The idea of home is one of the most important forces in politics. At almost every candidate event, you will hear a politician state how many generations their family has lived in Iowa. They’ll talk about their home on a family farm. But “home” is not just an abstract rhetorical device for candidates to stress their relatability — it dictates the districts in which they run. Candidates still rely on their strongest supporters to open their homes and host “house parties” to organize and fundraise for them.
It’s hard to think about home when I spend more time than I should at political events. This is especially when I don’t really have a home anymore. In the literal sense, yes, I still do. I am renting a beautiful house in Grinnell with three of my best friends. I have a comfy bed that I return to after late nights on campus doing homework. It’s heated, which we accidentally discovered when one of the editors of this newspaper ran into the thermostat.
People in undergrad, however, don’t really think of that as home. In terms of where my parents are, what I could call home, I don’t have that anymore. I haven’t had one for a while. My parents sold my childhood home in Miami after I graduated high school, and have been living in the Florida Keys ever since. And so, that home nestled in a tropical paradise on a small island was my home for a while. It was a nice place to leave campus for, especially in the winter. I didn’t really have any friends down there, but it was nice to sit in the sun with the ocean just a short walk away. But after Hurricane Irma, our house is now too damaged to live in. Just a couple of miles from my family’s home, there are piles of fridges and washing machines collecting from the rummage of homes, next to beaches that were washed to the other sides of islands. After spending the couple of weeks away from Florida while the hurricane hit, my parents have moved back to Miami and are renting an apartment.
Despite my roots further south, it’s no secret that I love Iowa. I’m writing a biweekly column about politics that features Iowa-based wordplay. I have made Iowa a home of sorts. For the most part, I have been welcomed with open arms. I think that’s because most people forget that I am not from here. It’s easy to assume I am from Des Moines or Cedar Rapids. They don’t realize I grew up just a couple of miles away from a swamp, where I saw beautiful mangrove forests and made sure to keep an eye out for alligators. Sometimes even I forget that I was raised in one of the southernmost points on the continental United States.
I lose so much when I forget that. I lose sight of the fact that both places are facing the loss of the nature that made the places what they are. Iowa land, which is the most agriculturally productive land in the world, cannot sustain the current farming practices. Florida will soon be underwater if action isn’t taken quickly, or, more likely, it will be blown away by the increasing frequency of tropical storms.
As I am working my way through fourth year, I am thinking more about what home means. Hurricane Irma brought this question to the forefront of my mind, especially with so many homes in the south destroyed. Right now, I feel comfortable calling both Grinnell and Miami home. A huge part of me is back in Miami. It’s where I developed my love for floral prints, where I learned how to sing and where I got my start on political campaigns. I also will never forget where I have lived for the past few years. I learned that sweet corn can be one of the tastiest dishes in the world, where rolling hills of corn lead to the best sunsets and that if you work hard you make something bigger than yourself happen. But my literal and figurative home here at Grinnell is inherently temporary. That may be the case for many of us at Grinnell, but that should not stop us from making an impact and caring while we are here.
— Austin Wadle ’18