by Alexandra Weliever
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I didn’t realize how protective I was over the Hoosier State until attending an in-state college, where I met people who had preconceived, occasionally false, notions about Indiana and her residents.
According to some, our state comprises only cornfields, soybeans and rednecks, with a couple square miles of hippies smack dab in the middle, known as Indianapolis. Everyone who doesn’t live in Indy spends their days wearing FFA vests to school, showing pigs at 4-H fairs and helping their farmer parents during harvest season in the fall. The most popular event of the year is the Indy 500, which everyone watches, regardless of their interest in racing.
Unfortunately for those wanting to believe Indiana is a state full of Mike Pence wannabees, there’s a lot more to the state than corn and cars. The beliefs out-of-staters have about Indiana may have a kernel of truth to them, but they are far from the whole cob.
Assumption #1: We eat corn all day, every day.
Do California residents nibble on silicon chips for breakfast? Do people from Idaho bite into raw potatoes as an afternoon snack? Do New Yorkers have pizza and hot dogs for every meal? I don’t think so.
Assumption #2: Everyone is really into farming.
Sure, one of my high school spirit days was “Down on the Farm” day (affectionately called “North Put” day by some students), and just about everyone wore flannels, overalls or cowboy hats. Some even drove their families’ tractors to school, and one student memorably rode a stick horse around between classes every day.
But on non-exaggerated days, most students didn’t arrive to school with hay in their hair. We didn’t have an FFA club. The only reason I knew anything about farming was because my grandfather owned one back in the day, a couple towns away. The extent of that knowledge is that you plant soybeans every other year, with corn on the off years, to promote healthy nutrients, or something.
Being known for one of our main exports has somehow translated into every person in the state being somehow connected to working manual labor in the fields. While there is a non-zero number of farmers in the state, it’s far from the number-one occupation here.
In reality, the closest I’ve ever gotten to that is husking corn at Kroger for my mom to cook dinner with.
Assumption #3: Indianapolis is the only speck of blue in the state
When people see election maps color-coded by party, the bright red covering Indiana (save the blueberry patch of the capital) may lead many to assume the worst — that our state is full of gruffy men with enormous AK-47s in one pocket and Confederate flags in the other, shouting racial slurs between periodic guzzles of their cans of Coors.
Okay, so maybe not everyone thinks that. But with the recent ideological split of the GOP and all the uncertainty that comes with attending college states away from their hometown, many of my West Coast friends arrived, understandably worried over how conservative the state would be.
To be fair, the two people I’m closest to at Purdue come from the heart of Silicon Valley, and Seattle, so anywhere they move would seem less liberal than they’re used to.
Those coming to Indiana may still hold the belief that everyone is a Republican. While being a conservative isn’t inherently bad in any way, the belief they rule the state just isn’t true.
Sure, the atmosphere seems a bit more conservative than that of other states. One of my former teachers had a plaque with the 2nd Amendment hung on his wall, as opposed to the “Coexist” posters that adorned the walls of my Seattleite friend’s classroom.
Centrists and left-leaning people still exist here, though. The mayor of South Bend is making headlines as the first openly gay executive in Indiana, who may run for president one of these days. The 2018 Women’s March attracted nearly 4,000 protesters to Indy.
Indiana isn’t as simple as it seems at first glance, and the diversity of its residents should not be discounted in any attempt to red-wash the state.
It’s understandable to worry about where you’ll be living the next four years, especially as a young college student. Moving to a state with completely different geography, towns and demographics would terrify me, too.
But living in Indiana isn’t horrible. It’s not even subpar.
Growing up in Greencastle, IN, gave me the best tools and skills to deal with the rest of my life. I meet a lot of people I disagree with, have to work to defend my beliefs and now try every day to show out-of-staters why this is one of the best states in the nation.
Could we be better?
You betcha. But then again, what state doesn’t have room for improvement?