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Distance between Seattle and Mobridge is much more than 1,000 miles

It was only two months ago that I was busting my butt to fill up my vehicle with as many of my possessions as I could cram into it. I started at 8 a.m. and I finished at 2 a.m. I didn’t rest. I had spread my roots in my old home for two decades. There was a lot of work to do, and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to leave the place better than I had found it. I managed an apartment building and people had relied on me to make sure they had good homes.
Then, at two in the morning, after a more than a full day of heavy lifting, I got in the driver’s seat and headed east. I drove 1,000 miles to get here, but Seattle is much farther away than that, in a spiritual sense.
In the summer of 2020 my neighborhood had been taken over by “peaceful protestors” who guarded the perimeters of the six-block section of the city with rifles and handguns and put up a sign that stated, “you are now leaving America.” They called it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. A city official ordered the police to vacate the police station within the zone. The occupation went on for weeks.
America itself was under attack by people who would destroy it, with no appreciation for what had been built for them. They had no appreciation for the good graces they had inherited.
America is guilty of more than its share of wrongdoings, but our trajectory has been, and always must be that of improving ourselves and our country with the freedoms we have been granted. It’s never easy, and we’ll argue amongst ourselves as to how it should be done. Unfortunately, there are a lot of naïve and idealistic people who take what they have for granted and at the same time want to destroy it.
During the occupation of my neighborhood, feeling traumatized, and saddened that this country was under attack, I bought a ukulele. I could play it a little bit, but that wasn’t the point. It was decorated as the American flag, and I hung it on my wall. A friend of mine who is very sweet and sensitive saw it and asked, with a note of disgust, “What’s that on your wall?”
“It’s a ukulele,” I said.
“Why does it look like that,” she asked.
“It’s an American Flag,” I said. “It’s a good thing.”
She didn’t push the issue. She had her reasons for being sympathetic with the anti-police movement of 2020. It was a touchy subject. We left any potential arguments unspoken and continued to be friends.
When I arrived in Mobridge, I was pleased to see so many American flags. No one would have dared to have flown one in my old neighborhood. I felt as if I had come back to America.
In the past two months of living here, I’ve had occasion to recite The Pledge of Allegiance more times than in the previous two decades.
What we’ve inherited isn’t perfect, and probably never will be. But our blessing is that we can continue to struggle to try to make it so.
Mobridge has been welcoming, and in two short months I’m beginning to feel at home. I’ve never been anywhere where people have been this friendly and waved so often. Back in Seattle there were many strangers living right next to me. Here, it seems, that strangers don’t remain strangers for very long.
I feel extremely lucky to have gotten the job as the new news editor of the Mobridge Tribune. It’s a position I don’t feel I’ve earned yet, but I strive to. I deeply appreciate what I’ve inherited. I believe that journalism is bigger than those who practice it. We simply work for the honor of carrying on a tradition forged by those who came before us, and with conscientiousness, we will struggle to leave it better than we found it for those who follow in our footsteps.
As the news editor, Katie Zerr was showing me around town, and introducing me to some of you, people told me I have big shoes to fill. I know. She has spent the last 20 years serving in this position and honoring it with conscientiousness and hard work. She understands this community as well as anybody could, and probably better than anyone else.
I would like to thank Katie for her guidance and generosity. It doesn’t take long while being around her to see how much she cares about this community. I am proud to inherit what she has built, and a little frightened to follow in her footsteps. And I’m excited to see how big my feet can get.

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