June 24, 2017

I’m not leaving my red state

Image credit: umich.edu

Consider this the opposite of a “Why I’m Leaving New York” thinkpiece.

I’m a lifelong Democrat, born in Texas and raised in the notably liberal college town of Lawrence, Kansas. I’m pro-choice, pro-equality, a childhood beneficiary of programs like WIC and Section 8, a graduate of the University of Kansas thanks in part to Pell grants, and the wife of a Catholic public school teacher. And I’m not leaving my red state any time soon.

Since the election, the internet thinkpiece machine – conspicuously dominated by writers and publications based on the east coast – has gleefully weighed in on the backwardness of red states. Red states hate intellectual minds. Rural Americans are out of touch. What a bunch of dummies we have living in the Midwest and the South.

The days following the election alienated me not from the people I live and work with every day, but from people in other parts of the country who voted the same way I did.


That implication that liberals, immigrants, people of color, and educated people only exist in blue states? That the rest of us are just animals? Oof, it stings.

But dammit, I like it here.

The rent is cheap in red states. The parking is mostly free, and the commutes are pretty reasonable. The people are friendly. We have burnt ends and all of the nation’s major barbecue hubs – Kansas City, Texas, Memphis and South Carolina – are in the red portions.

In Kansas, you can experience a game in the Phog or take pictures in that damn sunflower field. You’re never far from a quiet place with a sky full of the brightest stars you’ve ever seen. We have Art’s and Mary’s chips and all of the seasons, even the terrible ones. The air is clean and the water is safe to drink right from the tap.

I like bringing my groceries home in my SUV and having a second bedroom just to hold all our stuff. I like never paying more than $7 for a beer. I like generally being left alone by the rest of the country.

The majority of voters in my state decided overt racism, sexism and homophobia were acceptable qualities for the president of the United States. And, in the case Kansas, it wasn’t even close. And from the coasts came one recurring question:

If you’re not racist or sexist or homophobic, why not just leave?

Because this is my home. Because I believe Kansans deserve the same access to health care, education, parental leave, and just plain equality that New Yorkers and Californians deserve. Because the color of my skin means I don’t have to fear for my personal safety as many Kansans do.

It’s hard to make a difference in your community if you pack up and leave. If everyone who cares about adequately funding public schools leaves Kansas, the children who remain won’t have adequately funded public schools. If everyone who believes in LGBT rights leaves Kansas, LGBT teens in the state are left vulnerable. If everyone who’s actually willing to pay taxes for the greater good leaves Kansas, the roads and bridges and services all crumble.

I still believe Kansas has a soul worth fighting for. And I’m not ready to abandon my state.* See y’all in 2018.

*Full disclosure: In the event that I leave my current city of Wichita, it will be to move to greater Kansas City or Dallas. There is no blue state in my foreseeable future.

Sarah Kelly Shannon
Sarah Kelly Shannon 10 Articles
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Sarah Kelly Shannon has three first names, but is always looking for a few more. A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Sarah has lived a total of 24 years in college towns. Her brief journalism career took her to College Station and Iowa City, where she became one of the foremost authorities on late-night junk food and quality beer specials. Sarah's bulldog, Red, is the greatest dog in the world. That may sound like a subjective statement, but it really isn't. You're just wrong.

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