To see protestors storming the capitol in a far off, openly liberal place like Madison, Wisconsin is one thing. To see it happening in your own backyard here in what's always been conservative Indiana is another. It's hard to think the sky isn't falling when nearly half the legislature heads off for Illinois. No offense, Illini readers, but who would want to hole up in a hotel in Illinois anyway?
Dire news and predictions dominate national stories. First Egypt erupts in riots. Then Libya is up in flames. Gas prices soar here because of unrest there. A local radio station carries an ad repeatedly about some 'rich American' who is predicting a day that will change America for ever will occur yet this year. It's so dire the Website starts with 'End of America.' I can get depressed enough without watching it, so I haven't checked it out.
Colleagues I know and respect are talking about buying a gun and storing up rations in case of open rebellion. Then there's still the off-the-wall prediction that the world will end next year on a certain date because some ancient Indiana calendar ended then. Only God knows the date, and I seriously doubt if he let some ancient tribe in on the secret. Nevertheless, it all churns in the back of the mind, and sometimes makes you wonder how much good you're doing writing about corn and soybeans and how to grow more in the face of so much unrest.
Old farm implement literature soothes me. It's one reason I collect it. My sweet spot is literature from the 1940s and 1950s- a day when things seemed simpler, more benign, and clearer.
But were they really? A few of the pieces in my collection have something about the war effort (World War II) on the back of the pamphlet. There was rationing, and I know my dad got a hay baler in 1945 only because someone pulled it off the black market for him. Hay balers on the black market—can you believe it?
Just how serene was it in 1941 through 1945? What did the average farmer or farm writer think, writing about how to grow better chickens and corn, when Hitler was advancing across Europe, and the Japanese crippled our fleet in Pearl Harbor?
How did my uncle feel when after finishing World War II as a pilot, he was called back from his farm and young family in 1951 to fly bombing missions over Korea? How did he feel when Russian communists tried to lure him into landing in their air space, and even knew his wife's name and son's name?
How much sense did the world seem to make when John Kennedy was assassinated? Or Martin Luther King? Or Bobby Kennedy? I know something about growing up in the 60s and early 70s- I was a teenager then. I faced going to Vietnam, but escaped it only because I had a high lottery draft number. My cousin didn't escape it. He returned. But to this day he won't talk about it.
What if folks in 1941 or 1951 or 1968 or 2001 had thrown up their hands, said the sky was falling, and quit? Who would have taught the brilliant young minds in agriculture, many of whom either wear or have worn FFA jackets? Who would have invented GMO-hybrids and auto-guidance? Who would have developed drugs that cure cancers that were fatal just a couple decades ago? If Jonas Salk had thrown in the towel, how many people would still suffer from polio?
The world today in Indiana, even in agriculture, is far from perfect. Daily scares come at you from every direction. But when you look back, every Hoosier who has called himself a farmer or farm writer has faced challenges, some perhaps bigger than those we face now. Many have stood tall, not wavered, continued helping their FFA son learn his speech for a contest, or continued checking their pregnant sow or cow at midnight because it's the thing to do.
For those of you who feel overwhelmed by the news, shut it off occasionally. I do. Stay tuned just enough to know what you need to know. And live your life. Keep the faith, both literally and in spirit. Hoosiers have survived tougher times than these. If each one of us stays focused on our job and sticks to our beliefs when called upon to express them, we'll live to fight another day, and Indiana agriculture will be better for it.