We’re Back in Kansas, Toto – The Progressive, 8/30/2005

Lots of my friends have read and loved Thomas Frank’s bracing book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? As well-documented in Frank’s book, his native state’s rectitudinous rectangularity has morphed from its early radical progressivism to its current radical conservatism. When asked, my friends can restate the premise of the mutation: The right wing expertly manipulated culture issues‚Äîgay marriage, evolution, patriotism‚Äîto avoid real life economic security issues.

But a nagging “huh?” bothers me. Like all those post-election Democrats visiting the Lakoff and Wallis shrines, I thought if I could really answer the Kansas conundrum, we might be able to parse the election. And of course, people would start paying big bucks to visit my shrine.

I do not count myself one of the root-cause, coastal liberal snobs, and maybe that’s the way all coastal liberal snobs think. I love performing in Kansas City. It is a town that has enough civic confidence and flexibility to locate itself in two states. I can vouch that New Yorkers would not be so well-disposed to an Albany, Massachusetts. KC used to be the 7-11 stop on everyone’s westward trek. When the kids in the way back of the Conestogas whined, “Are we there yet?” the family would stop in KC to resupply for the rest of the journey.

The gay population, so besieged in Kansas, is vibrant and feisty. After all Fred Phelps, his family, and their national “Kill Fags Tour” hail from the state capital, Topeka. No one knows whose payroll he is on or where he gets his frequent flier miles. His answer to the question, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” is, of course, Dorothy.

During a bit of free time before one of my shows, I was roaming around KC, idly wondering why do people vote against their own best economic and political interests. That’s when I came upon Hallmark headquarters. Founded in 1910, it has grown to be the dominant force in “the personal expression industry‚Äîhelping people express their feelings and touching the lives of others.” It owns Crown Media of “Hallmark Hall of Fame” fame and Crayola and all its colors, which might explain the garishly forced cheeriness of the town. I think I’m onto something. CSI: Kansas City!

It is my wildly undocumented hunch that Hallmark factories have been illegally dumping in the Missouri River, contaminating the ground water and thus infecting the population. If I could afford the forensics experts, I bet they’d find foiled hearts, glitter effluvia, doily fragments, and inordinately high levels of schmaltz in the outflow. And if I could hire those dogged, laid-off weapons of mass destruction searchers, I have a hunch they would find a secret cache of highly suspicious cards in a spider hole on the Hallmark grounds.

Here’s a selection:

Pre-Birthday Cards
You never believed
That cytoblastphemy
When you adopted your egg
You just called her “Mimi.”

Home School Graduation
You took the test, you did your best.
In all the crowd, you did me proud.
Also available: Embossed Home School Reunion invitations, come in packs of one or two.

Intelligent Design Cards
Why roses are red,
Or the sky is so blue,
Don’t worry your head.
When you haven’t a clue,
I think it’s God, don’t you?

My Hallmark intel people tell me that a new “Over My Dead Body” (“Gays will get married”/”Hillary will be President”/”I’ll give up my Uzi”) humorous line of cards is in the works. Cards are also planned for “On Your Secondary Virginity,” “Your Covenant Marriage Anniversary,” “Fatherland Day,” “Invitation to a Book Burning,” and “Countdown to the Rapture.”