Indiana Wants Me, But I Can’t Go Back There

 


Way back at the dawn of time, I went to college in Indiana, the University of Notre Dame. Born in New York City, I was painfully aware of how different I was from the Hoosiers I was meeting. In South Bend, Ind., for example, they refused to turn their clocks forward or backward for Daylight Savings Time. They claimed that it upset the cows. And in my junior year, a schoolmate introduced me to a candidate for the United States Senate, a guy named Dan Quayle, so when I came out of the closet a few weeks later, I figured that the opinions of my Indiana neighbors would not be supportive.

There’s an old song by R. Dean Taylor with the lyrics “Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there.” In my case, Indiana doesn’t really want me, at least according to the Indiana legislature and Governor Pence.

My husband was watching Rachel Maddow this week, and it was clear that my 11-year-old Zane and my 9-year-old Aidan would rather watch the “Lab Rats” or “Teen Titans Go!,” but we kept Rachel on as she interviewed pundits about this law and the proposed law in Arkansas. Zane sighed, “And I thought we were going to watch something fun on television!”

How do you talk about politics with your 11-year-old? How do you tell him this stuff is important? When I was 11, we were watching men landing on the moon, and my Pop was telling me that Richard Nixon was a great president, that Nixon got us to the moon, and would get us to China. Clearly I embraced none of Pop’s Republican politics. Four decades before even that, my Pop was a little boy, listening to Grandma Sadie telling him how the New Deal would save America and that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a great president. Clearly, Pop embraced none of Grandma Sadie’s Irish Democrat politics.

I can see the pattern now. Once I tell them that I’m a registered Democrat, Zane and Aidan will no doubt register as Republicans in, oh my gosh, 2022 and 2024, but it doesn’t mean that I will give up on them. “Zane, I admit that Rachel Maddow is not nearly as much fun as ‘Uncle Grandpa' or 'Gravity Falls.' But television isn’t always about getting yourself entertained. Sometimes it’s about learning who is learning how the world is changing and what you can do to change it.”

Zane is at that age when he might not like his parents very much, but God help anyone else trying to criticize them. “You mean that this guy (Pence) wouldn’t let you guys into a restaurant?”

“It’s a little like that. It’s another form of separation. Remember when we talked about segregation in the South and the march on Selma?” He nodded.

Teachable moments. As luck would have it (or an intervening deity; I am never quite sure), Zane has been studying up about Mahatma Gandhi, Jainism and Martin Luther King, Jr. in his sixth grade Social Studies class. “Dad,” he asked, “Remember what they did in Alabama? The boycott? Why don’t we have a boycott? Why don’t we boycott Indiana?”

Aidan suddenly got interested. Nothing intrigues a 9-year-old quite so much as another form of protest. “Yeah, and we could ask Aunt Dorla and Aunt JJ and they can start a girlcott!”

So that’s what the four of us are doing. We’re boycotting Indiana. Not that any of us were planning a visit in the near future. My graduating class at Notre Dame celebrates its 35th reunion this year, but truth be told, I had little inclination to attend anyway.

I got to thinking about those farmers in South Bend who refused to set their clocks forward for an hour, and I thought maybe it was time for them to set their clocks forward 50 years.

It is likely that Indiana will neither notice nor care about our boycott, as the absence of one more mixed race/gay-fathered nuclear family with rescue dogs will not bring the economy to its knees, but it is a beginning.

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