I cherish my roots in the never described as hustle and bustle that is Iowa. We were once recognized for academic achievement and literacy. We took pride in our work ethic and warm hospitality. I left Iowa in 2008 which was on the cusp of a transformation that I’m not confident affords the same descriptors of my beloved home state today. That makes me sad. It makes me sad not only for my like minded friends who remain but for all Iowans who could benefit from the more balanced open mindedness that existed before all our hyper partisanship. Divisiveness has ripped through the heartland. Rush Limbaugh and FOX News convinced good natured people that austerity politics would protect them from the onslaught of immigrants who would steal their jobs. It was foreign outsourcing and technology that eliminated jobs in the manufacturing economy. Not immigrants.
My new life in the Washington DC metropolis woke me. We pulled our rental trucks to the front of our new home in a heavy winter storm. Our utilities would not be activated until the following morning so we found a hotel and set out to find dinner. Close to our hotel was the Fairfax VA IHOP. Being immigrants to Virginia from homogeneous Iowa we found great humor that indeed this truly was an “international house of pancakes.” There were Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Europeans all eating breakfast for dinner like that was a normal thing. (I just noticed that my iPad did not auto-correct blacks with a capital letter like it did other demographics descriptors.) is that correct? I’ve edited as I saw fit.
As we settled into our new home my first best friend was a non practicing Hindu coffee shop owner named Sammy. We had so many interfaith conversations about love and misconceptions and life. It was great. Really great. Believe me. Then I got a job where a Muslim Jordanian and a Russian Jew made up the management team. The shop employed Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and Whites. A group of the best guys I ever worked with. And now I work for a large employer that seems to be equal parts men and women, every religion and consciousness and nationality known to man. It’s a Fortune 100 top place to work seven years running. A large reason for that is the cultural climate.
I say all this because “some” of the good people I left behind in Iowa and places like it don’t know what they don’t know. It is our job in these divided times to be a light to those who feel threatened by diversity. I admit that I felt betrayed when a campaign ran on divisiveness won out over inclusiveness. I’m done accusing those who don’t know what they don’t know as being racist. I won’t label them misogynistic, islamophobic or homophobic or any other political or culturally exclusionary name. Love will always trump hate. We know that. It’s time we acted like it.
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