to Jefferson. They don’t build monuments to slaves. Just a tiny path in the back of Jefferson’s Crash Pad where a little shack stands. I do hate the current trend of PC but this is not PC. This is just me picking out my own poison and not someone elses?)

    As for some more readers’ response —

    I still think some parts of California are the BEST (those sequia trees are my mideavil cathedrils and also a few stone-walled farm spots in VERMONT but then again I am an ODD-VARK. Just like someone else around here.

    I like the four seasons of California == Earthquakes, Firestorms, Landslides and Riots, ha, ha!

    There! See — I proved your point about South Dakota!

    1. You do realize that deer graze just outside various McDonald’s parking lots in the suburbs of New York City?

      1. A MOOSE IS ON THE LOOSE was the headlines in Boston for a few days. Rampaging around til it finally croaked.

        Bullwinkle must have drank some of the local water full of flouride.

        I sometimes get lucky and see some beautiful two-legged deers? Make’s me wanted to go to the drug-store and order a “box” of Viagra!

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