<\body> Stories in America: "What's the Matter with Kansas?"

Monday, August 22, 2005

"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."
-Dan, Unemployed

"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. "
-Susan, Teacher

"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.


At 8/23/2005 8:47 AM, Blogger Max Payne fan from Virginia Beach said...

The book has gotten lots of praises from customers at amazon.com and moreover many are from solid red states. If even customers from states like ID and MS are paying attention to this book, there must be some resonance going on there. That may also explain why Howard Dean is actually welcome even in states like KS, MS, ID, etc ...

At 8/23/2005 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you post the premise that everyone keeps referring to?

At 8/23/2005 2:00 PM, Anonymous Darin said...

The premise is that the conservatives have won the heartland by distracting people from the real issues with divisive issues, mainly abortion and homosexuality - meaning that if you want to be "moral" and "Christian", you must side with the entire conservative agenda - essentially against the better interest of those involved, being middle class or lower and having a low per capita - as Kansas and Oklahoma do. The book could just as well be called "What's the matter with Oklahoma?"

As a Tulsan and a recent convert to the progressive agenda, the book is right on target and is a must read for anyone who looks at the political landscape with words starting with F.

At 8/23/2005 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not conservative agenda, darin, God's agenda. The Bible's agenda.

At 8/23/2005 2:49 PM, Anonymous Darin said...

Of course, that is the way it is portrayed to those who haven't even bothered to read their Bible.

I am thinking of the fact that in the red letter editions of the Holy Scriptures, meant to help people see the actual words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of all the words in red, those spoken by our Lord and Savior, there is no mention of either abortion or homosexuality.

This does not mean that these issues do not exist within the Scriptural reference, but it does show that if these two issues are the paramount issues of our agenda, then why were they not the two most important issues on the lips of Jesus?

Probably because one of the main issues that Jesus had was that the religious leaders of the time had left their first love and instead were focused on greed for money, fame, and judging others.

Sound familiar?

At 8/23/2005 2:53 PM, Anonymous Darin said...

I think that there are many of us, especially here in Tulsa, that desire for a return to helping the poor, visiting those in prison, helping the widows, and helping the sick in Jesus Name. . . rather than carrying around signs that say "God hates fags!" and saying the illogical - that we should kill abortionists and have the death penalty and still say we are "pro-life".

Come on, people are smart, even the most ardent zealout knows deep down there are inconsistencies - but doubt, being the opposite of faith, scares the person whose faith is shallow.

At 8/23/2005 8:04 PM, Blogger Liz C. said...

We moved to Lawrence, KS, a lovely and progressive city and home to the U. of Kansas, from the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago. We love Lawrence, but are sometimes driven crazy by the social conservatives of the Kansas legislature and state school board! Coastal dwellers, please know that the so-called fly-over people are a diverse group. We're hearing grumblings about Bush from our Western KS relatives! Liz and Larry C.

At 8/24/2005 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush rules!!! Yayyyyyyy!!!

At 8/27/2005 5:05 PM, Anonymous Pat said...

I grew up in Southwest Kansas...liberal democrat mother and Eisenhower Republican father. Dad is probably rolling in his grave at what's happened to his Grand Old Party. Sickening.

At 8/29/2005 6:19 AM, Anonymous Delysid said...

Hey, at least Anonymous spelled all the words right. Now if he/she could just work on their grammar and logic...

At 8/29/2005 1:46 PM, Anonymous deacon of the deaz said...

the democratic party communist? since when? They are just "Republican lite". Sure they differ on some of the social issues because they have a coalition to uphold and basically go a little to the left, but come on - Lenin's own party they aren't. Of course neither was Lenin. Pure communism only really existed once - at Antioch with the original believers in Christ.

At 9/01/2005 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich's book is an interesting discussion starter, but anyone who reads it and thinks it's "THE truth" should do himself a favor and read a very good and thoughtful critique in the First Things journal (available on line at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0503/articles/nuechterlein.html ).
As for Darin's comment about Christ and homosexuality, I tire of this portrayal of Jesus as a "soft hippie" who just wants everyone to love one another without any concern for moral limits. Yes, Jesus loved sinners but He challenged them to change ("Go and sin no more"). Obviously, Jesus was Jewish and accepted the Hebrew Scriptures (ie, the Old Testament) as Holy Writ so there was no need to reiterate what had already been stated. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it is clearly condemned (cf Rom.1, 1 Cor.6). For a reality check, I would suggest asking an Arab or Orthodox Jew in the Middle East today how an open, actively homosexual person would be viewed and you will get the general idea.
-GregY, (socially-conservative, but lean to the left economically)

At 9/01/2005 8:11 AM, Anonymous deacon of the deaz said...

well said Greg, but I think Darin and I share one common bond here - the issue for us is not that homosexuality is wrong or condemnable, or that the Scriptures do not say anything about it - they clearly do. The issue is that if our prime example, Jesus, did not focus on it say 80% of the time, as fundamentalists are keen to do, then maybe His example is not quite being followed.

I believe that some of these issues actually become "god" to these people and they are so distracted by that that they miss the richness and beauty of actually praying for, helping, and being there for people of all walks of life.

I agree so much with Jesus that I call myself a Christian and by the Roman Road litmus, am a born again believer. As for the "soft hippie", that would be me, but I think that Jesus was much more radical than that.

Probably why He was such a threat to the status quo of not only His day, but our own.

