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LETTER: SD’s tolerance has waned over years

To the Editor:

This is in response to Bob Mercer’s editorial about the sad Joan Jett float fiasco. Mr. Mercer is exactly right. Petty, short-sighted ideological demands trumped common sense and tolerance, to the embarrassment of the state, and by “leaders” who should have known better.

I grew up in South Dakota. My grandparents were Norwegian immigrants in Mount Vernon on one side, and a prominent lawyer in Mitchell on the other. I was a young Republican in the land of McGovern. From grade school through graduate school, I had friends of all political and religious persuasions. My career took me away for 25 years, and I staunchly defended South Dakota from what I perceived to be the ignorance of “big city” folks who thought there couldn’t possibly be people of color (other than Native Americans), gay people, Jewish people or even educated people in my home state. I was excited to return to the area 10 years ago. But that excitement has waned, as I’ve witnessed the erosion of civility, tolerance and open-mindedness that I thought once existed there.

Politics are largely controlled by tea party extremists with little respect for those with a different opinion. I’m embarrassed by the public comments and the political voting records of both Noem and Thune, who seem to spend their political careers making sure they’re in lock-step with Washington obstructionists and critics instead of leading with ideas. “Live and Let Live” has given way to “Live Our Way or Leave.” Small wonder attracting young people to the state is a problem. The young people I know are attracted to cities because they want to experience life in vibrant, diverse, tolerant and open-minded places. That’s the goal South Dakota should be striving for.