“I’m Not Looking For Handouts”

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There is a lot of ink that has been spilled (or bandwidth expended, I guess, to update the term for this digital age) over the Bakken oil boom, and unfortunately a lot of it has been negative. Some of that negativity is fair – nobody will deny that western North Dakota faces challenges – but a lot of it is unfair. Such as crime statistics that are given no context in terms of population growth, or stories about traffic accidents that have no context in increased vehicle miles traveled in the state.

But one of the most disturbing trends, one that runs through all of the media coverage and social reaction to the oil boom, is the distaste some in North Dakota seem to have for the “outsiders” who have moved into the oil patch to try and make a living.

I was talking to a friend recently, formerly of Minot and now living in Fargo, who told me that she wished someone would shut down the oil boom so that the oil “scum” would leave the state. She said the oil workers were nothing but thugs causing problems. I was taken aback, but sadly this view is not unpopular, thanks in large part to sensational and one-sided media coverage.

It’s worth remembering that while the oil workers can be a little rough around the edges, they’re still just people. Men and women who have come to a place with jobs looking to earn their way in the world. Reporter Dustin Hurst, writing for WatchDog.org, tells some of these stories which include one oil worker who came to the Bakken from Idaho, leaving his wife behind, to work as a mere laborer. Since he’s trained for and obtained his license to drive big rigs, but his ambition doesn’t end there, nor does it end in the oil industry.

Dan Wells is hoping to earn enough money working in the oil patch to pay for a degree in the medical field. “I’m not looking for handouts,” he’s quoted as saying. Contrast that statement with the entitled, self-righteous chattel who “protested” (more like vandalized, assaulted, raped and murdered) during the Occupy Wall Street movement last year because the dislike the very notion of what Wells is doing in the oil field in North Dakota which is earning their own way in the world.

There are no doubt a lot of people like Mr. Wells working in the Bakken. People pursuing dreams. People pursuing prosperity, but not at the expense of others. They’re pursuing the sort of success that comes from getting your hands dirty. There is no government program investing in them. They’re investing their own sweat and tears into building a better sort of life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the miasma of media coverage, much of it driven by one political agenda or another, surrounding the oil boom. But for me, stories such as the one about Wells cut through the fog and remind us of what has made America so great. Not government health care programs, not economic development, and not”stimulus spending” but opportunity.

The government doesn’t make people great. People make themselves great when they’re allowed to work and struggle in their own self interest. President Obama would tell these people that they’re not responsible for what they’re making for themselves. He would tell them that they’re no better than the occupiers lying around in their tents in parks beating drums and looking to live off the work of others.

I think people like Mr. Wells know better.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    It’s rather ironic that the liberation theology crowd had no problem when the federal government dumped dysfunctional foreign nationals into North Dakota for the last 25 years.

  • awfulorv

    I have it on good authority that President Obama, in order to insure his re-election, will soon propose that all nations replace their paper money, and coins, with ball bearings. He explains that this is the only practical way to, equitably, distribute the wealth of this nation, and the world. There are, obviously, hills and valleys on all continents, and his exciting new plan will have the round bearings, of various monetary values roll, naturally, into the valleys, from the hills, through gravitational forces, thereby distributing, flattening out, if you will, the money supply to all in the world, equally. His idea has already been met with resounding applause from his financial advisors. Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet, have signed on to what they describe as an unorthodox, yet innovative, idea, as have the finance ministers of most European nations. All naval ships, as well as cruise ships, are being readied to transport the round currency to hilltops throughout the world. The Nobel prize, this one for Finance, unlike the other for hope, and black, is being readied for presentation at the moment.

  • OldConserv

    A close friend of my mother recently expressed how disgusted she becomes when she hears others talk about oilfield people, calling them “oilfield trash”. This woman moved to Tioga in the 1950’s as a child when her father, a roughneck in Oklahoma, heard about the new oil discovery in North Dakota. They were too poor to move the entire family, so she and two siblings came with the father, while the mother and the remaining children stayed in Oklahoma. He sent money back home until they had enough to move the rest of the family to Tioga.
    When the kids were enrolled in the school system, they were treated horribly. They were called things like oilfield trash, filthy Okies, poor white trash, etc. Over the years, they were eventually accepted. They settled in and made Tioga their home. The kids grew to adulthood and started families of their own. They became active in their church, schools, and the community, and after almost sixty years, most people would call them native North Dakotans.
    While attending a local community function with my mother, someone made a comment to my mother’s friend that they wished all these oilfield trash would go back where they came from. My mother’s friend reminded that person that she lives in a community that was built and is thriving today because of the diversity of people who were lured here to build something better for themselves. Without this industry and the people which it has brought to this state, where would we be today?

  • prairie dog

    Oilmen come to work and all the while spending their money to benefit of the local economy…there will always be the ‘envious’ little monster who hates and this attitude is nothing new.

  • WOOF

    Mandatory etiquette classes, like putting dollar bills in the top of strippers g-strings.

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