Thursday, December 15, 2011

Observations on Observations, Part 2.

[via Raygun, natch]

FIRST. Holiday sweater contest thataway.

NEXT. You'll notice this is a Part II. Part I is here.

THIRDLY! Someone posted this to the book o' faces and it is fucking hilarious. It's a response piece by another Iowa writer. It's hilarious-er if you read the original article first, because it riffs directly off of it, but goddamn. I lol'd.

Anyway, if you're just showing up, I'm live-blogging my way through an article that bashes my beloved state by some crotchety assrocket that apparently can't be bothered to move back to his apparently superior state of New Jersey. (Yeah, no. Someone from NEW JERSEY, Land of Stereotypes, has written an entire article latching on to every Iowa stereotype he can think of. Many of which, in the Venn diagram of Stereotypery, overlap nicely with the Garden State. Also: pot, kettle, varying degrees of blackness, etc.)

All the douchey text that is dripping with disdain is by Stephen G. Bloom. All of the snarky text in bracketed bold italic is mine. If it's highlighted in red, that means I found it to be exceptionally fuckish and decided to make it stand out.

As someone on facebook pointed out, the only reason this piece of shit was even published was because it was so close to the caucuses and someone somewhere knew it would get people riled up and, like most intentionally controversial pieces, would shower them in a wave of pageviews. Well played, then, Atlantic, and though I KNOW you're not supposed to feed the trolls, this is just begging for a KELLYSMASH RANT.

Without further ado, here is Part II.


Coastal elites love to dump on Iowa the same way Manhattanites trash New Jersey. [Oh heyyyy, I get it. You're bitter because you're usually the one getting picked on.] Iowa is the place East and West Coasters call "Fly-over Country." [Note: so is the rest of the Midwest. There's a lotta land between New York and California. Just sayin.'] It didn't rate even a speck in Sol Steinberg's classic 1967 New Yorker cover. [That was a long time ago. Also, no one cares.] Obama's comments went over without a second thought, until they wafted back to the Heartland. What Average Joe in Iowa wants to admit he clings to anything -- except hunting, fishing, and the Hawkeyes? Guns, religion, xenophobia? Them's fightin' words. [I personally cling to chocolate, caffeinated beverages, and the constant reaffirmation of my worth from my peers.] Obama might have been wrong for telling the truth, which seldom happens in politics, but the future president was 100-percent accurate when he let slip his comments on the absolute and utter desperation in America's hollowed-out middle, in particular in the state where I live. [Dude, not for long. After this, all those crazy farmer hicks in question are going to run you out of town with their pitchforks and torches. Also, I don't really feel that I live in a swamp of absolute and utter desperation, but, you know. Maybe that's subjective?]

There's the idealized version of rural America, then there's the heartbreaking real version, the one Obama was talking about. [Replace "rural" with, well, just get rid of "rural" and you have a full and complete version of the US of A in 2011.]

Take One: The fairytale rendering is pastoral and bucolic; [what the fuck does bucolic mean? Someone look it up for me, I can't be bothered right now] sandy-haired children romping through fecund, shoulder-high corn with Lassie at their side. It's Field of Dreams meets Carousel with The Waltons thrown in for good measure. The ruddy, wooden Bridges of Madison County (where John Wayne was born) may be in the background as the camera pans wide. 

Take Two: The nightmare reality is tens of thousands of laid-off rural factory workers, farmers who have lost their land to banks and agribusiness, legions of unemployed who have come to the realization that it makes no sense to look for work, since work pretty much no longer exists for them. [And then there's the young professionals like myself that sit at a desk all day, but I guess we don't count as part of the population? I don't feel like I live in a nightmare reality. I'm actually quite content, THANK YOU.]

An illusionary, short-term salve has been the proliferation of casinos in the state. In the last two decades, Iowa has established 18 of these bell-clanging jackpot landmines and more could open as the economy continues to go south and overseas. (But, of course, this is happening far and wide in the United States. Detroit has three downtown casinos for those who want something to do while in the Motor City.) [First acknowledgement of the rest of the country. Good boy. Here's a cookie.]

