The dark romanticization of death displays itself nowhere more vividly than in Governor Kristi Noem’s South Dakota. Robert Mapplethorpe has nothing on Kristi and her fellow macabre mid-Americans, with their heavy drinking and smoking, home suicide arsenals, meth addiction, traffic fatalities (Noem herself “has received 26 traffic citations, including 20 speeding tickets from 1989 to 2010, stop sign and seat belt violations, no driver’s license, failure to appear notices, and two arrest warrants.”) and of course on top of all that covid, which the governor welcomes as yet another source of the frisson that comes with defiantly asserting your absolute personal freedom — and if you’re a South Dakotan, this means the freedom to achieve the death you desire.


This Brit snob, writing for the Guardian, really does not get it:

[T]he terrifying surge of Covid-19 cases … is battering the state under Noem’s contentious leadership. South Dakota has been listed by Forbes as one of the 10 most dangerous states in the Union, all of them in the Midwest.

Coronavirus in South Dakota is running at an intensity only surpassed in the US by its neighbor North Dakota. The state has an alarming positivity rate of almost 60% – nearly six out of 10 people who take a Covid test are infected – second only to another neighbor, Wyoming.

Viewed through the lens of cases and deaths, South Dakota is also at the top of the league table. More than 66,000 South Dakotans have contracted the disease and at least 644 have died, a number likely to rise as hospitals reach breaking point.

Amid this devastating contagion, Noem is rigidly sticking to the strategy she has adopted since the pandemic began. It consists of a refusal to accept mask mandates and repeated denial of the science around the efficacy of wearing masks; resistance to imposing any restrictions on bars and restaurants; no limits on gatherings in churches or other places of worship; and no orders to stay at home.

While the statistics are clear – the virus is running wild in South Dakota – Noem has turned a public health emergency into an issue of “freedom” and “liberty”, consistently lying about the trajectory of the disease under her watch. “We’re doing really good in South Dakota. We’re managing Covid-19,” she has said.

So let UD explain, starting with that last thing. South Dakota really is doing really good because South Dakota seeks death. It’s none of our goddamn business – and certainly not the federal government’s business – how South Dakotans perceive existence. Widely scattered, solitary, freezing on vast fields of abandoned churches, they seek out the viral “danger,” “terror,” and “intensity” from which the trembling little Guardian writer flees. Read Blood Meridian, you fool! Learn something about the places you write about before you start writing.

Live free and die! Live fast die young! These are the nihilistic mottos of a state which realizes it has run out of reasons to exist.


UPDATE: “His staff are appalled.”

Must not be from around those parts.

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One Response to “South Dakota Death Trip”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    “Slow the spread” simply means it gets into the central states, where most of the scary places on a recent Forbes article, later. South Dakota might have relatively light mitigations, Illinois still labor under detailed and relatively stringent mitigations, and both are on that ranking. The policy analysis fallout from mitigations is going to keep the next generation of data analysts of all sorts of disciplines in dissertation topics for a good while.

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