Dave Simpson: Strike ‘Heartland’ From the OK List

Those of us who live in Flyover Country are in big trouble once again with our more evolved bi-coastal cousins.

Dave Simpson

February 04, 20205 min read

(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Those of us who live in Flyover Country are in big trouble once again with our more evolved bi-coastal cousins. 

Dang, we’ve gone and done it again, Ma. Another ding-dong faux pas.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (and did it ever take me a while to learn how to spell THAT name), who is proud of the fact that he polled his campaign staff to see if they have suffered “micro aggressions” while in his employ, has nevertheless stepped in it big time by using a term that many of us did not realize is politically incorrect.

(The How Dare You Scolds need to put out a weekly newsletter so that we can all keep up with what suddenly is NOT OK to say. It would be a big help.)

It seems that Mayor Pete, despite his many good intentions as he runs for president, got himself into a pickle (unacceptable food-group cultural appropriation?) when he claimed to have some kind of special virtue in his “vision shaped by the American Heartland.”

To our surprise out here in the Big Empty (I think it’s still OK to use that term), the word “Heartland” is apparently now on the Official Do Not Say List, because it has been deemed a “dog whistle” (a subtle indicator of bigotry), a micro-aggression, and – as is everything else Democrats don’t like – racist. (I knew they’d get around to that last one.)

For years now, we have heard the term “Flyover Country.” And if folks like us, who live in Flyover Country, were in the habit of telling other people how to talk (we aren’t), we might call the term Flyover Country a dog whistle, implying that we are backwoods, unsophisticated hicks.

Since the term Flyover Country has been used for years, I think of it less as a dog whistle, and more of a fog horn of coastal superiority. It has pretty much entered the lexicon.

(I once lived in an area of Illinois that some called the “Heart of Illinois,” because of its upper middle of the state location. But wags – every zip code has them – pointed out that it was more like the “Pancreas of Illinois,” or the “Gall Bladder of Illinois.” We won’t get into what organs or body parts areas of Southern Illinois might be dubbed.)

So anyway, a Buttigieg critic pointedly asked if living in Compton, Cal., might also provide a “vision shaped by the American Heartland.” And a journalist who said she grew up out here in whatever you can still call where I live, dubbed our area the “land of casseroles, county fairs and Friday night bingo.” She can apparently say this, having somehow escaped living where I live, and not be accused of dog whistling. But it sure sounds like dog whistling to me, even though my hearing isn’t what it used to be.

For the record, even though I live in deepest Flyover Country – you can hardly even see the planes flying over my back yard, they’re up so high – I have not been to a county fair in decades. I don’t play bingo. (Yet.)  And casseroles are not on the South Beach Diet.

Amazing, isn’t it, what you can get away with saying in these otherwise contentious times, if your political beliefs are dubbed correct. For the rest of us, it’s open season.

Now Buttigieg will have to apologize for where he was born, and the color of his skin, his faulty “vision,” and probably some other stuff we haven’t thought to be outraged about yet. The only thing he won’t have to apologize for is being gay, which is gangbusters with the How Dare You Scolds.

Since they are mildly derogatory terms, it is probably still OK to refer to where I live as “the Big Lonesome,” “the Big Empty,” “the Corn Belt,” “the Sticks,” “East Bum Something or Other,” “Rubesilvania,” and my favorite, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.”

The acceptability of these terms could change at any time, however, so keep a close eye on the How Dare You Scolds for guidance.

In the meantime, so long from Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.