Maytag, the iconic American company that makes washer and dryers, is a good example of Iowa economics. Maytag's flagship operation had been based in Newton, Iowa, for more than a century (the company was founded by Fred Maytag in 1893). After Whirlpool bought Maytag in 2006, workers girded for the worst, which came a year later, when Maytag closed the two million square-foot plant, leaving 2,000 workers unemployed. In protest, workers left their boots hanging on the cyclone fence surrounding the plant. At its peak. Maytag employed 4,000 workers in Newton, a town of 16,000. The Newton plant was union; consolidation of Maytag and Whirlpool was shifted to nonunion facilities, as well as overseas. [Way to pick a specific company to pick on. By the way, factories are closing plants all over the country because someone somewhere decided it would be fabulous to send everything overseas. Again, not just an Iowa issue.]

In part, rural Iowa's economic malaise has been made all the more in-your-face by the thousands of undocumented immigrants arriving every month, trolling for work that pays indecent wages in some of the most dangerous jobs imaginable, mostly on under-regulated, non-union kill-floors of the rural slaughterhouses. The migrant workers (almost all young, single, Central American men) end up living in deplorable makeshift shantytowns that have cropped up over the last decade amid the splendor of green and golden fields. [Not once have I seen a "deplorable makeshift shantytown." I've seen nary a shantytown, period. Someone please tell me where these are.]

Four states -- California, Texas, New York, and Florida -- get two-thirds of the nation's immigrants. But for many immigrants, these states serve only as ports of entry; once inside the U.S., these newcomers converge in rural America in waves of secondary migration. And some immigrants head directly inland, altogether bypassing American coastal cities. In Iowa, they almost all come for slaughterhouse jobs, where entry-level positions are plentiful and workers don't need to know a word of English. The only requirements are a strong stomach and a strong back, and a willingness to accept that the work and the pay don't match. It's no wonder Iowa locals spurn such jobs as knockers, stickers, bleeders, tail rippers, flankers, gutters, sawers, or plate boners, all of whom work on what amounts to a disassembly line. Turnover at these grueling jobs is higher than 100 percent a year; health benefits at most plants don't kick in for several months; but the first months in a slaughterhouse are the most dangerous, when accidents are most likely to occur.  [Now, I wasn't a math major, but I'm reasonably certain that 100% is as high as you can go? Is that wrong? Also, health insurance doesn't kick in for most people right away. ALSO, if they are truly here illegally, I don't even think they can GET health insurance, can they? I don't understand this paragraph.]

How'd so many slaughterhouses get from the cities to the country? [It's called "urban sprawl" and it's been happening for a long time. Honestly, as a professor at a major university, I would have expected you to know that.] For more than a century, slaughterhouses were located in brawling cities like Chicago, Fort Worth, and Omaha. Chicago rose to prominence, in part, because of its famed cattle-processing industry. The city's Union Stock Yards opened in 1865 and eventually grew to 475 acres of slaughterhouses. Today, only one slaughterhouse remains in Chicago, a tiny boutique lamb and veal processor. All the rest have closed shop or moved to rural America. [Thanks for that tidbit? Why are we talking about meat processing? I thought we were talking about the caucuses? Honestly, this guy rambles more than I do.]

In a fundamental shift in how meat was processed, industry leaders decades ago realized it made more sense to bring meatpacking plants to the corn-fed livestock than to truck livestock to far-off slaughterhouses in expensive cities with strong unions and government regulators poking their noses into the meatpackers' business. Mobile refrigeration allowed processed meat to be trucked without spoilage. At the same time, the industry became highly mechanized. Innovations such as air- and electric-powered knives made expensive, skilled butchers superfluous. Mega plants in rural outposts became the norm. Hourly wages for union meat-production workers in 1980 peaked at $19 per hour (1980 dollars), not including benefits. Today, starting pay is often barely minimum wage at rural slaughterhouses. Because packinghouses are located in such isolated pockets of America, employers don't have to pay wages competitive with jobs in more urban venues. It's take it or leave it, and most locals would rather leave it. For undocumented workers, though, these jobs are a bonanza. [Seriously, what the fuck is this? How is this relevant to anything? Iowa shouldn't have the first caucus because we have meat plants? THIS IS A REALLY WEIRD TANGENT AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND.]

