WE IOWANS have an unparalleled ability to fly under the radar. It’s like we’ve had this enormously successful marketing campaign convincing everyone else that we’re flat, hogs are our childhood friends, and the only thing we have to offer the world is fried butter on a stick. While we enjoy being left alone, let’s straighten out the record: What other abilities do Iowans have that seem to go unrecognized?
1. Being politically tolerant
When some Joe Schmoe candidate publically wonders “why those hicks have all the power,” we tell them, “You’re welcome. Consider it a favor.”
When it comes to the battles between the Bushes and the Clintons, the Obamas and the McCains, Iowa has first-in-the-nation status AND it’s a swing state. That means we’re literally tolerating politicians on our doorsteps and in our living rooms for two years of every four-year presidential cycle. We swim through junk mail, juggle robo-calls, and have about 24 months where we see nothing but political ads and surprise signs on our front yards. All this intrusion into our daily lives and yet somehow we still manage to stay sane enough not to abandon our post and lead the country in presidential voting trends.
So the next time you hear two solidly-blue-so-politicians-don’t-bother New Yorkers (or anyone else, for that matter) wishing the election would just be over, tell them, “Oh, honey. You have no idea.”
2. Not shutting up about Iowa
Because if we keep talking, maybe we’ll say something that’ll make you realize we’re not talking about Idaho.
3. Keeping calm and being Iowan
Have you ever stood in line at a Dunkin’ Donuts, say, in Boston, where the customer at the counter is taking more than 15 seconds to order? Everyone else in lines starts tutting and huffing and puffing and she practically spills her coffee to get out of the way. Or maybe you’ve been on the 5 heading back to LA when you’re merging onto an exit behind some Honda Accord going 35 mph and you’re worried everyone is blaming you.
In that coffee line, most other people start seething. On the highway, other vehicles start darting back and forth to get virtually nowhere. But we Iowans tend to not give a damn what the rest of you all are doing (see political record below), and not let it affect us. We’d probably have fewer heart attacks if it weren’t for all those “yellow days.” Speaking of…
4. Recognizing that yellow is the best color
Chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, coffee cake, cheesy potatoes, potato salad, grilled cheese, French fries, onion rings, tater tot casserole, Maid Rites — it’s all some shade of yellow, and it’s all delicious.
5. Dealing with the real world effectively before most everybody else wakes up
When did Iowa remove the ban on interracial marriage? Only 116 years before the US did. How about school desegregation? 86 years before Brown v. Board of Ed. Women’s property rights? 1851. In 1869, we had the first female lawyer. In 1920, women had the right to vote federally, but we also said, “Guess what, ladies? You get jury duty, too.” In 2009, we had gay marriage rights to stay. And while there are inevitably going to be haters that spout out about how much more progressive their state is, remember that we’re doing it all under the guise that we’re “farmers and hicks.”
Why doesn’t congress just turn over everything to us already?
6. Telling the difference between corn and actual vegetables
Actually, there is none. Six servings a day, please.
7. Keeping a secret
Imagine a world that looks like the Shire from Lord of the Rings. There are massive rivers on all sides, glacial lakes, waterfalls and ice caves. Imagine this world where people are more concerned that they’re in your way than you’re in theirs. One where there’s no commute to work, no traffic to deal with, no church-knockers on your doorstep, and your house is basically free (well, in comparison). There are four distinct seasons with spring breezes, summer sunsets, autumn leaves, and wintery snowfalls. There’s Chinese food on pizza and produce out the back of your neighbor’s pick-up truck. There are towns dedicated to ice cream, hobo festivals, writers’ workshops, and everything is local, local, local.
That’s the secret we’re keeping.
8. Appreciating jazz despite our 91% whiteness
Iowa is the birthplace of Glenn Miller and Bix Beiderbecke, but the reputation doesn’t stop there. We’re one of the only states that has big-deal state high school jazz contests, meaning that not only do we appreciate the genre, but our kids are good. Iowa City also has the Iowa City Jazz Festival, where well over 50,000 people crowd the streets each day. Jazz nights can often be found at our bars and clubs, where budding performers get the chance to practice their chases and side-slipping for groups they’d never guess were amateur enthusiasts.
9. Seeing the future before anyone else
Let’s just leave this right here: Iowa is one of the first in pretty much any issue from women’s rights to gay marriage, we vote for the president first, and we’re the home of Captain Kirk? Yeah. That’s right. We basically live in the future.
And just like Captain James Tiberius Kirk says, “I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.”
Photo: Kristin Schmit