Hating on Iowa

While I’ve never lived in Iowa, and though my home in southwest Minnesota has a healthy rivalry with its southern neighbor, I have to admit I like the state.

People there are friendly and helpful, and the lakes region features some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen–woods and fields nestled in between lakes close enough to be pearls on a necklace, each a sparkling blue gem on a summer’s day.

My dad works in Iowa, and he loves it there. The people in his congregation are welcoming and whenever I visit his church, folks ask how I am and what I’m up to, even though dad didn’t start preaching there until long after I’d moved away. They’re cool that way–free with kindness, and coffee too.

Southwest Minnesotans will tease Iowans, and I certainly have, many times. They do the same back, but it’s a friendly rivalry–there’s not a whole lot of cultural difference when the border’s only 20 miles or so south after all, and in actual fact everybody gets along pretty well. Iowa is Minnesota’s sibling. We tease because we love.

Which brings me to this, which is pretty much exactly the opposite of friendly and has absolutely nothing to do with love.

A journalism professor working in Iowa named Stephen G. Bloom, who’s lived there for about 20 years, wrote an article for the Atlantic pretty much tearing the state into tiny bleeding shreds. Clearly he’s not from Iowa himself. Not that there aren’t mean Iowans–I’m sure they exist, although I haven’t met one–but this article’s, well. Pretty darn mean.

How anybody could hate anywhere so much and still live there for 20 years baffles me. The amount of vitriol Bloom reserves for poor Iowa–which pays his salary, given he works at a state university–is astonishing.

If you can’t bring yourself to read the condescending, hateful article (and I couldn’t get too far with it), read James Lileks’ masterful takedown, which features probably as many excerpts as you’ll be able to stomach, if you’re like me and you have a fondness for Iowa.

There’s a parody here (with a bit of profanity included), which almost doesn’t work because the parody reads so much like the original it’s almost indistinguishable, making me wonder if the original wasn’t secretly intended as a parody. This guy also notes the similarity to a parody in his reply to the original article. And finally, here’s a somewhat nicer, more personal reply to Bloom’s original piece, which has a lot more real information about what Iowa’s like than Bloom’s does.

But don’t let Bloom get you down, Iowa. Your neighbors in Minnesota and now, North Dakota, still love you. Come on up for a little lunch some time, maybe a hotdish and some jello. You can even tease us about calling it a “salad.” We don’t mind.

5 thoughts on “Hating on Iowa

  1. One of my friends told me about Bloom’s article, so I tried to read it. I didn’t get very far. It is a terrible piece of journalism, and makes me wonder why he hates Iowa so much. I have discovered, though, that those who are ensconced in higher academia are often out of touch with the “common man,” the type of people who provide them with food yet are easy for them to despise. I kind of feel sorry for Bloom.

  2. Man. The academics I knew at school were not like that at all–they were friendly, nice people who liked the people around them, and weren’t snobby in the least. And though they might not have been kids of farmers they’d talk about the agricultural culture of the Celts with great enthusiasm, and would have never thought to turn their noses up at rural people.

    Heck, I had a seminary prof who liked to rhapsodize about people’s connection with the land and lamented its loss.

  3. Iowa and NoDak occasionally suffer from the same coastal flyover mentality–Bloom’s article reminds me of the feathers National Geographic ruffled up in the Dakotas a couple years ago. Flatlanders gotta stick together!

  4. Pingback: Fallout in Iowa | Oh Look, a Shiny Thing!

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