Imagine living near a field of wild flowers, growing as far as the eye can see. A place that is beautiful. Sadly, where there is beauty, there is often something working to destroy it. You must be constantly vigilant. Always standing guard. You must keep those weeds at bay. If you turn your back for too long, the weeds will over run this field and choke the flowers and all that is beautiful. The flowers will wither and die, leaving only a field of weeds. Maybe from a distance it will look green and luscious but up close the truth will be glaringly obvious. If living in North Dakota has made me feel anything, it is that I feel like I am living near such a field, one that is constantly under threat of being overrun by weeds.
I was talking to my mother yesterday on the phone. After the conversation I started thinking about both my parents who are in their 70’s. They have worked their whole lives, paid taxes, done countless selfless acts for others, raised a family, paid their mortgages, never used public assistance…. the list goes on. I wondered what it would be like to have lived a responsible life only to find yourself in a situation where you could no longer afford to live your life in a place you called home for most, if not all of your life. What would it be like to face being homeless or to have to ask your children to share their home. What if you had no one to even turn to for help? This is exactly what is happening here in Williston.
I read somewhere recently that the state of North Dakota will be sitting on roughly five billion dollars of surplus money within the next three to five years. This is a direct result of what is going on in the western part of the state. Currently, there are already upwards of two billion dollars already in the state coffers. If there is one thing I am certain of, it’s that our government was never intended to function as a business. It does not exist to make a profit off the people.
In short, if the state of North Dakota is not going to give a proportionate amount of the money is it holding onto, back to the cities that are funding the state coffers to spend as THEY see fit, then they have an obligation to step in and protect their citizens better. The seniors are being overlooked for one reason and one reason only: there is no money to be made from them. Some are home makers, some are veterans that fought for this country, some are simply retired, having worked their whole lives right here in this state. Most are on a fixed income. These are people that have, for the most part lived their whole lives in North Dakota. Worked here, paid taxes here, raised children here. They stayed here when the state had few profitable industries. They stayed even when the population of North Dakota was in decline. How does the state repay them? It doesn’t. Through the state’s lack of action, they are showing the rest of the country that North Dakota does not care about its seniors.
This side of the state is quickly reaching a tipping point. We have been in the national spotlight for a while now and most recently we have made national (and world) news that we have the highest rent in the country. For some though, like our senior population, this is nothing short of a crisis. The money is there. Part of the problem is the people we have in office. They are in bed with the energy companies and I imagine that it is mighty comfortable there. To a point you could say that we are allowing ourselves to be enslaved by voting our enslavers into office. The analogy might be a bit harsh, but until one of our elected leaders buck the trend and protect the part of their population that cannot protect themselves (remember, there is no profit to be made from them), then this will continue and it will not end well.
For me there is a simple solution but it would require the state to spend a little money. A few million, ten million, a hundred million. It is a drop in the bucket compared to what they are holding onto. What are you waiting for? What better way to show the world that this state steps up when a crisis is at hand and takes care of its own. Parcel out some land, rent it back to your senior population at cost or below cost (yes, I said BELOW COST) to any senior that was here before the boom, to any senior that is being pushed out of their home because they find their rent prices increasing well beyond their meager income. In a place that is lacking in positive press, what a story this could be. Do not let big business push out the very people that kept this state going.
For me, a good indicator of the type of person you are is how you treat others that can offer you nothing in return. It is no different for the state of North Dakota. Take your hands out of big oil’s pocket long enough to extend it in a helping way to your senior population. It’s alright North Dakota, you can afford it.