Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Looking Back, and Down, on Idaho

The first part of July we went on a trip to Boise to see our little neice's baptism.
It was a great trip, but being back in Idaho forced me to ponder some deep questions I've always had about the relationship between Idaho and Utah.

The big question on my mind was how Iahoans view Utahns. Growing up it always seemed like Utahns "look down" on Idahoans in some respects. Similar to how many citizens of the United States seem to view French people. Well maybe that's a bad example. We don't really view Idahoans as ingrates who've never given us the credit for bailing them out of a world war and who would be willing to surrender at the first sign of an altercation. (Note: I don't feel that way about the country of France, or it's citizens, but I think you'd be lying if you say you haven't heard these opinions expressed by fellow Americans. No, my recollections from visiting France on numerous occasions as a child are simply limited to how annoyed they were that we didn't speak French, needed to bother them by asking directions, had five kids...oh, and the look of disgust they always seemed to have on their face when having to deal with stupid Americans. That...and great bakeries!)

Maybe the better comparison of how some Utahns view Idahoans is how some Americans view Canadians. In a "close, but not quite" sorta way. I have heard Canadian condescension all my life from US citizens. I've heard people point out how Canada has contributed nothing to the advancement of civilization aside from Canadian Bacon (which is viewed as a 'step up' from its meat-cousin 'ham' at pizzerias). Or how prominent Canadians always seem to become American citizens. Or most recently, sports talk radio hosts poking fun of Canada's low medal count for much of the Beijing olympics this summer (the grand Canadian medal total at the time was zero. They finished ranked 14th with 18 total medals compared to the US total of 110).

Or, perhaps the better comparison is how the rest of the world seems to view the United States. The idiot, arrogant cowboy that's nice to have on your side during a war, but otherwise should butt out and mind their own darn business.

I admit as a youth I viewed Idaho and Idahoans according to the stereotypes. Potato farmers. Country folk. Simple life. Idaho.

As we traveled north this summer, I couldn't distinctly see the difference geographically as to where Utah ended and Idaho began. It all sort of blended together. As I sat in church on Sunday I couldn't help but noticing the ward we attended in Idaho seemed no different than any ward I've attended in rural Utah. An occasional testimony borne involving a life lesson learned on a farm. They even seemed to have the same helpful, friendly, small-framed elderly man with a full head of silver hair, thick horned rimmed glasses, bushy gray eyebrows, complete with a powder-blue suit. In short, the differences were much less than I'd been led to believe growing up.

So how do Idahoans view Utahns? I was going to ask a few locals, but then figured I could probably guess the answer. My supposition is they look down on us. We are, in fact, an easy stereotype. Mormons. No fun. No alcohol. No night life. Well, and the whole polygamy history comes to mind. Or the fundamentalist polygamist communities of the present. Yep, an easy target. To be honest, it doesn't seem like the view Idahoans would have towards Utahns is all that different than the opinion the rest of the country has of Utahns. Same stereotypes seem to exist throughout the country.

So why do we have to look down on any state or any country? I guess it's a juvenile solution to make us feel better about who we are and where we're from.

Well, my reflections while in Idaho didn't generate any real answers. In fact the only conclusion I came to during my trip this summer was a Jeopardy answer (i.e. framed in the form of a question). Is it worse to be the state everyone in the country looks down on???? Or is it worse to be the state looked down on by the state the rest of the country looks down on?


Shantelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

From the tone of your comment, I believe you think I still look down on Idaho and Idahoans.

Steve said...

"Mormons. No fun. No alcohol. No night life." Yep, that's the kind of attitude that persists about Mormons everywhere and Utah is the state associated with Mormons.

Living in Idaho, the people that do not know Idaho think potato. Most Idahoans are comfortable with that stereotype as it keeps the hoards of people at bay. Even the bordering states.

Idaho actually has a lot of Mormons, so I've noticed the term "Utah Mormons" come out a few times. I guess the term refers to gray area standards and looking down the nose mentality. It's kind of ironic since many have lived in Utah at some time as well and likely know that as any state, there are all kinds of people.

Growing up in Colorado, we didn't like Texans, since they invaded our ski resorts, and only made fun of the way Utahans talked, but 'O my heck' that was a long time ago.