I live in Keswick, IA. You've never heard of it. No one has. We have a population of 240, that includes the livestock. There's a grocery store with one loaf of white bread on the shelves and rows of white people lined up to consume burnt Folgers and home-cooked plates of greasy eggs. The one worker greets you with phrases such as “I ain't seen you 'round here before” or “Are you new to these parts?”. There's a bar so you can drink yourself into forgetting where you live (the only source of entertainment), a handful of rundown abandoned buildings, and a lumber store for all of your woody needs. A town where everything you do is “gay.” Sitting outside reading a book, “gay.” Drinking tea instead of Busch Light, “gay.” Owning an indoor cat, “gay.” Making out with another man, “gay.” Everything is “gay.”
In a place where “warsh” replaces “wash”, diversity, proper English, logic, and microbrews are frowned upon. If it’s not farm jargon, your knowledge is worthless. Your degree is nothing in the light of presidential tweets and Fox News.
If your friends aren't cookie-cutter, worn-bluejeans-wearing, flag-waving white folk, they're an oddity. I'm not saying everyone's racist. I’ve only had to kick one person off my lawn for phrases like, “she was a nice girl. I can't believe she had a black baby.” (Spoiler alert: it was the mayor.)
The problem comes from being behind the times for being ahead of the times in a town that's still behind the times. You’re new? Sheriffs will crawl by your home because reading a book on your porch is suspicious behavior. You could meet the population over a pee-colored American lager at the tavern if fist-fighting the locals is your idea of a good time. Jail time? Pulp Fiction basement scene?
The freedom to use your land as you see fit and everyone knowing your name are attractive ideas. But as a reading, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ+, “accept everyone except the unaccepting,” stout-drinking, left-winger you might run into some issues. A lot of issues.
Even the kids in the liberal city where I grew up had rural summer jobs castrating hogs and detasseling. Nights were spent around bonfires. People listened to gross country tunes. How different could these 50 miles be? Turns out it's the difference between “that's stupid” and “that's gay.” The opposition between dead-baby jokes and racist jokes. Political propaganda in the front yard and nooses hanging off of ranch gates (I've counted three in my immediate area). Books to pass the time and “reading's for homos.”
Don't go to church on Sunday? You might as well be drinking abortions out of a fancy wine glass made of Reagan’s bones. Wear a rainbow and get your house egged. I mean, you’re going to hell anyway, right? God forbid you tell them you’re an atheist.
Everything is so white. Like, eggshell is darkness. I'm white. They're white. They don't believe in wheat bread. Mayonnaise is hot sauce. Hip-hop’s unthinkable.
A college degree makes you a foreigner. Being a foreigner makes you… I don’t want to think about it. A sedan? Where the hell is your pick-up?! That's gay.
If your TV isn't tuned to Fox News and your occupation isn't corn, soybeans, corn, hogs, or corn, then this isn’t where you want to be. So saddle up, cowboy, this town ain't progressive enough for a person like you.