Iowans Fire Back At The Atlantic

Almost everyone we know, including us, seriously hated this article in the Atlantic by Stephen G. Bloom, Observations From 20 Years Of Iowa Life.  Actually,  some of the piece is very good – the factual, historical, informational sections.  But the author’s characterizations of Iowans and Iowa culture while at times accurate,  at other times are grossly inaccurate, and overall, not balanced.  No one we know has ever heard of some of the cultural practices Stephen Bloom claims we have.

We wonder, why not just tell the truth? What is the point of all of the exaggeration?  It would have been an excellent article on its own.  It did not add interest to claim that we refer to Interstate 80 as “the highway”  (we don’t). No one here refers to caucuses as “chat ‘n chews”.   People in Iowa own dogs for companionship, not just for hunting. It goes on and on.

Iowans and a few others have fired back in the comment section of the Atlantic.   There is a comment or two about the Iowans’ comments to the effect that we may appear a little thin-skinned to others for taking such offense.  Fair enough. But no one likes to be turned into a cliche.

So, if you can get past that, you should probably read this otherwise good article that provides history and tells the rather tragic story of how Iowa has changed, beginning with the farm crisis of the 80’s,  the relationship between the loss of small family farms, the rise of  corporate farming, the meat packing industry, and immigration.

Finally, while the author says the article isn’t about whether Iowa “should determine the next U.S. president”, it clearly is about just that:   “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.”  But after four pages describing Iowa, he closes with this:  “That’s the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.”

And actually, we agree.  Iowa alone should not determine who will be the next president and Iowa does not determine this just because we vote first.

If you think Iowa has too much influence in presidential politics, we close with this:  Iowa Democrats are similar to Democrats nationally.  But Iowa Republicans are far more conservative than Republicans nationally.  So perhaps it is the Iowa GOP who should not be allowed this responsibility. But as long as we’re pointing fingers, we would like to point to the  corporate media for making the Iowa caucuses far more important than they should be in order to make a buck.  Actually, lots of bucks.

So don’t blame us. We’re only doing our civic duty.  If you think too much attention is paid to Iowa, tell the media.

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1 Response to Iowans Fire Back At The Atlantic

  1. Paul Deaton says:

    I enjoy reading Bloom because he is so different from other Iowa writers. In his book about Postville, his analysis seemed artificial and condescending. I borrowed a copy of his book on Oxford and couldn’t get through it. Need to adjust my attitude and give it another try. That he chose to write about pearls instead of Iowa recently, seemed an unusual choice, although reading the Atlantic article indicates he may have had enough of Iowa. It takes all kinds, and we should eschew almost none of the people who write about Iowa.

    My response is to live my own life as an Iowan and tell that story. One much different from the timely topics of the Iowa caucuses and grain prices. Here is a ten minute slide show of my 60 years here… I made this for my approaching 60th birthday and I don’t see Bloom’s Iowa in any of it. That may be the most genuine and validating response to his Atlantic article.


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