Xenophobia in Iowa

I have a personal dread for the fact Iowa sets the tempo for the presidential campaign by having the first primary, and it really began to sink in during my last visit, well, exile really, to southeastern Iowa, only a few miles from the historic birthplace of the Republican Party, in Crawfordsville, Iowa. There's not much to see now at the original headquarters for the future GOP, mostly a single door, perhaps a historical site in a small white building, at a one-intersection at a crossing for other burghs along the road, miles and miles of barns and farm houses, rolling hills, the great expanse of sky. Maybe 300 people live within a mile of it all now. In 1854 Whig Party defectors meet in a closed meeting to pave the way of the new political party. Fittingly, I found myself, a college-educated professional journalist, looking for a place to fit in among the ghosts of no-nothingism, still alive and well across the county and beyond.

More or less found myself as a refugee of the economic crisis they now call the Recession, but really it was a depression. As I walked among the ruins of a cratered party of the country, with small communities turned into ghost towns, the Walmart economy sucking them all dry, and the good ol' boys, still running things, running the temperature of some of the most hateful people I've ever run across. Yeah, a lot of running. Trying to get out in front of the near medieval hatred out there. Indeed, if they grow anything out there on the farms of Iowa it's xenophobia.

As a refuge while convalescing in an anonymoplace in the corn fields of southeastern Iowa, there was a big barn next to an anhydrous amonia distribution facility. If you drove by it on the highway, the entire civilized area, actually an old broken down railroad stop with an old grain silo and several empty buildings representing days gone by. The barn, more like a large aluminum shed structure with several rooms and open areas inside, a kind of hodgepodge after years of additions and remodels, was filled with all kinds of useful, potentially, items collected from around the region: furniture, farm implements, old tractors, piping, chemicals, paint, wiring, fertilizer, old toys, enough trinkets to fill an antique store. Early in the morning I would go there as I wandered around the remnants of an enclave including maybe a half-dozen residences scattered around a large open field with dozens of wrecked and usually burned vehicles parked on the lawns like trophies. Most of these were fabled demolition derby vehicles.

When the sun came up the big barn was a place to watch the sun rise and fall and stay warm. In all directions were cornfields. This was right smack in the middle of Monsanto's iron-fisted grip on the agricultural life of the region and also a cancer cluster. On windy days methane from pig farms would roll across the earth, making you feel dizzy and a little (more insane). Alcoholism, disguised in the form of football tail-gating style total inebriation, also ruled the countryside. One nearby town, so bombed out by the Walmart sucking action, had no market to sell beer ...

Anyway, one other ringing memory from that period was the night a presidential candidate arrived at the Iowa City airport past midnight, and was then taken away into the city with a full caravan of police cars blaring the sirens. Maybe they were bringing in the big wig to meet with this one farmer (featured in the photo above), some crazy old crackpot hooked up to Fox News and the local Christian cult. That Donald Trump and Ted Cruz lead in this country should be no surprise. The scarecrow is out there for all to see.