Interstate 44 meanders from the central-eastern part of Missouri on a southern bent towards Oklahoma, through lush forests, across rivers and tributaries, and adjacent to the rocky, limestone outcroppings of the Ozarks.
It is a breathtaking landscape until you reach the flat lands near Rolla and St. James when warring billboards begin to dominate the terrain. The massive signs and gargantuan crosses are somewhat distracting, but seem acceptable to residents of the area. In a quirky show of a people willing to ‘just get along,’ messages for salvation are interspersed between the sparkly adult store advertisements for establishments such as the Pleasure Zone Adult Store, Romantix, and Christie’s Toy Box, where adults may shop for a variety of sex toys and such.
I doubt this is what former Missouri Congressman, William Duncan Vandiver (D-1896-1902) meant as he addressed his fellow political blowhards in the early days of the tadpole and guppy inhabited Swamp. In one such speech from the floor, he decried, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.” And thus, the phrase became commonplace and is now proudly displayed on their vehicle license plates.
To make Vandiver flop in his grave, like a fish on the banks of Lake Ozark, the Show Me State is now raising Republicans along with the corn crops. In fact, Missouri voted 58% for Trump and to 38% for Hillary. It was not a close race in a state which was competitive not long ago.Rolla, Missouri
I stopped in Rolla for coffee and fuel, parking in the shadow of a sparkly billboard, and ran into Julie Stavos, 38, a soccer mom with a late model Suburban full of kids. Julie was a Trump voter in 2016 and has not wavered in her support.
“I am 100% behind the man. Why our Republican Congress can’t do the same is beyond me.”
I asked her what was the biggest problem facing America today, and she did not hesitate one second, ”We look like a third-world country. No one respects us anymore. The violence, the targeting of police and conservative thoughts and policies needs to stop now before we lose this country. And that is not Trumps fault whatsoever.”
I bid goodbye to the wildly disparate land of adult video stores, weird-named fudge confectioners, and headed north towards Jefferson City and Columbia. The landscape morphed into lush farm fields and the people stayed conservative. I stopped at the Star 63 Diner in Macon, Missouri for a sandwich and glass of iced tea. A young woman with a name tag that read “Ella” waited on several other customers, delivering heaping plates of the daily special that included fresh sweet corn. The television was tuned to the afternoon program, The Talk, but the sound was off and I eavesdropped on two truck drivers discuss their paltry pay.
At the next table, two women of a certain age, enjoying a ladies lunch, noticed that I was taking notes. Encouraged, I explained my mission and they agreed to discuss politics for a few minutes.
Emily Jenkins, 60, and Bonnie Routzen, 59 were not big Trump fans, but were conservative voters.
“I know he’s got America’s best interests at heart, but I wish he’d pay more attention to what he says in those tweets,” Bonnie offered.
“I don’t much care about the tweeting,” Emily stated, “but I do like how he doesn’t sugar coat a damn thing. This political correctness needed to stop a long time ago.”
I asked if they would vote for Trump again in four years, and they both answered in concert, “yes.” So, that issue was settled.
My cruise through the Show Me State was pleasant and I met generous, friendly and seemingly law abiding people. But a recent statement from the NAACP caught my attention:
“The NAACP is a membership-based advocacy organization that has worked for generations to protect the hard-fought freedoms of all American citizens—freedoms which are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution—and one of the most basic of those freedoms is the ability to freely travel from state-to-state without fear of threat, violence or harm,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO. “The numerous racist incidents, and the statistics cited by the Missouri Attorney General in the advisory, namely the fact that African Americans in Missouri are 75 percent more likely to be stopped and searched by law enforcement officers than Caucasians, are unconscionable, and are simply unacceptable in a progressive society.
Noted, however I found that the recent statements on Facebook by Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-D14) chilled me to the bone; “I really hate Trump. He’s causing trauma and nightmares. I hope Trump is assassinated!”
Now that should keep the good citizens of Missouri up at night.
Stay tuned to Liberty Nation as Sarah concludes her five part series on the folks in fly over country,“Voices From the Heartland.”