Last week a journalism professor from the University of Iowa posted an article on The Atlantic regarding how crappy he thinks Iowa is. After reading the article… I’m not even sure he’s been to Iowa… and I grew up in Iowa and plan on moving back someday.
Here is my response, to just about everything he says -
1. What’s a Chat n’ Chew? I’ve definitely heard of Town Hall Meetings and local potlucks, but a Chat n’ Chew… I guess that does sound kind of Iowan.
2. I always bring a desert to a potluck. You can end up with too many potato au gratins if you aren’t careful.
3. Who doesn’t know that “brat” is short for bratwurst? That’s just American…
4. The “geographically challenged” don’t live in Iowa. We actually teach our children what and where other states are.
5. I’m what you would consider a rural Iowan (born & raised), but I have never been hunting. Most of my friends growing up didn’t, and neither did either of my parents (also born in Iowa).
6. I’m not a true Hawkeye fan, but that’s because I attended “that other school“.
7. Hey! You got the “not flat” part right!!
8. Rivers cities are just like most “boom” towns in our nation. Look at the ghost towns of the gold rushes; Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming certainly have their fair share. And personally, I think Dubuque and Davenport have done wonderful things with their riverfronts and economies to keep thriving.
9. And actually the Mississippi is still quite full of traffic. This year it was just average, due to flooding in some areas and droughts in others, but grain, cement, and coal, among other things are still being shipped on the river. Definitely not irrelevant. So those beer cans should just get out of the way.
10. “Almost every other Mississippi river town is the same; they’re some of the skuzziest cities I’ve ever been to, and that’s saying something.” Steven, I think you should head to Mosul, Iraq… you might change your mind. (Sorry Mosul – you’ll always have a place in my heart.)
11. Yay Eskimo Pies! What’s not to love? Is it a bad thing that they were invented in Iowa? What else has been invented in Iowa? (Oh, I love making lists).
- The Computer – The Atanasoff-Berry computer was completed at Iowa State University.
- Large scale polling – We have George Gallup to thank for that one.
- The first gasoline-powered tractor – Thank you, John Froelich.
- The Frank-a-Matic for linking hot dogs – Ray Townsend, you will be missed.
Oh, I am certain there are more. But I can’t spend the entire day searching the internet. (or can I?)
12. I love both senators… I think Grassley and Harkin are some of the the few that still actually speak for their consituents, not their sponsors… (I won’t comment on King…)
13. “Iowa’s not representative of much.” This line I take huge offense to. Just because we aren’t ethnically diverse doesn’t mean we can’t be something. Iowa historically is one of the most progressive states, adopting equal rights for long before most other states and maintaining it’s status as an economic stronghold. Companies come to Iowa because we don’t have the volatility of larger metropolitan areas. There is a budget surplus. Refugees choose Iowa because they won’t be refused or looked down on, and will recieve the aid they need. And the homeless rate is lower than national average. So why shouldn’t we represent the first chance to be an American President.
14. I rarely wear hats…
15. Friday nights are for high school football, just like any other state. I’ve been to a couple tractor pulls, but just during fair season, and I’ve never been or heard of a combine demolition derby. I’m not saying you are wrong, Steven, they are just not as common as you might like to think.
16. Never competed in a Mom-calling contest…
17. Of course we have a lot of turkeys. People have to have Thanksgiving!
18. My hometown turned down a bid for a new Wal-Mart. It would have ruined local business. In fact, I had to travel at least 30 miles in any direction in order to get to one.
