In 1989 I won a National Endowment Grant to study the novel Middlemarch for four weeks at Drake University in DesMoines, Iowa. (My joke at the time was that second prize was eight weeks.)
Iowa has never held a special place in the hearts of non-Iowans. Usually we envision a flat state filled with cornfields if we envision it at all; in fact, one of the first factoids my professor imparted to us was that the corn grown in Iowa is earmarked for pigs, not humans. That put a serious damper on all the corn jokes I had accumulated. Yes, I had an ear for them. See? But I had no pig jokes and remained unfunny for the entire month.
DesMoines, however, was wonderful, filled with friendly people and a genuine sense of community. And once I learned that a pop was a soda and a sack was a bag, I was able to get along like a true Iowan, wolfing down Chicago dogs and breaded pork tenderloin before some Blue Bunny ice cream. I saw Field of Dreams for the first time in Iowa, then dragged a friend along to see it again. By that second time, everyone in the theater had learned the answer to "Is this heaven?" It sounded like an old Latin mass with pews full of respondents—"no, this is Iowa." In English.
Sometimes, though, an individual can sully the reputation of an entire state: Joe Arpaio in Arizona, Paul LePage in Maine, and Steve King in Iowa. That someone like King could represent Iowa's fourth district (just northwest of DesMoines) and the fifth before that for almost twenty years is unfathomable—a black eye for the state. Today, thankfully, one of the nation's finest newspapers, the DesMoines Register, called upon King to resign, a request that is long overdue.
But by the same token—and by virtue of the same racially and ethnically ignorant beliefs and pronouncements, Donald Trump is a black eye for America. In fact, if those two men's public statements are indicative of anything, Trump and Steve King could be compadres, that is if the word didn't hint at Spanish.
The racism of King and Trump is rampant in the Republican party. That is not to imply that every Republican is a racist, but when other elected officials accede meekly to the president's own brand of white supremacy, they become one by proxy. Still, there's hope: what the party does next—after its albeit mild rebuke of Steve King—will speak volumes.