My friend Jared is a lot smarter than I am. He’s the kind of guy who’s probably been told his whole life that he’s “too smart for Indiana.” He’s a grad student in cybersecurity. He lived in D.C. for a while, went to a top school, did some important-sounding military industrial complex stuff for a few years and then came back home. Then, he ran for state representative in his home district in Central Indiana. He lost (by a lot) to a GOP worker drone.
But he cared enough to try.
Like me, he saw a lot of his friends from grade school get sucked dry and discarded by the demon of OxyContin and hydrocodone and fentanyl and heroin and methamphetamine. He watched his community become a husk; no storefronts, no arts, no culture to speak of aside from what happens at the one bar in the town square, where those who aren’t hooked on opioids can pickle their livers and start fistfights for want of anything better to do. He cares about the people in his hometown, track marks and all and wants to help fix things.
He’s got good ideas, too. The kind of ideas that come with education and experience, but also the kind you can’t buy — the kind that come from a lifetime of knowing Smallville, USA.
I asked him: “If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it?”
A lot, he said.
New workforce development programs, mandated computer science classes for grade school kids, updated epidemiological surveillance programs, high-speed internet, a bunch of shit I don’t even understand, and jobs jobs jobs. “Ideally, I would like [my town] to have an average age of 27, a median per capita income of $55,000 per year, and ranked in the top 10 on quality of life in the