Road Tripping (#9) – Bismarck, North Dakota to Billings, Montana

Road Tripping (#9) – Bismarck, North Dakota to Billings, Montana

“Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated.”

north dakotaSomewhere along this trip—which has become a blur of disorientation—I read this quote. It has sat on my brain just ruminating, stirring. It is my philosophical thought of the moment.

As many folks told me (warned me, really), there are miles and miles of nothingness out here in the west. Having lived on the East Coast my whole life, I never realized miles could stretch out in front of you like this, right into the sky, and then simply start again. Even driving 85 mph, you have a lot of time to think.

As we drove from North Dakota to Billings, Jordan and I saw land, lots of land—miles of land not being used, developed, lived on. At one point, we turned to each other and remarked that there was enough land out here for everyone. Couldn’t we have just negotiated with American Indians? “Yes, a railroad is going to go through here, and a few towns will set up here and there, but there is more than enough for all of us. We won’t mess with you, you just do the same.”

Naïve, I know. So unlike the guiding mission statement of the 1800’s U.S.—that is, Manifest Destiny. That principle said, instead, “We, White, Christian folks deserve the land; ergo, we shall take the land.”

Textbooks often gloss over that troublesome guiding idea, and instead detail the advances in infrastructure, cities, and commerce developed in this region. I accepted those explanations for many years, but now that I have actually seen this abundance of land with my own eyes, I can’t help but to question that shiny, happy portrayal of our own history.

badlandsAround our fifth hour of driving today, I began to roll that earlier quotation around in my brain a bit…

“Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated.”

I need to work on this. I can count on one hand the people who celebrate me and I them. I’ve decided that I need to let more people know I do celebrate them and look forward to seeing them, working with them, catching up with them. Our daily lives are packed with responsibilities, but, like this land I am driving, there is room. There may be some necessary negotiation, but there is certainly room for this celebration.

The irony is, as I stopped at a rest area, an email came through on my phone. A few FLL readers noted in a recent survey that my “Lunch” column is one of their favorite features in the magazine. A little celebration goes a long way to keep this traveler going.

Miles to go before I sleep….but, let the celebration begin right now!!!