About the only possible bright spot in the rural Iowa economy is wind energy. It's a huge on-the-come bet that may actually pay off. [What's an on-the-come bet? It sounds like a sexual reference. Are making a sexual reference about wind energy, Stephen G. Bloom?] Iowa is the second largest producer of wind energy in the U.S. (Texas is the first). Twenty percent of all electricity in the state is generated by wind. Drive down Interstate 80 for any stretch in Iowa, and you'll pass wide-loads announcing what's in front and behind: 150-foot-long, 12-ton blades for wind turbines. You'll also pass "wind farms," surreal grassy outposts with row after row of huge white turbines, their blades spinning. It's the windmill updated, but this time for the masses. [Again, what this has to do with anything, I am really unsure of.]

But relatively few rural Iowans are employed in the business of wind energy. [Ohhh, I get it. We suck because we have this one super awesome industry but nobody works in it so we are all shit outta luck.] The bulk of jobs here are low-income ones most Iowans don't want. Many have simply packed up and left the state (which helps keep the unemployment rate statewide low). [That's... probably true, actually. But it's worth noting that we have lower median incomes because our cost of living is significantly lower, too.] Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) [HA! "Lacking in educated"! I think you mean "education." Which clearly you yourself are lacking in, as well] to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that "The sun'll come out tomorrow." [Oh, here. Here is where the rage must be setting in for most people. I am young AND educated, I have all of my original teeth (with no cavities!) and I peered around whatever bends this dude is talking about, and you know what? I made the choice to stay. Because - hold onto your panties - I like it here.]

It's no surprise then, really, that the most popular place for suicide in America isn't New York or Los Angeles, but the rural Middle, where guns, unemployment, alcoholism and machismo reign. [This? This is not cool at all. This dude is a bona-fide asshole.] Suicides in Iowa's rural counties are 13.55 per 100,000 residents; New York's suicide rate is 5.4 residents per 100,000. Hunting accidents are common, perhaps spurred by the elixir of alcohol, which seems to be the drink of choice whenever a man suits up in camo or orange overalls. [Only Iowans drink, you know.] Mental-health clinics have all but been shuttered in Flyover Country; in a budget crunch, they're the first to go. Other, more nuanced reasons for the high rate of suicide: Farmers and ranchers by occupational nature rely on themselves to solve problems; the stigma of depression prevents those affected most from seeking help -- if help existed. Some residents turn to church leaders (as Obama said), but few are genuinely qualified to offer that kind of counsel. [This whole paragraph pisses me off. I just. Ugh. FUCK YOU, STEPHEN G. BLOOM. FUCK YOU ALL THE WAY BACK TO NEW JERSEY.]

* * *

I live in Iowa City, a university town 60 miles west of the Mississippi, along Highway 80 (known as The Interstate to younger Iowans, just The Highway to older Iowans). [Or, as I like to call it, I-80. Like everyone else does.] Eighty is America's Main Street, bisecting Iowa, connecting the hallowed-out middle of Corpus Americana to the faraway coasts. Granted, I'm a transplant here, and when I lit out almost two decades ago for this territory, I didn't quite know what to expect. The first day I arrived from San Francisco, wandering about Iowa City during spring break, billed as a bustling Big Ten University town, I kept wondering, "Where is everyone?" I thought a neutron bomb had gone off; there were buildings but few, if any, people. [Uhh, yeah. Because you were in a college town over spring break. Are you mentally handicapped?]

Today, I still not quite sure what I'd gotten myself into. I've lived in many places, lots of them foreign countries, but none has been more foreign to me than Iowa.

They speak English in Iowa. [This? This is what we're down to now? GUESS WHAT, WE HAVE PLUMBING AND ELECTRICITY AND THE INTERNET, TOO.] You understand the words fine. (Broadcasters, in fact, covet the Iowa "accent," since it could come from anywhere, devoid of regional inflections.) But if you listen closely, though, it's a wholly different manner of speaking from what folks on either coast are accustomed to. [And if you go to the South, you'll have a whole other manner too. It's a regional linguistics thing and again, you are a goddamn university professor, you should know this shit. Fuck you. Just for good measure.]