19. ” The region has suffered terribly, particularly since the 1980′s when the ravaged farm economy started spinning out of control into free-fall. ” Let’s go back here… no budget shortfall (surplus in fact), minor fall during housing crisis and is now returning to normal, low unemployment (compared to national average)… We may not be where we once were, but I think we are coming out ahead of the rest of the country… in fact, we have been listed on multiple best places to live lists (here’s one – Five towns in Top 100 of CNN Money’s list of America’s best small towns)
20. Steven, you do have some good points (“what better audience before which to piss on rural America than one filled with wealthy Bay Area Democrats, few of whom could pick out Iowa from Nebraska? “, “Coastal elites love to dump on Iowa”, “Strangers are rare in these parts.”), but then you go and ruin it again…
21. “There’s the idealized version of rural America, then there’s the heartbreaking real version, the one Obama was talking about.” I have spent at least two thirds of my life in “rural America”, and none of it matches the “take two” you describe. I had an excellent education, felt free to explore then entire world around me, and have never felt desolate at the fact that I grew up in a small town… in fact, I think it opened me up more to the fact that there is so much more around me than just buildings and corn. There are people who are different from me, who grew up different than I did. I could see the stars at night (due to lack of light pollution) and could dream about what was up in the vast sky. Nothing was hidden from my view. It was not the “bucolic” life we all want, but it was by no means depressing and dark and desolute.
22. EIGHTEEN CASINOS!! Oh, no, let’s all flee to Vegas!! Or Missouri… or wait… why not build business where there is opportunity? I like the last one…
23. I’m having a hard time understanding what slaughterhouses have to do with your point… hold it, what is your point? Either way, business is good. Slaughterhouses moved closer to the livestock – less shipping costs… immigrants are taking the jobs because they can - most Americans don’t want to know where their food comes from.
24. “Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) 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.”” So much of this is SOOOO wrong!
25. “wandering about Iowa City during spring break, billed as a bustling Big Ten University town, I kept wondering, “Where is everyone?”” It’s spring break in a college town… common sense, Steve, tells you everyone is gone…
26. Seriously, Steve, where is the common sense!? ” it’s a wholly different manner of speaking from what folks on either coast are accustomed to.” Every region has it’s own dialect, jargon, and slang… you’ll find the same thing throughout the world… Let’s look at the Andalucian region of Spain, and let’s learn Egyptian Arabic and then travel to Iraq… I would expect you, as a journalist, to wholly understand dialects…
(Man, I thought I would be done by now).
27. Mudrooms are common, but not required.
28. It’s not just pig shit that is known as “money”… it’s manure in general. Free, perfect fertilizer should not be overlooked.
29. Fish fries usually just occur during lent for the Catholic set.
30. I’ve never seen a “live” Nativity scene, though the “life-size” ones are quite common.
31. How else do you pronounce “vehicles”? I thought we were the ones with the coveted accent.
32. Pick-up trucks are useful.
33. The house I grew up in was bright blue with a red front door. Not too “drab”.
34. The humble people don’t show off their money. The ones who have something to prove, they still do, just like anywhere else. Plus, a new truck probably means that you are successful, not ostentatious.
35. Never went to school with a “Yoder, Snitker, Schroeder, and Slabach”, but that was in west-central Iowa. We had the usual American names like Johnson and Smith.
36. I’ve never seen my dad or uncles carry a penknife.
37. I’ve never brought food to a wedding reception.
38. What the hell is Red Waldorf cake? (If it’s anything like red velvet, I love it already!)
39. I really love the mis-quoted comment about the newspaper… I thought journalists did their research. (Practice what you preach, Steve!)
40. Why do you feel the need to tell your students what to believe on something not related to journalism? You are a journalism professor, not religion, or sociology, or communications.
41. Iowa kids have good work ethic. We are taught that attending school will make us better people. Having an after-school job will give us spending money. You speak of these things like they are bad. More and more of my friends that move out of the region (and I am one of them) are moving back because of the lifestyle. It’s calm, it’s well-rounded, and it’s moral. Ethics are a part of everyday life and family is number one. Very few places can say that anymore.
42. And finally, I don’t understand what hunting dogs have to do with electing a president?
Update: There has been an awesome outpouring of Iowa pride in response to Mr. Bloom’s article. Here are some of my faves:
- What Stephen Bloom is Missing About Iowa, Lynda Waddington, The Atlantic -
- Blooming Iowa, Brett Johnson, Twin Cities Daily Planet