Several years ago, I wrote a story titled "The Way of Things in Fly-Over Country." It was a zombie story without being about zombies... and zombie stories are very hard to sell.
I eventually did sell the story to an anthology, and I'm sure a few people may have read it. It even matriculated to James Roy Daley's Best New Zombie Tales volume 3 despite not really being about zombies. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, one in which teenage boys sneak out of an fortified encampment to challenge their manhood on the "outside." No spoilers here, but if you ask, I'll send you a PDF copy (just drop a message to aaron.polson(at)gmail.com).
I've spent my whole life in fly-over country--Kansas--and I've voted in six presidential elections here since my first in 1996. (I was a senior in high school when Bill Clinton was elected, but couldn't vote in the '92 election as I was seventeen at the time... a world away). The state in which I was born, the state I love despite her faults, always goes red. Kansas and her six electoral votes always go to the Republican candidate, regardless of the fact that I have never voted Republican. Does my vote count?
It doesn't always feel like it, just as I'm sure a Republican voting for president in California may feel the same. Just over 400,000 voters or 36% of votes cast in Kansas went to Hilary Clinton. When I look at the electoral map of the United States, the largest swaths are red in every election, despite any percentage won by the other side.
Fly over country. There aren't enough of us here to matter. The electoral system makes us a lock for a Republican candidate even if he has never seen the Republican River. (Which, by the way, ran just south of my hometown of Clay Center. I've written stories about that river.) I'm not sure even one Republican--or Democrat, for that matter--nominee in my lifetime could find the Republican River on a map.
I love my state. I love the sound of a field of wheat in a spring wind. I can still hear the sound of grain elevators running all night during harvest season. I love the dust-tinted sunsets in orange and pink. I cherish the quiet afternoons I spent with fishing rod at that river or some farmer's pond. My formative years unfolded on dirt roads and with shotguns and too many fireworks. We used to shoot cheap shaving cream cans just to watch the spray and white foaming explosion. I am Kansas through and through, regardless of my vote.
I live in fly-over country. You look at an electoral map and hear newscasters say words like "uneducated." I see people I worked with at the grocery store in high school. I see my uncles farming in Nemaha County. I see the faces of the students who I help enroll in technical college to learn a trade and find a good job. I see my co-workers and the parents of those students. I see humans, my brothers and sisters.
I may not agree with their politics, but I stand with them as a Kansan. I stand with all of us in fly-over country. National politics have disaffected so many of these Kansans. The politics of our state have hurt many of them. They are ordinary people. They love their children. They work hard. They care deeply. And, right or wrong, they believe.
Our country is littered with hate right now. I don't feel comfortable with the president-elect, but that is the subject for another day. My feelings will not change those of his supporters, either. Here in fly-over country, we have opinions, too. All of us. And we don't always agree.
Even so, our strength is together, not apart. Our division is killing us. Failing to see each and every human in this great nation as just that--a fellow human--is killing us.
I'm done blaming. It's time for work. I want to use my voice in this red wilderness, a barbaric howl from fly-over country, until we can look each other in the eye and realize we are, all of us, family.