Against the War in Iraq, September 2002
Let me be clear when I say “the entire Midwest” voted for Obama. I refer to the Great Lakes states of the Big Ten Conference: Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.
Kansas is not in the Midwest, though it often claims to be. Neither is Missouri. The Dakotas are way the hell away from us in the Great Plains, and Nebraska is halfway to the moon. They’re all lovely places* but they’re not the Midwest. We grow corn; we don’t grow cotton, we don’t raise wheat. It’s corn, not football or basketball, that determines who’s in and who’s out. We sure as hell don’t do cotton; that’s a slave state thing. We are the Midwest, and Barack Obama, a Midwesterner from the self-proclaimed Land of Lincoln, won every one of our states. I am so proud of us; we voted for greatness, even though he’s just That One.
The center of Indianapolis, the public circle on which sits my cathedral, is dominated by an obelisk commemorating the fact that Indiana gave more soldiers per capita to the Civil War than any other state. The numbers are staggering: one-fourth of all able-bodied men volunteered. Whole towns emptied out; whole counties. Indiana was the place that ended African slavery.
My great-great grandfather may have killed people so that Avon and Randy and Eddie and Frankie could be free. Wars are never good, but sometimes they’re necessary. We would either have slaves or we wouldn’t, so Indiana went to war to make sure we don’t have any more slaves.
The Midwest saved democracy. You can’t be the land of the free without being the home of the brave.
I’m proud of us. Indiana has been very backward for a very long time, but when push came to shove, we pushed—just as we did for LBJ and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We don’t reach these peaks very often. Michigan and Minnesota are far likelier to vote Democrat. Even Ohio is, though it’s as regressive a place as you can imagine. I carried a buckeye in my pocket on Election Day, hoping that my homefolks would come through. And they did.
Who do we have to thank for our next President? Iowa. Not Kansas, not Nebraska, not the Dakotas. We have Indiana to thank, and Wisconsin, and (Big Ten/11) Pennsylvania. Yay, team!
Midwesterners did this. But we only voted for our own. Barack and Michelle Obama live 70 miles from my house. They’ve got two little grrlz named Malia and Sasha, in a neighborhood called Hyde Park. It’s a nice place, with a major university (a founding member of the Big Ten, I can even sing their fight song) and a French restaurant.
When Barack went to Springfield to announce, he got me. I resisted for awhile, but then I capitulated. He’s Da Man, as Kyle Orton is Da Quarterback. (He’s a Purdue man, a history major from Iowa and a Democrat.)
No one knows how well Obama will do; we can’t predict the future. But we’re sure hoping for Mt. Rushmore, even though it’s out of space. We have so many problems—a lousy economy, wars, schools in collapse, health care if you can afford it and most cannot—that expectations shouldn’t run high, even with a Midwesterner in the White House. A whole lot of persuasion will have to go on to get even one thing right.
But Barack Hussein Whoever is all about persuasion. Heck, even his grllz are a tough audience.
Still, he’s giving them a dog, it’s a campaign promise, and God willing they’ll get to high school and college.
God willing we all will, even in Indiana, which proudly casts its 11 votes for the next President of the United States, Barack Obama.
* Eastern Kansas is gorgeous; the western two-thirds are for shit. Don’t ever drive I-70 to Denver, there’s nothing there, it’s empty, completely barren. They grow wheat, so what do you expect. Midwesterners don’t do wheat. Here in the true Land of Lincoln, we grow corn.
Iowa, you were magnificent. The people of Indiana thank you. America thanks you. The world thanks you.
I hereby proclaim you honorary Hoosiers. That obelisk is for you.++