The admission by a local poet to being "incapable of confrontation" led me to reflect upon why Kansas is the reddest of red states. "Power concedes nothing without a demand," as a famous person once said (and he oughta know!); it's precisely demands - esp. of people in power - that midwesterners (and maybe Americans generally) seem incapable of. Demanding and confronting are not "polite" (i.e., quietist) activities, and therefore are cardinal sins in these parts - even for political liberals. Accordingly, that which has happened happens again - which is a good definition of conservatism. And this state of affairs makes it easy for an unscrupulous person bent on political power to get it and keep it. One doesn't talk back to one's betters, around here. Consequently, nobody fights, so nothing changes.
In the state capitol in Topeka, there is (or was) a photograph from 1893 of the Populist Party legislators who were elected (as a majority) in 1892. They pose, brandishing rifles, some, next to their desks. The Republicans ended up stealing the election and ejecting the Populists from the capitol w/the help of the National Guard. But the incident shows that Kansans were not always as cowed and timid as they are now (a point Thomas Frank has tried to emphasize); perhaps they were more desperate, perhaps they were more ornery. All that is certain is that they are very different today.
Then I came across the following, from the book Parenthood in a Free Nation (1963):
"Perhaps the whole thing is that she isn't afraid to be afraid, when there's real danger. She's not afraid to show anger when a situation calls for anger. She isn't afraid to take a chance on being disappointed if her plans go wrong. She meets hostility on the part of a classmate with a certain amount of - well, almost composure. As a matter of fact, she actually seems, somehow, to have a very good understanding of what the world is like. She's learning to take things in stride. She seems to know - and really feel it - that when she gets thrown off balance she is capable of regaining her footing."
This passage describes a fourth grader, but I devoutly wish the same could be said of University of Kansas students - graduate and undergraduate alike - today. Not to mention everyone else in the state, the midwest, and the nation.
Kevin Varrone's BOX SCORE: An Autobiography of Zeroes - [I'll be delivering this talk in Ottawa, Kansas on Friday. In the meantime, I highly recommend Kevin's book; I've read it a dozen times now, and it has rew...
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