As a five-year resident of Kansas, I have a certain affection for the place. So it is with a heavy heart that I note Rick Santorum’s unambiguous win there today in the Republican caucuses. Great. It’s not like people needed further evidence that the Sunflower State is a bastion of the rabid right.For most people who don’t live there, Kansas is the state where creationism still reigns, where the Phelps family still inveighs against “fags,” and where an abortion provider still stands a good chance of getting shot in the head. The title of that book, What’s the Matter With Kansas?, has become kind of a de facto motto. I tend to misquote the original, “Ad Astra per Aspera” (“To the stars with difficulty”), as “Ad Aspera per Aspera” (“To difficulty with difficulty”). In Kansas politics, it seems like it’s always something.
But that’s not how it was to live there. During my time in Kansas, I only met one person I’d consider a hard-nosed social conservative. He was a querulous ex-Marine who became annoyed whenever I’d cut or hold one of his letters to the editor. The letters usually had to do with blacks and Asians and homosexuals, or something about the Ten Commandments. Like many letter writers, he was a graduate of the Institute for Phonetic Spelling.
Everyone else, though, was pretty darned cool. Friendly and funny and up for dinner at the drop of a hat. Even the rednecks I ran into at Riverfest seemed OK. But I guess neither of those subsets — my friends or tank-topped good ol’ boys — have much to do with the Republican base as it exists today. The people who picked Taliban Rick over Malleable Mitt … I never met those people. Funny how you can spend five years in a state and be so clueless about zeitgeist. Guess I could have visited one of those mega-churches once in awhile.
Anyway, complain about Kansas all you want. But don’t complain about Kansans. The ones I know are the best people in the world. And I’m pretty sure they steered clear of those GOP caucuses.