Indoor parking lots are ramps [parking ramps, but yes], soda is pop [to the majority, yes], lollipops are suckers [yep], grocery bags are sacks [I say bag, but apparently I'm an anomaly], weeds are volunteers [haven't heard that one], miniature golf is putt-putt [no, it's "mini-golf"], supper is never to be confused with dinner [I have this argument with my dad frequently. Old people call it supper. I call it dinner.], cellars and basements are totally different places, and boys under the age of 16 are commonly referred to as "Bud." [NEVER EVER EVER have I heard anyone called "Bud."] Almost every Iowa house has a mudroom [a what?], so you don't track mud or pig shit into the kitchen or living room, even though the aroma of pig shit is absolutely venerated in Iowa: It's known to one and all here as "the smell of money." [I have heard this before, but... well. It's true, I guess. I don't venerate it, though. I have accepted it. And those are two totally different things.]

Friday fish fries at the American Legion hall; grocery and clothing shopping at Wal-Mart [grocery shopping at Hy-Vee, clothing shopping at Target, thankyouverymuch]; Christmas crèches with live donkeys, sheep and a neighborhood infant playing Baby Jesus; rifle-toting hunters stalking turkeys in the fall (better not go for a walk in the countryside in October or November). [Okay, I'm guessing eastern Iowa does a great deal more hunting than we do here in the middle. It seems to be a recurring theme.] Not many cars in these parts of America. [Are you fucking with me? You're fucking with me, aren't you.] They're vehicles, pronounced ve-HICK-uls -- 4X4's, pick-ups, snowmobiles). [No. No they're not. Not by anyone.] Rural houses are modest, some might say drab. Everyone strives to be middle-class; and if you have some money, by God you'd never want to make anyone feel bad by showing it off. [Because nobody likes it when you rub your money in your face? No wonder everyone thinks the people on the coasts are assholes. Do they do this? "Hahahaha look at all this money I have that you don't!"] If you go to Florida for a cruise, you keep it to yourself. [No. You post pictures on facebook, is what you do.] The biggest secret often is -- if you still own farmland -- exactly how many acres. Ostentatious is driving around town in a new Ford F-150 pickup. [Oh, fuck you, yet again.]

The reason everyone seems related in small-town Iowa is because, if you go back far enough, many are, either by marriage or birth. In Iowa, names like Yoder, Snitker, Schroeder, and Slabach are as common as Garcia, Lee, Romero, Johnson, and Chen are in big cities. [....I don't know anyone with any of those last names.]

Rules peculiar to rural Iowa that I've learned are hard and fast, seldom broken: Backdoors are how you always go into someone's house. [WHERE does this guy live? I have NEVER gone in the backdoor to anyone's house! That's WEIRD.] Bar fights might not be weekly occurrences, but neither are they infrequent activities. [I've never seen one.] Collecting is big --whether it's postcards, lamps, figurines, tractors, or engines. [People in the rest of the country do not collect things. Fact.] NASCAR is a spectator sport that folks can't get enough of. Old-timers answer their phones not with "hello," but with last names, a throwback to party-lines. [They do?] Everyone's phone number in town starts with the same three-digit prefix. [Well, yes. In the small towns. Because they are small. And don't require extra prefixes because there aren't that many people. It's a math thing. Idiot.]

Hats are essential. [How else are you supposed to get your facial tan line? See: previous part.] Men over 50 don't leave home without a penknife in their pocket. [I better get one for my dad for Christmas. He doesn't have one. And he's 53. Oh, the shame this is now bringing upon my family.] Old Spice is the aftershave of choice. Everyone knows someone who has had an unfortunate and costly accident with a deer (always fatal for the deer, sometimes for the human). [Actually, yes. Deer are fuckers.] Farming is a dangerous occupation; if farmers don't die from a mishap (getting a hand in an auger, clearing a stuck combine), they live with missing digits or limbs. [Farming is not the only occupation that puts your limbs in danger. Just throwing that out there.]

Comfort food reigns supreme. Meatloaf and pork chops are king. Casseroles (canned tuna or Tatertots) [okay, I like tator-tot casserole. Sue me] and Jell-O molds (cottage cheese with canned pears or pineapple [ew]) are what to bring to wedding receptions and funerals. [What? You can ask people to bring food to your wedding reception?!?!?!?! Hot damn. That will save me a TON of money some day.] Everyone loves Red Waldorf cake. [False. I do not know what Red Waldorf cake even is.] Deer (killed with a rifle is good, with bow-and-arrow better) and handpicked morels are delicacies families cherish. [My family has done zero cherishing of deer meat.]

