Phipps: Flyover Country Under the Radar

January 16, 2017 09:43 AM

“Flyover country” has become one of the trigger words for rural America. Since the first recorded instance of its use in 1980, farmers and country dwellers have chafed at the condescension of the term. The idea of urban elites on the coasts looking down their noses at us is a familiar source of indignation.

Only it is nearly impossible to find any actual quotes from New Yorkers or San Fanciscans. Try searching yourself. It turns out that flyover country is something we say that others say about us. We not only created a stereotype of what we think urban citizens are like, we wrote their lines.

While this is a handy way to draw sharp and flattering contrast between our way of life and theirs, this manufactured insult probably obscures a more unsettling possibility.

When Jan and I took a honeymoon cruise on our tenth anniversary - which was when we could finally afford it - we were the only farmers on the boat. I was at the age to be very sensitive to how farmers were perceived.

It was then I learned something my dad had told me not long before. He said when he was twenty, he worried about what the world thought about him. When he was forty he decided he didn't care what the world thought about him. When he reached 60, he discovered the world wasn't thinking about him at all - they were thinking about themselves.

So, do non-rural Americans think about us as flyover country? Almost certainly not. The vast majority don't think about us at all. While many of you may be just as offended by indifference, I think under the radar is a relatively safe place to be these days.

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