Yooper identity crisis: Proud native takes issue with stereotypes

Pasties, plaid, guns, nature and the Green Bay Packers.

That’s what Yoopers are all about, eh?

Sure, the above list offers a narrow view into what life is like for some folks who call the Upper Peninsula home. But for many of our friends below the bridge, that’s all we are. Just a buncha snow-loving hicks who like to drink beer and hunt deer, straight out of the production “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”

“Do you have running water?”

“Wow! You have all of your teeth!”

“I didn’t think people actually lived up there.”

“So, you’re Canadian?”

These are all candid responses from people I’ve met after telling them I’m from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Very few, counting those that are residents of the state, have been this far north.

Every once in a while, we see a visiting reporter or blogger who aims to “dig a little deeper” and uncover the “real U.P.”

In most instances, they run a few photos of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, eat a pasty and call it good.

Others spend a little bit more time (but not too much), highlighting communities stricken with poverty, drug use, lack of education, failing industries or off-the-wall characters who fit the Yooper stereotype to a T.

Your typical small-town, rural America feature story, which is usually offset by our “can do” attitude and welcoming nature.

We’re poor, stupid and a little bit crazy, but hey, at least we’re friendly.

It’s easy to laugh it off, to roll your eyes when you read a negative article about the U.P. or when someone asks if you’re related to so-and-so in the Soo, but after a while, it gets irritating.

Yes, there are obviously people struggling to make ends meet here, as there are anywhere else in the world.

Yes, the U.P. is rural by classification, with about 30 percent of the state’s land mass and only three percent of its population.

Yes, we all have our quirks, but the actions or behaviors of a few do not define us all.

I can’t help but get a little defensive when someone bashes my home. Like most of my fellow Yoopers, I’m proud of this place.

I don’t have to list all of the things that are great about the U.P., as most of our readers already know. As for everyone else, I invite you to visit and find out.

Editor’s note: Kelsie Thompson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.