Religion is the glue that binds everyone, whether they're Catholic, Lutheran, or Presbyterian. [Yeah, no. Most of the people I know are religious in the sense that they perhaps send some involuntary prayers skyward while doing naughty things with their significant other.] You can't drive too far without seeing a sign for JESUS or ABORTION IS LEGALIZED MURDER. [I bet you'd see a lot of these in the deep south, too.] [My favorite is the one along Highway 20 that informs everyone that there is a special place in hell for deadbeat moms. It's kind of becoming a nostalgic landmark.] I'm forever amazed by how often I hear neighbors, co-workers, shoppers, and total strangers talk about religion. [Never. Have NEVER heard this.] In the Hy-Vee grocery store, at neighborhood stop-and-chats, at the local public school, "See you at church!" is the common rejoinder. It's as though the local house of worship were some neighborhood social club -- which, of course, it is. A professor I know at the University of Iowa chides her students for sitting in the back of a lecture hall, saying, "This isn't church, you know." [Uh, okay.]

When my family and I first moved to Iowa, our first Easter morning I read the second-largest newspaper in the state (the Cedar Rapids Gazette) with this headline splashed across Page One: HE HAS RISEN. The headline broke all the rules I was trying to teach my young journalism students: the event was neither breaking nor could it be corroborated by two independent sources. The editors obviously thought that everyone knew who He was, and cared. [I think I saw this on our area newspaper growing up too. Meh. It didn't really bother me and still doesn't. Because I don't care. Live and let live.]

After years and years of in-your-face religion, I decided to give what has become an annual lecture, in which I urge my students not to bid strangers "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Easter," "Have you gotten all your Christmas shopping done?" or "Are you going to the Easter egg hunt?" Such well-wishes are not appropriate for everyone, I tell my charges gently. [GODDAMN CHRISTMAS CHEER. HOW DARE YOU ACKNOWLEDGE A NATIONALLY CELEBRATED HOLIDAY.] A cheery "Happy holidays!" will suffice. Small potatoes, I know, but did everyone have to proclaim their Christianity so loud and clea [Newsflash: there is a rather large secular component to Christmas nowadays. In fact, I have atheist friends who get more excited about this holiday than any of my religious ones do. Besides, you said earlier we have no minorities, which must mean everyone around here celebrates Christmas, right?] [Also, I'm sorry you hate Christmas so much. But if Corporate America has their say, it's not going away anytime soon. May as well unbunch your panties.]

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. One gutsy, red-in-the-face student told me in no uncertain terms that for the rest of her life, she would continue offering Merry Christmas and Happy Easter tidings to strangers, no matter what I, or anyone else, said, because, "That's just who I am and I'm not about to change. Ever!" Score one for sticking it to the ethnic interloper. 

Such do-good obligation flourishes even when the words invoked don't have much to do with religion. After the University of Iowa played arch-rival Iowa State in football, one of my students got arrested for public intoxication. While walking back to her dormitory one Saturday afternoon, she paused to rest on the steps of the Old State Capitol Building, only to fall asleep until a police officer awakened her. All arrests in Iowa City are published in the local newspaper, and I asked her what had had happened. "When my parents find out, they're going to be furious. I'll get called home for a Come-To-Jesus talk." 

On the surface, this Come to Jesus moment had nothing to do with religion. Instead, it described a meeting in which your butt was about to be kicked for some serious, errant behavior, and if you didn't repent your evil ways, then there'd be hell to pay. Come to Jesus was a nonsectarian, equal-opportunity expression that could just as easily involve Jews, Moslems, or Hindus (if you could find any in Iowa) as it involved Christians. But it was vintage Iowa, invoking the name of Jesus as though everyone believed in the good Lord's son and his providence. [Right. We don't have any, I guess. SEE: your previous paragraph in which you just said that not everyone celebrates Christmas. But if we have no Jews or Muslims, then what does that leave us? Oh, right. Christmas.]

