What do they know?

“Oh but ain’t that America for you and me/
Ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby/
Ain’t that America home of the free/”
—John Cougar Mellencamp, Pink Houses

The buzzwords “freedom,” “choice,” “hope,” and “core values” were being tossed around by presidential candidates like parade confetti. Yet in talking with Iowans, they wanted this Chicagoan to know America still had hope, choice, values, and freedom. And they were willing to brave the cold for this “brave new world” founded more than 200 years ago. They talked about their candidates as if they were family. College students regurgitated political ideals, middle-age men recalled easier economic times, and older folk reminisced about Reagan and other presidents whose politics reflected the values they had been raised with.

“Well there’s people and more people/
What do they know know know”

After attending a Fred Thompson rally Wednesday in Davenport, Iowa, I realized that I had “culture shock.” I looked around the rally, comprising mostly white males with a few kids who would have rather been home playing their XBox 360s, and thought how did these voters have the wisdom and insight to know what a child from the Ickies projects, struggling with reading and math, would need? How did they know a seasonal worker in Galveston, Texas, wasn’t “invading” America rather contributing to its development? How did they know what a 35-year-old woman, who cashed out her IRA for education, will have available for her by age 65?

By late Thursday night, I knew they knew something. I knew they were willing to continue a 30-year-plus tradition, so their and others’ families could have stability, whether the policies the candidates pushed were for the highest good.

Forty-five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and said something idealistic yet prophetic.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Barack Obama won the Iowan Democratic caucuses and my “culture shock” conceded to awe.

I knew Iowans had just taught me history.


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This entry was posted on January 7, 2008 by in Iowa Caucus and tagged , , , , .
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