Posted on August 5, 2013
Indiana has been a little embarrassing lately.
First, our Governor Mike Pence (DO NOT LET HIM BECOME PRESIDENT, AMERICA. I MEAN IT!) was confronted with the fact that he and his administration have lied about expected insurance premium increases under the Affordable Care Act. All of our governor’s statements that have been reviewed by Politifact have been found to be totally false, probably because there are benefits to scaring your constituents into voting for you. Pence also supports an amendment to Indiana’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Is it any surprise that he had to apologize recently for his staff deleting anything in support of gay rights that was posted on his Facebook page?
It’s not just our governor. Our former Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett (who gives all other Tony Bennetts a bad name), who had been voted out of office here in Indiana because all of our teachers spread the word about how terrible he is for education spread the word, had to resign from his new job in Florida. Why? Because the Associated Press released e-mails he sent to his Indiana staff, insisting that they re-work the A-F grading system that he swore was so fair and so perfect. All of this was to ensure that the charter school owned by his friend (and major GOP donor) got an A, not a C. This doesn’t come as a surprise to Hoosiers, considering Bennett’s history of trying to privatize all Indiana education, or Governor Pence’s unwillingness to work with our new Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
Do you remember Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-GOP Senate candidate who said that pregnancies from rape must be in God’s plan? He unseated respected career Senator Richard Lugar in the last Republican primary by selling the idea that compromise and bipartisanship is a weakness. Mourdock didn’t get elected (thank goodness), but the Democrat who did get elected, Joe Donnelly, doesn’t have a record I can be particularly proud of as a Hoosier. He may not be making stupid statements about rape and pregnancy, but he votes pretty much exclusively along contemporary pro-life lines, which I don’t think is the way to reduce abortions at all. He thinks that the Affordable Care Act should only require employers to cover their employees if they work forty hours a week, as opposed to thirty. He supports the Keystone XL pipeline, even though I don’t know of any arguable benefit to Indiana. As of 2012, he was still on record as opposing same-sex marriage which is going to be embarrassing in X number of years when he changes his mind. Looking through his voting record, I just shake my head over and over, because I can’t believe this is the best Democrat our state had to offer.
These are just the recent political embarrassments Indiana has been home to. It’s hard to see these things in the news, especially when I genuinely like living in Indiana. Almost two years ago, I moved back here after more than three years in New Hampshire. I thought I was only moving home because I wanted to be close to my family and had a good job opportunity here, but now that I’m back, I realize that there is a lot to Indiana that I really do love. I am not embarrassed to be from Indiana, even though there are some times when I have to shake my head at the things that happen here.
Because I spent my childhood here, I know the feeling of chasing friends and dogs through cornfields in the late summer. As a ten year old, I’d go over to a friend’s house and help her saddle two horses, and we rode them through the countryside together. I’ve spent my summers swimming and my winters building snow forts. I am used to big blue skies and the beautiful green of soybean fields. With my siblings, trailed by our dog, we rode our bikes miles upon miles in the country. We poked holes in tin cans and strung them to sticks with yarn and tried to catch minnows in the stream near our house, never successfully.
Pizza King will deliver a delicious, square-sliced Royal Feast pizza to my door with all of its teeny tiny toppings. They don’t bat an eye when we order extra nacho cheese cups to slather onto our pizza slices. We call vacuums “sweepers” and lollipops “suckers.” My daughter takes ballet class at the old Masonic temple in town, which has been turned into a beautiful arts center. The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis is the biggest in the world. We have a great zoo.
I watch deer in my backyard at dusk. I walk in the woods behind our house and find piles of old bricks, which I shape into firepits for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs.
The kind of street harassment my friends in big cities talk about doesn’t happen to such an extreme here. Most of the people I encounter from day to day are kind and thoughtful and helpful. Strangers are pleasant when you interact with them in public. The driving isn’t bad. Traffic is rarely a nightmare. I can drive to Indianapolis, a great little city, in less than 90 minutes. The housing market is affordable. We have great teachers and countless colleges and universities.
There are a lot of ways Indiana could be better. We need easier access to recycling, more support for our educators, a louder and better dialogue about racism in our communities (mostly on the part of White people who like to pretend that such a thing doesn’t exist here). We need better representatives, and we need to scale waaaay back on our 2nd Amendment idolatry. I’d be really happy if we could get some people into political office that I actually like, or if we could at least get some people into office who vote for the benefit of their constituents, instead of against them.
Even when my state is home to embarrassing policies and politicians, or bad rankings or cringeworthy news stories, I’m still glad I live here. Maybe I can make a difference in changing some of the things that bother me about my state. Maybe I can demonstrate that it’s possible to celebrate something at the same time as I can be critical of it.
I like being a Hoosier.