The Indiana Office of Tourism Development announced its new tourism slogan for Indiana, “Honest to Goodness Indiana” to almost universal derision. It’s worse than the target of mockery from the 80s, “Wander Indiana.” (Hopefully we won’t be reverting to license plates with that wonderful pea green color scheme.) In his recent column, Matt Tully gets in on the fun.
Honest to Goodness Indiana? That’s our new slogan? Yep, that’s the slogan our state’s honchos actually think will convince people to take a Hoosier vacation. I assume it comes with a time machine so the state also can hire Opie Taylor and Gomer Pyle as its spokesmen. As one politico wrote on Twitter: What? Was “Golly gee whiz” taken?
No question that this one is awful. Not only is it pablum, it’s not very flattering pablum. And that’s my conclusion after taking a moment to intentionally remove my hipster-like impulse to reflexively sneer at the pretense of wholesomeness.
The sloganeers had a tough job. What makes Indiana unique in a positive way that might make other people want to come here? Tough call. But it’s not “honest to goodness.” I wonder if the sloganners bought into the rhetoric about how the coasts are unlivable, Sodom & Gomorrah hellholes because of the amoral liberals. “Sure they have money and they act like they’re enjoying themselves, but I’ll bet they’d spend some money on a return to a simpler time.”
So, I think they got it wrong on a reason out of staters might want to travel to spend money here. But they also got it wrong on what makes us unique. Cultural homogenization in the U.S. has made it tougher to identify things that make one state much different from another. Blame it on the highways, blame it on mass media, but the fact is that geographic distance doesn’t create a lot in the way of distinction among the people of the various states these days. We don’t even have the Daylight Saving Time thing or the high school basketball thing any more.
Physical geographic features are something you can’t homogenize, but we don’t have a lot to brag about. We’re mostly flat, our weather ranges from hot & humid to the deep freeze winter we’ve had this year. There are no mountains and there aren’t many significant water features. And, such natural spots as we have, we’re so reflexively anti-environment that people mostly wouldn’t want to come visit, let alone eat anything out of the waters there.
It’s easy to say what’s wrong with Indiana. Tough to say what’s right. I love my state, but if I’m being honest, a lot of that is probably because I was born here. If I was born elsewhere, I can’t say I’d gravitate to Indiana. We’re mostly a solid, friendly, dependable people. But wholesome? Not really any more than others, our self-pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding.
And, unfortunately, our lack of distinction is likely to grow if we’re not designing and building with care those parts of the state
we don’t find attractive and preserving with care those parts of the state we do find attractive. As it is now, we barely bother ourselves to maintain what has been built, let alone improve it.
If we keep our taxes low and our maintenance deferred, the only outside attention we’ll attract are those moneyed interests that see an opportunity to extract wealth from the state. Certainly not interests that want to live here or visit here and add to our wealth.