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Defending my homeland

Before you read my post please read Prof. Stephen G. Bloom’s article about Iowa and the caucuses in the Atlantic:

Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life

The remainder of the post is my reaction to Bloom’s article:

Perhaps it is because I was born and raised in Cedar Falls, a booming metropolis by Iowa standards(pop. 38,589), but I don’t recognize a lot of what Mr. Bloom characterizes as universal. I still have family in terribly small farming towns, but I would never think of them as hicks.

While racial undertones are definitely available to be found if you’re looking–anti-immigration sentiment embarrasses me–for the most part folks are welcoming to all, though admittedly wary if a family isn’t willing to assimilate.

We don’t get many live cultural experiences in the state but most people are curious. I can say that I was always most comfortable in East Waterloo, an area of the city next door (pop. 66,896) that is at least 30% African-American with a sizable Latino and Bosnian immigrant population. By Iowa standards that amounts to a “rough neighborhood”. And while Iowa may be mostly white, the state is for gay marriage–I am less confident than Bloom that the law would be struck down if put to a vote–so that makes us in one way more culturally progressive than most of either coast!

Worst of all in Bloom’s article, Iowans are largely characterized as uneducated. I received an excellent K-12 education that prepared me for college, grad-school and life much more than my peers. I now teach at Tulane University, considered an “Ivy League of the South”. My students are from around the country–many from California and the northeast, few from Louisiana– and I find they are far less ready for college than I was. The commitment to education is state-wide. Find me a dumb Iowan and I’ll show you that the same Iowan just wasn’t paying attention in class. I’m speaking in generalizations now, but I feel like Bloom started it!

My point is that while the state is far from diverse, Iowans are aware of the world at large, and we’re not, by and large, dumb. We take the caucuses very seriously, and our decisions are not solely based on local politics, but often on those of the country as a whole.I am proud of my homeland, while acknowledging its political “schizophrenia”.  It can lead to some nuts winning the caucus (especially on the Republican side, Steve King and Bob Vander Platts are no friends of mine). Thankfully, this political break tends to allow for a balanced result in the general election.

For the record, I have detassled, and I’m a Hawkeye fan, but I have never shot any living thing with a gun or bow and arrow, and I haven’t fished in 16 years. My family back in Iowa owns dogs, but a Yorkie isn’t good for much in the hunting department. I understand Mr. Bloom’s frustration. As an implant in Louisiana, my opinions of the state are equally acerbic and not always fair. Many of my observations of Iowa are anecdotal evidence to be sure, but if you give the state a fair shake I think you’ll see that myself and my people are not just an exception to the rule.

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