What I Have Learned From Photographing 400 Towns in Iowa
Cody Weber

This is a beautiful piece. It’s evocative and an important view into a large area of our country where grass is growing over the abandoned streets of industrial progress. And you know why it works? Because you are asking us to relate, as humans, wherever we are.

There is a swell of factionalism happening — in the US, perhaps globally — where one voice is positioned against another. It’s fair. We are a huge population with limited airwaves and a dispersed public. But we shouldn’t have silos of identity that are completely at odds with one another.

Nostalgia — Were times really better? We were children. When I was little, my mother worked all day, went to school at night, smoked quietly when we were asleep while she struggled to deal with the hardships. But, we are always parents and most decent people try and shelter their children. My mother never complained or cried to me. My father has similar stories of growing up with him mother in the 1940’s. Things were not better in bygone times and the American Dream was as much as myth then as it has always, like most posterized pitches, been something we aspire to and savor the heroes of. We are a country of struggle. We had Irish immigrants, urban slums, gangs (19th century), segregated votes, depressions, world wars, the dust bowl, dead pioneers on the trails, illiteracy, child labor, McCarthyism, Japanese Internment, the hanging gardens, The Hearts of Atlanta, spousal abuse, prohibition, mobs, ghettos, insane incarceration rates, executions, chain gangs, kidnappings (Charles Lindberg), civil rights era deaths and protests, Korea, Vietnam… god, I can go on and on. There has always been trouble. But life is life and we continue, hoping that we come out ahead. We keep fighting, but we still stop to have dinner with loved ones and raise our children and fall in love. Maybe I just learned this from parents who fought in wars and fought to immigrate. There is no one with a perfect life — and no one who should not be heard for their suffering and fostered towards their joys.

Why do we have to compete for suffering? Is there more hope in what is only the imagined better lives of the inner cities? I would guess that the inner city doesn’t think so. I would guess that the real discrimination and incredible dangers to their children are important to those parents and children too. I would guess that hookers and people who clean the bathrooms for minimum wage probably don’t see as much hope. But, why do we have to look over the walls of our own hardship and imagine that everywhere else is a garden. It’s not to say that we should be content — contentment kills. Never that. We should only realize there is no scarcity of resources in suffering and we could all be stronger in changing things if we lend each other a little strength and time as we battle ahead. We have to remember our common humanity — because then we cannot dismiss any suffering because we will relate and feel urgency to help wherever we can.

Alternatives have to be forged. Some have been offered. I listened to a podcast the other day that argued that the transformation of the US from an industrial manufacturing nation is irreversible (which I agree with) and further unwanted for total economic growth — BUT, that does not mean we have to also leave behind those who developed the scaffolding of further development. It suggested the long solutions — not looking to blame, but instead looking to adapt. It suggested that policy and political sentiment support transition with the displaced in mind, offering job training with local business in mind, renovating localities for newer business, offering further education or relocation, etc. Some areas have done it to great success. There was an example of a tire factory that moved abroad. The local government paid for education and training for those displaced. A jet engineering company came in and those children of tire workers became part of newer, less physically laborious skilled labor. But these sort of real solutions that better lives are 
1. Not globally supported or adopted because they cost an upfront investment (delivering long term return that doesn’t benefit politicians and blowhards); and 
2. It’s harder to calm down and think than explode and destroy.

Change is inevitable, but we have to come together, listen to all the voices, and address each element with due respect and regard. When we factionalize and fall into nostalgia, we blind ourselves to forward progress for everyone. We are one people with many persons.

Thank you for the beautiful look into a very important problem — for the country and every little child who watches their parents become human.

Tarwin Stroh-Spijer — thanks for the recommendation.