I was reminded that I promised to do a follow-up to my blog post about Stephen Bloom’s article in The Atlantic, which lambasted his home state of Iowa, its residents and its way of life. If it sounds like I’m exaggerating, read the original article here.
Mr. Bloom justifies his criticism variously as “unspeakable truths,” “opinions,” and “satire and parody.” If he seems confused about the focus of his piece, it has gotten him a lot of attention (with over 2,000 comments on the magazine’s web site, and even an interview on NBC’s Rock Center) which is perhaps what he wanted all along. Tellingly, he is quite vocal about the responses to his article, citing a death threat, anti-Semitism, and being forced into “hiding in an undisclosed location.”
A professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, Stephen Bloom, has written an article for The Atlantic about life in Iowa. In the piece, he argues that the state is ill-suited to help determine the next president of the United States, declaring, “In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa’s not representative of much.”
This may seem harsh, but Mr. Bloom is just getting started. In his rambling and unfocused 5700-word article, Mr. Bloom has much more to share about Iowa, using descriptors such as “depressed,” “crime-infested,” “slum town,” “polluted,” ”schizophrenic,” “culturally-challenged,” and “bizarre.”
Mr. Bloom seems to have a particular interest in rural Iowa, declaring that, “Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) (sic) to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
Wow, and though I don’t know what a “waste-oid” is, I’m betting that it’s not a good thing.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Bloom’s observations have generated many comments and even some anger, but he accepts this as a price to be paid for “raising uncomfortable truths.” In response to the aftermath of his article, he released a statement, which began ““For 40 years as a journalist, I’ve tried to shine a light into dark corners. That’s what good journalists do. They don’t accept what politicians, government bureaucrats, corporate spokespeople say is the truth. Good journalism isn’t just reporting. It’s making observations, trying to make sense out of the world and its shadows — even if readers don’t agree with those observations.”
He throws in a few statistics (usually incorrect and misleading, which I’ll discuss in another post) to show how rural Iowa is a wasteland of broken residents and failed towns, but this is where his argument falls apart.
Iowa should not be condemned for having problems, because every state is facing these same problems in varying degrees. Given that no one state is a perfect representation of our country (and Mr. Bloom doesn’t identify another as a better choice), he seems to use his notion of Iowa’s unsuitability as a primary state as an excuse to unleash his mean-spirited barrage of criticism.
Here’s my advice to Mr. Bloom… move. Find a new home. Live somewhere else. You are very unhappy with your surroundings and neighbors, and you need to find people you like, and who like you. Life is too short.
He may be disappointed, however. Every place has people who are annoying, mean, intolerant, small-minded, selfish, and rude, just like Iowa. Every place is also home to people who are kind, loving, generous, caring, outgoing, and open, just like Iowa. And sometimes all these traits even inhabit the same people. Sort of like family.
If your final, ultimate indictment against Iowa is that people comment during your dog-walking, asking if your yellow Lab “hunts well”, then there are deeper issues at play, and you need to try a new city, to discover and chronicle all its irritating quirks.
(Readers – I am not making this up about the dog-walking. If you have not read the article, I urge you to do so.)