I know people who work for large corporations, and I hear stories about consultants who offer a flashy new program to, say, manage data better. They charge a large fee — and they produce a program that repeatedly crashes. Does this sound familiar? I’ve been listening to the negative comments about Iowa in the media since the caucuses. And it seems to me that Iowa is being held up to unnecessary ridicule by Democratic leaders and some in the media.
That hurts, because I know Iowans. I love Iowans. I’m a convert to Iowa and the Midwest, having come to the University of Iowa as a green freshman from the industrial region of northeastern Ohio. Yes, it took some time to adjust to the open landscape. I was used to trees everywhere there wasn’t lawn or water or pavement — that’s the East for you. But I learned to love looking out to the horizon and seeing the farms with their islanded trees, and the unhazy blue sky with fleets of puffy clouds, and the summer thunderstorms you can see coming from 10 miles away. I love the dip and rise of the gray-white gravel roads as they disappear over a distant hill. When my husband and I travel to Iowa from Minnesota, where we now live, I love the trip because it rests my mind as well as my eyes.
Most of all, when I came to Iowa, I loved the people. I loved the farmers with large hands who raised their hogs, corn and soybeans and who welcomed me into their homes. They were some of the quietest and kindest people I’d ever met. They were people who loved the rural life enough that they were ready to deal with the mud and the cold, the late nights on the combine in October harvesting corn, the rare vacations, and the yearly gamble on making a living. I married a man from Iowa, who is the son of a physics professor, who is the son of a dairy farmer, who was the son of an immigrant from Denmark. In the Midwest, roots like those matter.
I can tell you about the little church my husband’s family belongs to, so small that when the snowbirds go south for the winter, there are perhaps 20 regulars left. But that church and that pastor were there for us in my mother-in-law’s decline and death. I will never forget the way the pastor leaned over her bed in the ICU and was with her, his hand gripping hers as he prayed a psalm over her with complete conviction and love. This pastor is not an outwardly emotional man; he’s very Northern European that way. But I hope I’m blessed with someone like him when I’m the one in the hospital.
My in-laws have given generously and consistently to many good causes. They served on boards of nonprofits and at their church. They took a Bosnian girl into their home and saw her through high school and college when the Bosnian war made her a refugee. They delivered Meals on Wheels and sewed thousands of quilts for Lutheran World Relief. They did and still do this out of their faith, but also out of a Midwestern prairie populism from the last century that informs their worldview.
Those same Iowans are the kind of people who sit around their kitchen tables and plan for the caucuses with their neighbors, putting effort and long hours into making it happen. They go out to meet the candidates. They listen to the debates and town halls. They endure months of campaign phone calls. They take their responsibility seriously. And all those meetings in high school gymnasiums with Biden’s people in that corner and Sanders’ people in this one? I think the founding fathers and mothers would look at this messy political process and applaud, because this is democracy in action. It may be ungainly, but — I promise you — these are people you can trust. They care about their communities, their state and you, the rest of the country. They do their level best. And one tallying problem from a broken app doesn’t change that one whit.
Stephanie Weller Hanson is a writer and editor who lives in Falcon Heights. She’s at email@example.com.