Of the students I teach, relatively few will stay in Iowa after they graduate. The net flow of Iowans is out, not in. Iowa's greatest export isn't corn, soybeans, or pigs; it's young adults. Many born in rural Iowa grow up educated due to the state's still-strong foundation of land-grant universities (although, that too is eroding) and abiding familial interest in education (on a per-capita basis, Iowa has more high school graduates than 49 other states). But once they're through college, they leave. Iowa is the number-two state in the nation in losing college-educated youth (only North Dakota loses more). [This is why, earlier, you said that nobody leaves because we are uneducated and too afraid to peer around the bend to see what's out there? I'm confused.]

An interesting sidelight to the outflow problem is the rapid influx of Chinese students at the University of Iowa. The university vigorously recruits Chinese undergraduates, and has even set up an office in Beijing with the express purpose of attracting Chinese to study in Iowa (no other recruiting office exists anywhere else). Almost all come from well-heeled families, who pay full tuition for their children to attend college. Few speak passable English, almost all congregate in majors that require little English (math, biology and actuarial science), and many drive around town in brand-new sports cars. It's a strange sight to see in Flyover County -- dozens of Chinese students moving together en masse, the girls chattering away in Mandarin, always holding each others' hands. These wealthy, ill-prepared bonus babies are seen as the future of the University. If Iowa has fewer and fewer young people each year to fill the University's cavernous lecture halls, and the state is still a tough sell to coastal American kids, then it's China that's the next frontier as state support for higher education dwindles. [So.. he hates Christmas AND China? I really don't understand what this has to do with anything.]

Today, half of Iowa's 952 incorporated towns have populations of fewer than 500 residents, and two-thirds of the state's towns have less than 1,000. Iowa is home to the highest per-capita percentage of people older than 85; the second highest of residents older than 75, and the third highest of people older than 65. [This statistic doesn't make sense to me as it would make sense that that would be in that order, because people that are older than 85 are thus older than 75, thus landing in both brackets. Meanwhile, people that are 85 and 75 are therefore both older than 65 thus landing in that bracket too. Seems iffy to me, but I'm not going to analyze it any further because, whatever.] The largest and most elegant house in many rural towns is the local funeral parlor. The graduating classes of most rural high schools are so small that an Iowa tradition calls for silk-screened T-shirts with the names of all classmates on the back. [okay, yeah. We did this. I had 57 people in my graduating class. What of it?] Most, if not all of these teenagers, have worked for a couple of weeks in the summer as detasselers, when they remove the pollen-producing tassel on the top of each corn plant, letting it drop to the ground, so that two varieties of corn will cross-breed and make a hybrid. The job has become an absolute rite of passage for rural Iowa kids. [I never did this, though I heard it was pretty good money, for when you are too young to drive or get either a food service job or a retail job, like every other high schooler everywhere else.]

And while it's changing fast, rural Iowa is still a place where homes sell for $40,000 (some a lot less), serious crime is tee-peeing a high-school senior's front yard, and traffic is getting caught behind a tractor on Main Street. [Oh, fuck you. Again.] If rural Iowans ever drive on the highway (not much reason to do so, really), [no comment] they welcome other vehicles accelerating on the entrance ramp, smiling, often motioning with their hand to move on over, as though gently patting the butt of a newborn. [I've never motioned with my hand to anyone unless they were pissing me off, and it was less of a "hand" than "a very specific part of my hand" and also, aren't you supposed to move over and let people merge on to the road? Maybe that is only something we do here. I dunno. Beats a car accident, if you ask me.]

The only smog comes from a late-autumn bonfire. Crime isn't way rampant in these rural towns, but it's edging upwards, particularly in towns adjacent to slaughterhouses. [oooh, the slaughterhouse argument comes full circle!] On summer nights, you can still keep your keys in the ignition and run into the local Casey's for an Icey or to get a cherry-dipped cone at the DQ one town over. Rural Iowa is still the kind of place where parents drop off their kids at the municipal pool to swim all day long.

Iowa is a throwback to yesteryear and, at the same time, a cautionary tale of what lies around the corner.
Which brings up my dog. And here's why: My dog is a kind of crucible of Iowa. [Fuck your dog. Just because. Because apparently the whole point of this stupid-ass article is whatever happens next, and I read ahead, and it's stupid.] [Also? Cautionary tale of WHAT? BE SPECIFIC!]