At 9/01/2005 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deacon, I agree with you that there is not enough focus on social justice among right-wing Christians though I'm not sure I agree that the importance of social issues (abortion, etc.) is too much (obviously, frank rich thinks it is!). I look to John Paul II as an example of someone embodying the ideal combination of concern for the poor, the weak and the outcast, while also being faithful to Christian Revelation in terms of morality and doctrine, which is important b/c Truth is Truth--2+2 cannot equal 4 today and 5 tomorrow. Therefore, some things are not up for grabs or else the whole faith is just a sham. Truth and Love. They are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, if you neglect either, the other one falls.

At 9/01/2005 8:39 PM, Anonymous Patriot said...

Go to www.kimclement.com and read about New Orleans there.

At 10/04/2005 1:18 PM, Anonymous Thomas373 said...

Actually, Jesus was both a spiritual and social revolutionary (though not necessarily political). He defied the conventional morality of his day (like stoning prostitutes or women caught in adultery while letting the men off). He preached to love thine enemies and pray for those who persecute. I don't see any of these ideas reflected in the actions of the Bush administration. If the teachings of Jesus and the Bible were actually followed we would not be in Iraq slaughtering people for oil or anything else. For some strange reason evangelical Christians that vote for Bush seem to think the Fifth Commandment can be suspended if it's inconvenient. You can't have it both ways, either ALL wars AND abortion are wrong or the Bible is wrong. Jesus also said those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

At 11/13/2005 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this book is crap!!! its a reading requirement for my university politics class....if that teacher spent less time shoving his views and his crap in our faces maybe some people would actually like to take his class. This book is so one sided and in my opinion smells like a hippy stuck in the 60's wrote it. Its one nation under god...deal with it or leave!!!

At 11/26/2005 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"deal with it or leave!!!"

Wow, talk about living in the past. I remember the conservatives of the 60's saying "Love it or leave it." Is that the best you can do? If you love your country, and you think something's wrong, you stay and fix it.

At 12/29/2005 12:28 PM, Anonymous SVS said...

I'll tell you what's wrong with Kansas! The people. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good and level headed people in the state of Kansas. However, the majority are wealthy, Christian-Republicans that give me dirty looks because I'm not wearing Dockers and I happen to have tattoo's and piercings (Little do they know I make just as much as they do per year). These same people that cheer when Fred Phelps protests funerals of homosexuals and pickets "non-Christian" activites. What's wrong with Kansas? A lot! The third most wealthy county is Johnson County, well, use that money for something good. Fix a road or two or do something about these children that are dropping out of school, picking up a Meth pipe, and robbing me a gun point. It's not just Kansas tho. It's the whole center of the country. Missouri is the same way. Horrible roads, even worse schools, and a giant METH problem that no one is doing anything about. I love this country and I'm not leaving it. I'm staying and fighting for it. The war is not over seas, it's not in Iraq, the war is right here in our backyards! "Fags and Intelligent Design are destroying our community and way of life." Please. Have we taken a time warp back into the 1950's? You want a list of things to get all excited about?
There, now take all of your homophobic and right wing energy and do something usefull for your community.

At 12/29/2005 10:35 PM, Anonymous sarcastic b$%&# said...

To Gregy and similar: since you are going to take the scriptures on the issue of homosexuality then you have to take the whole enchilada baby-adulteresses.unruly kids are to be stoned to death, no sex before marriage or would be wife should be executed, no contact w/ females til father arranges you an underage,pubescent bride of his choice, don't cut your hair, the waitress at the steakhouse cannot be serving you food if she is on her period, no tattoos or piercings, no masturbation, no blended fabrics in clothing..oh and according to Paul's scriptures you don't get to have your faith a la carte you take all the edicts(not just the convenient ones ) or none. See biblical mandates can be fun for everyone-heteros too !

At 12/29/2005 10:43 PM, Anonymous Kate said...

It's funny how bible-thumpers pick certain writings to condemn other people but when you start pointing out the parts of the rules they break it's "that's different..." actually in terms of the weight of the crimes in biblical perspective it's not...read ALL of it CAREFULLY.

At 12/29/2005 10:54 PM, Anonymous Melanie R. said...

To the bible quoting homophobes-explain why in the friendship of Jonathan and David-one of them throws his clothles and sword down and says "everything you see is yours" or some thing like that-because in all the straight guys i have known and dated and even from historical views-would not strip in fron t of thier friends and say ANYTHING like that. oh..what was going on with those Ruth and Naomi chicks..I mean really guys, unless you have unresolved issues with your own sexuality then someone else's shouldn't bother you so much.

At 7/10/2006 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was raised in Liberal Kansas in the 50's and 60's so I think I can at least pretend to be somewhat knowledgeable about the area. No flame intended, but this little blog points out a truism about Kansas. "Kansas isn't a state, it's a state of mind".

At 9/25/2006 12:18 PM, Blogger NonToxic Chuck said...

To the commenter above who mentions tattos and piercings and bemoans the fact that 'right wing republicans and christians give them dirty looks... let me just say that you've asked for those dirty looks.

Hum, that didnt' come out right. If you want to be looked at suspiciously by others, than make the decision to look 'weird', 'threatening' and 'different'.

You're income doesn't matter.

I bet Larry Flynt makes more money than I do, but I sure wouldn't want him living next door to me.

You've bought into some funky world view that is contrary to what the good folks in Kansas belive. So move.

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