Tonight I sat down with great expectations to watch my neighbor John Mellencamp on Real time with Bill Maher. Mellencamp is very quiet about his political leanings here in Indiana; but his music is the voice of the quiet, tolerant Midwestern liberal living in a 'red state;' trying always to cut through the propaganda that seems to hold our neighbors in a trance. When I heard him describing the 'Great Swindle,' I wanted to leap off the couch and cheer.
I was listening to him just now explain, at Bill's request, about 'what is going on in the middle part of America.'
Bill commented on John's patriotism (without judging it, but...) and John commented that people in this part of the country are very patriotic. Yes, that is true. And as he also pointed out... the ones that do vote for a 'Fred Thompson in his red pickup truck' are naive.
As John put it, they tell the truth; so why should they doubt someone else's word? And what's wrong with being naive?
(Haven't found a video from tonight's show yet; watching for one.)
This royally pissed off Maher, but I see John's point. Because I see this all around me too. That Hoosiers tend to expect that people will naturally do what they say they will do - the 'right thing' - and to be honest in their dealings isn't the problem. The problem is the way in which they have been betrayed... and the way that their faith in decency and governmental authority - and especially their patriotism - has been used against them.
JM: I see it. I see it all the time, and I can't understand. My wife and I would drive through small communities in Indiana and go 'We don't understand these Bush/Cheney signs in front of these peoples' houses.' But they were... swindled.
BM: Isn't there something to telling the people to be more cynical, to quote one of my old lines?
JM: But I don't know if I want to go through my life being cynical.
BM: It's better than going through life being swindled.
JM: But I don't like either one!
And there is the great Hoosier dilemma.
I keep insisting that Hoosiers are good, 'salt of the earth' people. Most would give you the shirt off their backs. I moved back here because I missed that; the friendliness, and the offhand generosity.
People know their neighbors here. If there is a storm, people check on each other. When there is an ice storm out here, we all pitch in to clear the road. People share tomato crops, stop and talk over the back fence, and still take walks in the evening. People talk to 'total strangers' in the grocery checkout line.
I never really fit in anywhere else I lived, because I was raised in this environment. There is an openness, a trustfulness that I was raised with here in Indiana, that I have never found anywhere else. I grew up barefoot in the summers, and we never locked our doors at night.
Yes - I talk to people in grocery checkout lines. I've been embarrassing my husband for years. Now he finally gets it. In New York City, people were horrified and immediately looked away. In Chicago, they gave me odd looks, but being the Midwest, they were bemused and tolerant. In Arizona, people looked away in discomfort, as if I had invaded their space by talking to them.
Now that I am home, we're all back to chatting as we stand in line... and it feels good.
I guess I don't like living among cynical people.
And before people jump on me (fellow Hoosiers) about the mean people among us; the haters, remember that there are mean people everywhere (here they wear sheets.) But my own experiences have been that there are many more decent, good people in my area than bad apples. Actually, other than tailgaters, I can't remember the last time I encountered a nasty, mean person around here.
But we're all very careful to avoid talking politics these days. Because we really do prefer getting along. One of the more painful developments under Bush rule, is the way the media has fanned divisions between those of differing ideologies; fostering a hateful 'us verses them' divide between liberal and conservative. Those of us who are liberal tend not to understand where this is coming from because we don't listen to daytime radio or O'Reilly. But at times we see the results of their work.
What a terrific - and well orchestrated - way to divide and conquer us.
Erosion of trust is so apparent in a friendly place like Indiana, where liberals and conservatives have mostly lived side by side as neighbors, farmed and rubbed shoulders in our famous (if dangerous) outdoor summer markets, and participated together in our local schools and communities.
Why on earth would we be enemies? As John pointed out - and what I keep struggling to express to my own conservative neighbors - we have a mutual enemy trying to enslave us all. Shouldn't we be pulling together against these wealthy elitists that are sending our jobs overseas, feeding us tainted food, ruining our schools and allowing our infrastructure to decay all around us, withholding desperately needed health care, looting our national treasury and sending our kids off to die for their oil profits?
I mean -- isn't this a mutual problem?
This song really says it all.
Yes, many people here are conservative, patriotic and religious. But until the neocons started poisoning their minds, most of them were patriotic in a good way; post 9/11, people in this state send their kids to Iraq because they believe in duty to country. Only now are they realizing, belatedly, that they have been betrayed.
People here are religious (for the most part) in a good way as well. But there is something there... indoctrination in these conservative churches that teaches them to respect and never question authority.
I used to hear them preaching this blind obedience on the radio every Sunday (it was impossible to get anything else on the Sunday airwaves when I was a kid. We also still can't buy alcohol on Sundays; including wine, which I often thought was quite ironic, having been raised a Catholic. Can't buy it, but you can have a sip at church.)
This indoctrination has I believe led to an unwillingness or inability to question authority; and that has made these people easy victims, as John put it, for the 'Great Swindle.'
Because they were raised to believe that people are basically honest, upstanding and honorable... they were caught totally off guard by the neocons. I have to keep reminding people; not all Republicans are neocons and many Republican citizens consider themselves 'Republican' based on an illusionary brand that turned into a snare: a trap that was baited with their ideals of honor and good citizenship.
Beware their wrath as they learn the truth.
Do they get it yet? I think they are starting to, in greater and greater numbers, and in spite of the media propaganda. The scandals, the lies, the greed... this isn't how we do things here.