Welcome to A Prairie Homeboy Companion

by Fred McKissack Jr. | January 9, 2017 10:14 pm

Welcome to A Prairie Homeboy Companion, a weekly blog exploring progressive activism in the Midwest, as well as an occasional platform for my own thoughts on pop culture, politics, and sports.

Updates are scheduled for Thursday mornings.

I’ll try to mix the storytelling between essays and reported stories, as well as Q&As and multimedia presentations.

Taking a cue from Bojack Horseman, I promise that A Prairie Homeboy Companion will never feature an immersive app centered on curated boxes of snacks.

So, why am I doing this? Despite what November spawned, the Midwest’s progressive tradition is alive.

The roots are deep roots.

Fightin’ Bob La Follette was a Wisconsinite, Eugene Debs was from Indiana, and Chicago was the base from which Ida B. Wells wrote investigative reports on lynching and voter disenfranchisement of poor blacks and whites.

The tradition continues today with a host of voices, including Ruth Conniff, Thomas Frank, and Rep. Keith Ellison.

The blog’s title is not to mock Garrison Keller’s famous radio show. Indeed, this blog has been 20-plus years in the making.

In 1995, I moved from reporting at a daily newspaper outside of St. Louis to working as an editor at The Progressive magazine’s media project.

Madison, Wis., as some folks quip, is often “77 square miles surrounded by reality.” I loved living inside that bubble. Madison continues to be my second hometown. It’s where I met my wife, Lisa Beringer, and where my son was born. I still have wonderful friends there, and I cherish even quick visits.

But what I really learned to enjoy was traveling outside that bubble with friends and, later, my Wisconsin-raised wife and family, to places like the National Mustard Museum. I once served as a judge in a mustard tasting competition.

Wisconsin was where I discovered squeaky cheese curds, learned to snowshoe, developed a taste for venison jerky, and cultured in the proper uses of the phrase “uff dah!

It’s where I discovered the Wisconsin Idea, and met Lincoln Brigade vets, farmers who quoted Kant, and socialist beekeepers. I also witnessed true friendships that transcended ideological boundaries — usually with a shared adoration of the Green Bay Packers.

In 2004, we left Wisconsin for Fort Wayne, Ind., a red state stronghold in a red state.

Fort Wayne is a city of churches and parks. Also strip clubs, but let’s not go there.

Today, Fort Wayne’s traditional conservatism is at odds with DIY millennialism. The city, like the state, is more complicated than just color-coded pop political science.

Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton in Indiana — no surprise. President Obama won the state by 1 percentage point in 2008 — a shocking result.

Bernie Sanders primary election rally last spring drew about two thousand people at a rally inside a college gymnasium. It was a far livelier crowd than Bill Clinton’s stump speech for his wife’s candidacy.

Demographically, Fort Wayne has one of the largest populations of Burmese refugees in the United States. The city’s Latino population has been here for decades, and continues to prosper and grow.

These are the spaces I want to explore.

Please feel free to contact me a [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Medium.

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