What does Hannah, a 13-year-old Labrador, have to do with an analysis of the American electoral system and how screwy it is that a place like Iowa gets to choose -- before anyone else -- the person who may become the next leader of the free world? [That is what I have been asking myself THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE! Though replace "Hannah" with "the contents of each and every paragraph."]

For our son's eighth birthday, we wanted to get him a dog. Every boy needs a dog, my wife and I agreed, and off we went to an Iowa breeding farm to pick out an eight-week-old puppy that, when we knelt to pet her, wouldn't stop licking us. [Shelters. You should have adopted from a shelter. You ARE an asshole, aren't you?] We chose a yellow Lab because they like kids, have pleasant dispositions, and I was particularly fond of her caramel-color coat. Labs don't generally bite people, although they do like to chew on shoes, hats, and sofa legs. Hannah was Marley before Marley. [How hipster of you.]

Our son, of course, got tired of Hannah after a couple of months, and to whom did the daily obligation of walking the dog fall? 

That's right. To me.

And here's the point: I can't tell you how often over the years I'd be walking Hannah in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following: 

"Bet she hunts well." 

"Do much hunting with the bitch?" 

"Where you hunt her?" 

To me, it summed up Iowa. You'd never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. No, that's not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat. [Dude, what? Seriously, WHERE DO YOU LIVE.]

That's the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.

[Oh, all the fuck-yous in the world to you, Stephen G. Bloom. I hope you are able to someday return to your homeland paradise of New Jersey. This is the dumbest article I have ever read, not just because of all the fuckery that you spouted, but because of the sheer premise, and its weak link to a national political event. I hope you don't choke and die on all that bitterness. Someone might have your funeral in a church and bring a Jell-o mold or a tatortot casserole.]


Meredith said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary. :)

Talking With said...

Here’s our show about Bloom’s article:

“Yale talks with four native Iowans about the depiction of them and the state they call home in Stephen Bloom’s scathing and controversial article in The Atlantic Monthly, his motives for publishing it, the response its generated across the state, and its national implications with regards to Iowa’s first in the nation voting status.”

Molly Nagel said...

It's almost like listening to an 'Ugly American' bitch about how much another country sucks because it's not like America.

I want to be pissed at this asshole, but I'm finding myself more just bewildered, and thinking "yup, you're a coaster- everything that isn't a huge city just sucks."

Yes, Iowa isn't New Jersey. And thank God for it (uh-oh I just became a hick clinging to religion!) I've been to Jersey, I felt like I needed to bathe in Purell every time I came back indoors.

That's the great thing about having a nation large enough to have 'flyover country'- we don't all have to live the same way in the same place.

And yes, shame on his ass for going to a 'breeding farm' -aka puppy mill- when he could have gotten a dog from a shelter.

Megs said...

Wow. I You know, in my experience, I have wished Jewish people a merry Christmas (unintentionally) and not one of them has ever given even the tiniest of shits. Because they are normal people.

Also hey! You guys have come to Jesus meetings too? We have those in Arkansas! Arkansas and Iowa - practically the same place!

Steph A said...

I think Bloom intentionally went over the top with this article in order to get attention. But under there somewhere, he was actually trying to make an argument. So let’s put our knee-jerk reactions aside and look at it objectively.

Bloom's central argument is: "In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa's not representative of much." In response to which we should ask 1. is that true? and 2. does that matter?

I think the point that Iowa isn't very diverse is interesting and worth considering, but I don’t see how the fact that we don’t have large cities is very relevant, and the colorful descriptions of our culture (or lack thereof, if that's how you see it) are definitely a moot point. The culture is different in each state (and people in other countries would say that America is a culturally void country in its entirety). Culture is a subjective thing and has little to do with politics (although often religion does try to tangle itself up in politics, but that's a problem we see in many areas of the country and a different rant all together).

So maybe our lack of diversity means we aren't a good representation of the country at large (which raises the question: which state ought to go first, then?). But even if that's true, does it matter? I think Bloom gives too much credit to the first state to hold caucuses as being the one that "gets to choose the next leader of the free world." Just because we go first doesn't mean that whoever wins our caucuses will necessarily become the nominee. Last time around, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa republican caucuses, and look how far he ultimately got.

Maybe the real problem is that rolling caucuses are dumb, not that Iowa gets to go first.