Listening at Lost Nation

Shouting comes easily. Listening does not. Especially in February 2017.

Today’s Washington Post offers an exercise in listening to the real-life, on-the-ground voices of Iowans who voted for Donald Trump – who they are, why they did, and how they view him one month after his inauguration.

Click HERE for the story as told by Jenna Johnson who listened to ordinary folks in beer halls, barber shops, meat-processing plants, and places like the Pub Club in Lost Nation.

Does the piece have a bias? Of course it does, but it asks the questions and reports answers we otherwise might not hear. It begins:

“Tom Godat, a union electrician who has always voted for Democrats, cast his ballot for Donald Trump last year as ‘the lesser of two evils’ compared to Hillary Clinton.

“He’s already a little embarrassed about it.”

The point of view is biased. but it’s not fake. For those of us who are deeply troubled and unable to understand the results of the 2016 election, this reporter’s reporting of the real-life views of real-life people offers insight not available in the silo within which we live most of the time.

“On the other end of Clinton County is the tiny town of Lost Nation, where the president received 66 percent of the vote. On Wednesday night, a couple dozen local farmers and union guys gathered to play pool at the Pub Club, situated amid downtown storefronts that once contained a funeral home. (Beer is chilled where bodies were once stored.)”

Only by listening will people such as I begin to understand what happened last November and gather wisdom from beyond our silos to sustain us through this cold winter when soul food sometimes seems so far away.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 27, 2017.


Elizabeth and the Pipeline Patriot

Imagine your name is Elizabeth. You’re 64 years old. Your grandparents have left you and your sister an inheritance – farm land – in Storm Lake, Iowa. You and your sister grew up next door to Iowa in Nebraska and, though you now live in another state, you’ve looked on with pride as Nebraska put the screws to the Keystone XL pipeline.

You’re sitting at home. The phone rings. You answer. The voice on the other end represents an oil company from North Dakota.

After you finish talking with the man on the phone, you email your Nebraska high school girlfriends describing the conversation. It reads like this:

Another oil company – Dakota Access, LLC – is planning to run a pipeline from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. They wanted to pay us $16,000 plus three years of crop damage for easement on our Iowa land.

I had a rather funny conversation with the young representative from Texas who was sitting in Storm Lake, Iowa contacting land owners and farmers. When I asked him if it was voluntary, he said, “We are told not to discuss that.” What? (I already knew it was, just wanted to see what he would say.)

So they are telling people that a pipeline is coming and not that they don’t have to do it. I asked him why landowners would want to do this and he said, “Well, for the compensation involved and…for the nation.” I laughed out loud.

Then we talked about the environment and Nebraska and the recent pipeline spill in western North Dakota, and how I thought our leaders better get it together or we were going to destroy the planet. At which time he said, “Maybe we should have a woman president.” He had me for a moment until he said, “21 days a month, my wife is the nicest person on earth.” Seriously. He is from Texas.

We ended the conversation with me suggesting a nice young man like himself should get into the windmill business and then give me a call back. He said he would take me OFF the list, with a note – don’t bother trying to talk to this lady again. Amen brother. (until it turns into eminent domain 😦

Happy Valentine’s day to all you women who used to be nice 21 days a month but now….skies the limit.

The conversation is real. It happened to Elizabeth while sitting at home in Princeton, New Jersey. Do I hear a vote for another Elizabeth for President?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2015. Elizabeth’s email, sent originally to her dear friend Kay Stewart, is reprinted here with Elizabeth’s permission. The coloration of the text and the links have been added to the original.