Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa Caucus Mania

In spite of this brilliant parody by Mike Luckovich, I was surprised
that none of the politicians showed up on my doorstep.
They missed an ideal photo op!
I maintain that pie is not about politics. "Pie is non-partisan," I have been known to insist. "It is meant to be shared, to build community, and spread good will. Pie knows no cultural boundaries." Thus, I normally avoid any discussion of the subject. But as I am living in Iowa during the 2012 Iowa Caucus, the subject of politics cannot be ignored. Admittedly the media buzz is rather exciting. I  mean, to have our humble state be the center of such acute interest with top level journalists from all over the country doesn't happen every day. That said, the story here has become less about the politicians and more about the media itself.

There was an article published in The Atlantic in early December. It was written by Stephen Bloom, a University of Iowa professor who has lived in Iowa for 20 years. According to his piece, he feels Iowa is not representative of the diversity in America and therefore shouldn't hold such power over choosing a president.

States Bloom, "Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn't at issue. It's been this way since 1972, and there are no signs that it's going to change. 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. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state's about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible. Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa Caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure."

Ouch! No wonder people are up in arms over his story. (See Kyle Munson's story in the Des Moines Register for more.)

Instead of being outraged by Bloom's article, I first stopped to remember the tenets I live by: "The Four Agreements" that come from a book of the same name by Don Miguel Ruiz.

1. Don't make assumptions.
2. Always do your best.
3. Be impeccable with your word.
4. Do not take it personally.

Therefore, I did not take the writer's words personally. They are merely the opinion of one man, a man who clearly doesn't appreciate the countless advantages, positive aspects, and the abundance of heartfelt kindness of living in the Heartland.

Mr. Bloom is from San Francisco, a city that, in my experience, has its own issues. When I lived there someone left a note on the windshield of my car while parked at the Marina Safeway. Written on a scrap of a brown paper grocery bag, it said: "You asshole. You should be reported to the humane society for leaving your dog in your car." What this righteous passerby did not account for is that I had just taken my well-cared-for, very lucky dog (rescued from a shelter, no less) on a two-hour wilderness hike, I was only in the grocery store for a mere 10 minutes, there was a dish of water in the car, the windows were left sufficiently cracked open, and the day was perfectly cool. This makes me an asshole? Really?

Contrast this to Iowa, where it is so safe I could have tied up my dog in front of the store instead of locking it in the car. That note and the attitude it portrays is one of the reasons I have no desire to live in that part of the country again.

And in spite of trying not to make assumptions, as well as being impeccable with my word (always remembering "The Four Agreements"), I cannot refrain from suggesting that perhaps Mr. Bloom is simply unhappy living in this "landlocked, flyover state." He ought to consider moving back to Northern California instead of remaining here with the "hicks and meth addicts." Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Or better yet, in the spirit of Grant Wood who said, "I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa," maybe Bloom should visit Paris. I can only imagine how critical he would be of the people and lifestyle there.

After having several discussions with friends who were disgruntled by Bloom's controversial story, I was heartened to see a clever and well-produced rebuttal. Below is Scott Siepker with his now-viral video on YouTube (see below). In a concise and deadpan comedic way, he reminds the world that Iowans are not only well educated, forerunners in progressive politics, and the inventors of the computer, they are, in a word, nice.

To have people like that influencing who is going to become the next president is all right with me.



I haven't lived in Iowa since I was 17, so I have never voted here. And while I won't be voting in tonight's caucus, I will be attending to educate myself on what an Iowa caucus is all about. And after that, once the media has packed up and left, the state can get back to its normal way of life and I can get back to thinking about my favorite non-controversial, non-political subject: pie.

3 comments:

Timothy J. Shaw said...

Thanks for your reflection -- when I read Stephen Bloom's Book POSTVILLE, I took it to be an "out-of-Iowa" academic's point of view. He was trying to make sense of America's changing demographics; the ATLANTIC article to me is part of reflective consideration and I didn't take it to be the LAST WORD on Iowa just as the tie between Romney and Santorum doesn't resolve much about the state of Iowa GOP preferences either. Have a great January and a great 2012. A fan,
Tim Shaw of Southwest Michigan, USA

martha said...

I do not live in Iowa either. However, everything I know about it makes me think I would love it. And it is in fact a goal of mine to visit, because it is one of only three states I have not had the pleasure to see.

My theory on political comments in the media is that meanness is often the desired goal. Maybe because it generates interest, both for and against. Personally, I'm tired of the adversarial attitudes of many people. To me it's simple. We all are entitled to our opinion. We are all entitled to one vote. The election comes, the votes are counted, the winner takes office. Those who supported the loser can work toward the next election. Those who supported the winner can be happy.

Done! Is it so hard to be civil?

Alecia Gardner said...

Wow. Thank you for this post and the link to the articles. It was interesting to read this post. I am in Alaska now, no longer teaching at Cardinal :(; therefore, I miss out on some of the happenings in Iowa. I do have to say that I still love reading your posts and hope you are enjoying life in small town Iowa. Where you can feel safe walking down the streets, keep your doors unlocked, and call on neighbors when you need help. God bless.