The latest example of The New York Times' sociological fascination with Idaho came a week or two ago, with reporter Kirk Johnson's piece "Gay Couples Face a Mixed Geography of Marriage," dateline: Moscow, Idaho.
Like much of the Times' reporting on Idaho, it explores the lives of rational, broad-minded people and shows how difficult their rationality and broad-mindedness make it for them to live here. In this particular case, gay couples live in Moscow, where the state Constitution specifically bars them from entering any form of "domestic legal union," but they could spend the rest of their days in wedded bliss two miles to the west, in Washington, where voters legalized same-sex marriage last year.
When asked why they don't just move, one couple in the story gave an imminently rational and broad-minded answer: essentially, that they shouldn't have to move and they can do more good for the cause of marriage equality by staying put. Plus, Idaho would just invalidate their Washington marriage the moment they crossed the border.
The absurdity of their plight ends up making Idaho look like it's on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall--or, less hyperbolically, the kind of place that people consider leaving because they're yearning to breathe free.
And same-sex marriage is just one example. Washingtonians voted for marriage equality and their civilization didn't collapse. They also legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and so far, the borderlands of the Panhandle have not erupted in cartel warfare. Ironically, Washington is having more trouble with the privatization of liquor sales (see this week's Citizen for more on that), which is actually a measure that some Idaho officials have suggested might be worth considering.
Idahoans are fond of thumping their chests with pride in their libertarian tradition, but it's a lot easier to convince people they're especially free when they don't have a counter example just across the border. Idaho is on the wrong side of history when it comes to more than a few social issues, which is becoming increasingly clear with regards to marriage equality, in particular.
In the meantime, let's just cross our fingers that we've held onto enough rationality and broad-mindedness to accept that fact.