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The Talk of Iowa: Hope on the Wind

     We came to Iowa for home truths of the heartland and got a stiff surprising dose this morning.  In his songs of the prairie–“so beautiful, stark and real”–singer-songwriter Pat Hazell invokes the memory of Brewster Higley, who wrote “Home on the Range,” and the novelist Willa Cather.   He was playing harmonica and piano, and singing, this morning at the Java Cafe in Iowa City, making the most piercing summary of the  local comments we’ve heard on the Democratic presidential caucuses.  “I don’t buy into any of it myself,” Hazell said in conversation after his morning gig on “The Talk of Iowa” on public station WSUI.  Hazell is cheerful, ageless, unsentimental.  “I feel bad for the heartland that so many people do buy into it… Iowans make good soldiers.  Maybe a high literacy rate wasn’t that good of an idea.  People obey orders too much.”   A war on terrorism has become “basically a way to intimidate the American people,” he commented in a reluctant digression from music into politics.  “It’s circling around now to the point that there probably are terrorists out there, we’ve created such a climate for them.”  Pat Hazell says he’s a libertarian.  Like the vast majority of Iowans we’ve met, he won’t be caucusing Monday night.   There is hope in the heartland, he sang and said, but it’s not in politics these days.  It’s in the history and hardship of the plains, in love and prayer, in the wind.  A disconcerting proportion of Iowans just turn away in silence, or laugh, or roll their eyes when a stranger asks about the presidential campaign.  Are Pat Hazell’s lyrics what ordinary people are thinking?  Please listen and comment.

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