Here’s a picture as we approached the outskirts of Guymon, OK, which actually proved to be a bustling little town.  Sadly, we passed so many towns that were clearly on their last legs.  This led to a really interesting discussion on the intellectual and emotional landscape of the plains.  People often talk about urban blight and how it has led to a sense of hopeless in the inner cities – why take personal responsibility when it’s not your America anyway?  If that’s true, then is something similar happening in the heartland?  Is the increasing radicalization of politics in places like Kansas actually a representation of this sense of despair?  We passed dozens of very angry anti-abortion signs in Kansas, and according to some research by our friend Ben there’s only one abortion provider in the entire state, far away in Kansas City.  There seems to be this desire to rage against the unseen forces that are destroying their lives, but the targets that are selected seem random and utterly meaningless.  We read a story in a Kansas newspaper about state legislative attempts to ban strip clubs, and to think that this is the main threat to the state is beyond laughable.  The point that the author of the fascinating book What’s the Matter with Kansas? (and I really need to reread it after this trip) is that it is a very intentional bait and switch on the part of Republican party leaders to get people angry about social or cultural issues while ignoring the thornier economic issues.  It does make you wonder who does actually speak for the common people of a seemingly dying region.


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