I'm a Hindi living in Madison, WI for the past twelve years. Before I moved to Wisconsin in 2000, I had never even heard of the state. And all these years have been spent in frustration trying to tell folks back home in India about the existence of a place on earth called Wisconsin. I have to say we are a few hours North of Chicago and suddenly we begin to exist.
Now all of a sudden everyone in India seems to have heard of Wisconsin, but for all the wrong reasons. Thanks to the Oak Creek shooting at the Sikh Gurudwara. It is really unfortunate that the first impression so many people will have of Wisconsin is that or racism, white supremacists, bloodshed and cold blooded psychopaths. It is even more unfortunate that the incident will give rise to some bitter feelings towards the west.
That is why I want to make this post for Wisconsin and its wonderful people. Wisconsin is my home now and I love it. It is a wondrous state and I'm blessed to live here. To me it is the best state in America. My emotional attachment and devotion to Wisconsin is equal to what I feel for my homeland India if not more. This is not a state of racists, bigots, white supremacists, xenophobes or that kind of scum. It is a vibrant state with a diverse population. The people here are simple, well meaning, well intentioned and hard working.
We actually have a lot more in common with India than you think. As America's Dairyland, Wisconsin is an agrarian state. A large portion of the state is poor and middle class dairy farmers and other farmers. Another good chunk is low and middle income blue collar workers who work in the local industries of brewing, mining, meatpacking and other factory work. This is not the America you see in Hollywood, not the sprawling metropolis you imagine from New York to Los Angeles. Our largest city is Milwaukee and the capitol is Madison. Both these are urban, well developed with your white collar employees. However, there is a homey down to earth feel that you often don;'t get in big cities. This truly is a land of hardworking people who sweat to earn a living, like our farmers back home.
Apart from the commonality with the agrarian blue collar economy, Wisconsin is also one of the most progressive and liberal states in the United States. Everyone is accepted here. People here are more moderate. Whether you are gay, straight, liberal, conservative, black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, you are always welcome in Wisconsin. The state is an epitome of religious tolerance embracing Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Atheists and even the world's largest Wiccan population.
Of course everything is not perfect. We do have our share of problems. In fact our state was a hotbed of political activity that had people fuming and tempers flaring. We were downright nasty in our divides. But in the end we all know the importance of tolerance and peace. And we do have our share of racists, bigots and scum. Which country, state or city doesn't? But we never let them win. I remember when the KKK tried to rally here. They had to have security because no one likes them. If you ever doubt the west, ever think that we don't care, ever think that we are ignorant and apathetic - know the ideals of sifting and winnowing the state adheres to. The fearless search for truth. That is an ideal any human can stand by.
Sure, the people may not know much about India. Some truly don't know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims. They may not understand our country's history or culture. But it is just honest ignorance, there is no malice or hatred towards anyone - just an open heart and curiosity to understand. Lets face it how many of us in India know about poverty and other socioeconomic challenges in the Appalachia, how many know about the racial and economic challenges of the country, how many know the distinctive cultures and histories of the Midwest, the South, the Southwest, New England and Pacific Northwest. Don't we Indians also tend to look upon America as one homogeneous country and make assumptions?
Give us a chance! Now that you have heard of Wisconsin, come to Wisconsin. We have plenty of beer, brats and cheese. For the vegetarians or teetotalers we have great ice-cream, milk, milkshakes and all sorts of fried stuff on sticks. Come to our capitol Madison and see one of the most liberal cities. Drive our river road along the mighty Mississippi and get a taste of small river towns. Look at the fall colors in Door County and get a flavor of Scandinavia. Splash in the multitude of water parks in the dells and have a riot of a time. Visit Milwaukee for summerfest and gape at Lake Michigan. Go up North for fishing in the North Woods and lakes. Watch a Packer Game at Lambeau field and feel what it is like to be a cheesehead. Heck, you can tour Europe in Wisconsin with Little Norway, New Berlin, Monticello, New Glarus etc. If you drink visit a microbrewery and see what we are known for.
Happiness and love, thats all you will find in Wisconsin. Judge the killers, the racists, the bigots and condemn them to rot in hell. But judge us not all equally. In fact I have to say give the United States a chance as well. There is a lot of undiscovered heart and love there as well.