We bury Bill Janklow today. Amidst the broadcast eulogies, I ask the following question: Did Janklow read Nietzsche? And whether he dog-eared Thus Sprach Zarathustra or not, was Janklow the South Dakota manifestation of Nietzsche's Ã¼bermensch?
I caught a bit of SDPB's pre-memorial coverage yesterday over the noon hour. They played a clip of Janklow speaking of facing himself in the mirror. I don't have the transcript, but the gist of his statement was we shouldn't care what other people think of us. We should care deeply about what we think of ourselves. Only the person in the mirror, said Janklow, knows what you are really about. Only the person in the mirror knows whether you are doing the best you can do. The person in the mirror, said Janklow, was his harshest critic.
As I listen to Janklow's friends and fellow citizens remember him, I consistently hear the theme of Janklow as his own man, not hewing to party labels or ideology, following nothing but his own vision, his own will. He knew what he wanted and he was determined to do whatever he could to turn those desires into reality.
So was Janklow the Nietzschean Overman? Did he defy the conventional rules of society and define his own values? If Janklow was not the Ã¼bermensch, what overarching morality guided and checked his desires? If Janklow was the Ã¼bermensch, is that only kind of man who can exert the kind of transformative leadership Janklow exerted on South Dakota?
And is such a self-contained value-generator the best kind of leader for a state?