Iowa is undeserving of Minnesotans’ Iowa jokes

At a Troy State game, I saw a guy in a maroon and gold T-shirt that read, “Who hates Iowa? We hate Iowa.”

This puzzled me. I tend to think “hate” at a football game should be reserved for the team – and its respective state – that Minnesota is actually playing. But the fan’s display was not too surprising because Minnesotans constantly ridicule Iowa, even though the jokes have little substantiation in reality.

Perhaps the most common justification for making fun of Iowa is the state’s many cornfields. This seems ridiculous coming from Minnesotans, considering most of southern Minnesota is also composed of cornfields. It is true that with the exception of a province in China, Iowa is the largest stretch of farmland in the world. But this is also nothing to make fun of; rather, it is something Iowans take great pride in. Though we have an economy increasingly dependent on technology, people will always need to eat. If not for the corn, pigs, soybeans and other products Iowa produces, people all over the world would starve.

Oh, but Iowa has so many flat spots, you might say. So does Minnesota; actually, most of Iowa consists of gently rolling hills. Along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Iowa is a series of steep limestone bluffs. Because I’m from Iowa, I’m a little predisposed toward Highway 52, but having driven through 30 states, I can safely say the drive from southern Minnesota through Iowa is one of the prettiest stretches of highway. The change of seasons is barely perceptible in Minneapolis, but while driving through the countryside to Iowa, I can feel the earth prepare for winter and come alive again in the spring.

There is much more to Iowa than its beautiful land between two mighty rivers. The oldest mosque in the United States calls Cedar Rapids its home and Postville contains a kosher meatpacking plant. The state has also been experimenting with alternative forms of energy by adding ethanol to gasoline and supporting windmills, stretching from western Iowa through Nebraska.

There actually is a time when other states pay serious attention to Iowa – right before the Iowa caucus, the nation’s first statewide presidential poll. A caucus is the most basic form of democracy, where your body is your vote. In precincts across Iowa’s 99 counties, people will literally stand up for the people they want to elect.

Iowa’s largest Democratic Party event prior to the caucuses – Sen. Tom Harkin’s steak fry – took place three weekends ago, giving Minnesotans another reason to like the state. Harkin gave a well-known eulogy last year in Williams Arena for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, whom he called his best friend in the Senate.

This year, 6,500 people from 15 states converged on the Iowa fairgrounds to see seven Democratic presidential candidates and hear former President Bill Clinton speak at Harkin’s event. Only in Iowa can you stand in a soggy field and eat a steak while meeting all these politicians.

When you Minnesotans are making Iowa jokes, think again. Whether it’s because of the state’s vibrant agricultural, cultural or political landscapes, there are few reasons to hate Iowa.

R.R.S. Stewart’s column appears alternate Wednesdays. She welcomes comments at [email protected]