"What's the Matter with Kansas?"
I couldn't leave Kansas without asking people what they think about Thomas Frank's book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" We didn't have much time until we had to be in Omaha, Nebraska for a radio interview, so we made a quick stop at Border's in Overland Park, Kansas. The book is on display near the front counter and sells extremely well, according to a salesperson. I spent some time in the parking lot asking people whether they have heard of "What's the Matter with Kansas?"
Here are a few answers:
"I'll tell you what's the matter with Kansas. Outside this area there's nothing to do. There's a lot of culture here. There's a lot of wealth in the community. Good roads. Good government. I don't agree with everything, but it is good. This is the center. This is the third wealthiest county in the country, but for some reason, you go out west and it's dead. Most people think about The Wizard of Oz when they hear the word Kansas. That's what they think, but when you come to Johnson County, it's totally different. I just came back up from Tuscon and went through Liberal. It's flat. There's nothing there. The wind blows. The weather changes, but Johnson County. This is it. What's wrong with Kansas? Outside this area, there's nothing. I know about the premise of the book, but there's nothing wrong with being conservative. People who are conservative are more aware of their money and their estate. There are a lot of good things about being conservative."
"I've never heard of it."
"I've heard of it, but haven't read it because I figure I already know what it's about. It's so upsetting to live here and see the trends. I try not to read about them and just move on. It's pretty backward. I strongly agree that there are real difficulties here with objective problem solving and being able to separate disciplines to the realm in which they belong. People don't seem to be able to separate their mental capabilities and problem solving and looking at problems from different directions. It's not just in Kansas. I'm gonna go beyond Kansas to our country. They seem to be afraid of melding those things to arrive at a decision. It's a shame because people would prefer to use half their brains that way. That's what it looks like is happening, doesn't it? Here and in our country. I'm a teacher and I try to teach my students to stop being afraid of differing opinions and to investigate issues on their own. Our kids don't get that at home. They probably get too much of the opposite. This close minded stuff is just so hard to watch. "
"I don't have to read it. I agree with the premise. I live here, after all."
"My friend has read it, but I don't plan to."
"No. I've never heard of it."
After giving this woman a copy of the book, she read the back, gave me a strong look and walked away.