The email sent to the 60 members of the state Legislature could have been ironic, maybe even a little condescending — coming from a Wisconsin high school senior who claimed his Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics teacher had asked him and his classmates to prove that Wyoming does not exist.
“If you, as a State Assembly Member, could confirm that the State of Wyoming does not exist, this would be extremely helpful in our endeavor,” the teenager wrote.
The wisecracks get old – about Wyoming not existing on the map, Wyoming having more horse than car parking, Wyoming having a higher population driving along Interstate 80 to exit the state than people who call it home.
Transcending the impulse to hit the delete key, Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, turned the question back at the Wisconsinite: “How can we know any of us exist?” she replied.
“In the great state of Wyoming our AP students have been exposed to Plato and his concept of the Great Plane of Being,” she continued. “I don’t mean to cast aspersions on your fine school but I can’t assume that you’re familiar, as you would be had you attended a school whose state consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally.”
Ultimately, the point of Burlingame’s four-paragraph argument was that it’s impossible for people to prove with certainty that they exist. And if someone were to take the argument to its logical conclusion, the Wisconsin high school student is off the hook for his assignment.
“If none of us really exists, then why does he have to do his homework?” Burlingame later said. “He doesn’t.”
Burlingame described the all-too-common feeling of defensiveness of her beloved home, and the angst when other people try to describe it.
The director of Wyoming Equality, Burlingame has been asked if she’s been to “Brokeback, Wyoming.”
“This is probably true about most Wyomingites,” she said. “I have a little chip on my shoulder about, ‘Don’t feel bad about your state, you could be in Wyoming.’ Or, ‘Is there anything there?’ What teacher thought this was a good idea for a school kid to be snotty about a small, rural state?”
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, chose a reply that was not extremely helpful to the Wisconsin student’s endeavor.
“It’s actually true,” he said. “We’re a government conspiracy. I’m in a bunker outside the D.C. area. Just don’t tell anyone.”
Zwonitzer then attached a video from the “Garfield” cartoon.
“There’s no such place as Wyoming,” the orange cat says, pointing to a map of the state. “Think about it: Have you ever met anyone from Wyoming?”
Burlingame chose to end her reply on a serious note — with a Wyoming plug.
“PS- You should check out the University of Wyoming – it’s a solid school, highly ranked and our constitution mandates that it be as close to free as possible. http://www.uwyo.edu.”