The View from Indiana
I’m a Hoosier.
God help me, but it’s true. I was born and raised in this state, and I have lived 90% of my life within a 10-square-mile space on the west side of its capital city.
Indiana has little to recommend it. It’s mostly flat, at best, a little hilly down south. We have no mountains. It’s also relatively dry. We have some creeks (or as many of us locals call them, “cricks”) and a lot of retention ponds. The nearest lake is about 15 miles from my house, and it’s man-made, like most of the other lakes around central Indiana. Access to water for recreation costs money. A lot of money.
In the spring our weather is moody – bouncing from freezing to 80 – snow, thunderstorm and tornado. In the summer we have oppressive heat and humidity. Autumn is nice for about 20 minutes, and then it’s winter. No snow – just sub-zero windchills.
We do have sports (NFL, NBA, Triple A baseball, racing), if you’re into that. If you’re not, you need to learn to be because there’s really not much else to do. We have an arts community that has been struggling like a tiny tomato plant in a weed patch for about 30 years. Our symphony orchestra is struggling to survive a union-management conflict. Dance troops and theater companies come and go. The same one or two thousand people frequent all the arts venues and keep them going.
And then there’s our government.
But, as I have learned from my husband, Indiana does Republican differently from other states.
My hubby’s not from here (one of the things that attracted me); he’s from New England. And in the twentysome years he spent there, he was a Republican. When I first met him, he and I were both Republicans, though I’d started questioning some of the inconsistencies I’d begun to see (pro-life/pro-death penalty, Christian/anti-welfare, small government/legislate sexuality).
Indiana turned my husband out of the GOP for good.
He couldn’t believe what “Republican” meant here. In his home state, Republicans really were for small government. Really. People also believed, truly believed, in personal responsibility. In other words, they believed that EVERYONE had the equal capability to succeed and should, therefore, be treated equally. My husband is one of the most -ism and -phobia-free people I’ve ever met (another thing that attracted me). The concepts of racism, chauvinism and homophobia never enter his mind unless someone brings them up. Finally, you can be an agnostic or an atheist Republican in New England. They really get the whole concept of “separation of church and state.” I guess they understand the Constitution better than we Hoosiers do, which makes sense because their states actually drafted the thing.
In Indiana “Republican” has a definition my husband can’t fathom. Hoosier “conservatives” are all for small government unless you’re doing something they don’t approve of. Like being gay. Or wanting to terminate a pregnancy resulting from a rape. Or singing the national anthem wrong. Or selling Girl Scout cookies. Then they’ll legislate the $#*@ out of you.
Racism is alive and well in Indiana as one of my black friends pointed out just this morning after she perused the Indianapolis Star‘s comment boards. The Republican party doesn’t have a monopoly on racists, of course. But I can tell you that the only 4 people I’ve ever “un-friended” on Facebook were Hoosier Republicans using the n-word to describe President Obama. Most of the racists I encounter in Indiana these days figure out fast that they shouldn’t express their racism openly around me. They do it in subtle ways, though. Like being “nervous” about the Middle Eastern market that just opened down the street. (It sells “halal” meat! And Bill O’Reilly told us all about the dangers of THAT!) Or endlessly criticizing one of our very few black legislators for being…a Muslim! *gasp* And being on the side of the “welfare queens” (read: black single moms, working or not).
And just try to be openly atheist or agnostic in Hoosier Republican circles. Or Jewish. Or CATHOLIC!!! As one right-winger put it to me recently, “How do you get to Heaven with a faith like that?!” Indiana conservatives will be happy to take your vote, but you really need to keep quiet about your faith ’cause that’s an abomination right there.
So when an Indiana politician hits the national news, as Richard Mourdock did yesterday, I just sigh and shake my head. Hoosier thoughtlessness, dogma, ignorance on display again. And way too many of my Hoosier friends defending Mourdock: “I respect him even more for speaking his mind! Liberals are just twisting his words.” Right. This guy wants your daughter to have her rapist’s baby. She should be honored to give birth to the child of man who impregnated her violently and against her will because that child is a gift from God.
I love babies. Truly. I had two of the most beautiful babies in the history of the world. One of them is a girl. And if some $%& rapes her and gets her pregnant, I will NOT force her to carry that baby for 9 months if she can’t handle it. Sorry, but the mental health and well-being of MY baby comes before the rapist’s baby. And I don’t want some senator forcing my daughter to be an incubator just because he likes to impose his opinions on other people. The God I know and love is wise and realizes that the world He created is not black and white. Since He knows all, why wouldn’t He know that this embryo is not going to be carried to term? Hang on to its soul and bestow it on another child? He’s omiscient and ominpotent. He can do that.
Just not in Indiana ’cause that’s blasphemy. Quick! Pass a law!
But all this talk about abortion is a red herring anyway. It’s one issue of hundreds, and it’s an issue that Mourdock and most other Republican lawmakers may, but probably won’t, have an opportunity to vote on during their terms. Still, Hoosiers take that bait, hook, line and sinker. They vote based on a candidate’s abortion view. Never mind that they might disagree with him or her on every other issue. They never get past that one talking point. Dangle it in front of them, and they’re like Dory in Finding Nemo: “Look! Something shiny!”
My husband likes to remind me that if I lived in New York or California, I’d be considered a conservative. I’m actually very moderate. I don’t like guns, but I know they’re a Constitutional right; I would never support an all-out ban. I hate war, but I supported our going into Afghanistan. I support eliminating the US Post Office; it’s obsolete. If I have to choose between making a law and not making a law, most of the time, I’d say, “Let’s not. Avoid government overreach.”
But in Indiana, my conservative friends paint me as a ridiculous flaming liberal. I’m a Socialist, a liberal elitist with too much education.
I am almost embarrassed to say that, in two weeks, I’ll be voting a straight Democratic ticket for the first time in my life. When I voted in my first election in 1990, I voted a straight Republican ticket. But that Republican party doesn’t really exist anymore. Especially not here, where the conservative witch hunt against moderates has driven out even iconic public servants like Richard Lugar (for whom I voted in every primary and election). There are no moderate Republicans left for me to vote for. And I can’t vote for the extreme Righties like Mourdock.
I guess if there’s one good thing about politics in Indiana, it’s that Democrats here are not extreme. They can’t be. A Democrat in office in the Hoosier state is, by definition, a moderate liberal. So I am confident that my straight-D ballot will have no Socialists on it.
Don’t be surprised if Mourdock still wins, though. He’s the face of the Republican party in Indiana.
Maybe it’s time to move.