Living in a middle-sized Middle American city is, on balance, a great thing. You have all of the modern convienences of the city and you are not more than a twenty minute drive from, in my case, the gently rolling hills of south central Wisconsin. If you get the itch for the big city, Chicago is a hop, skip and a tollway away and Milwaukee, Madison's bigger brother, is only an hour down the road.
The real draw, and the reason that I think the Midwest is the best, is us, the Midwesterners ourselves. It is hard for me to do this, for one of the traits of our sort is modesty, but here goes.
You will not find more friendly, open, honest and genuine people than in the Midwest. Period.
We are always glad to see you, welcome all and are always ready to share whatever we have with friend and newcomer alike. We are proud of our cities, our towns and farmlands. Sure, there are differences between parts of the Midwest, and friendly rivalry between its component parts, but at the end of the day, it is no mistake why this is called "the heartland of America."
Take the Saturday afternoon I enjoyed last week. Breakfast with friends before heading to Camp Randall Stadium to watch the Badgers play Northwestern. An absolutely ideal fall afternoon with the leaves falling and the sun making one last hurrah even as the wind reminded all that the changing of the seasons was upon us. Afterward, pitchers of Blatz beer and conversation topped off with prime rib at the supper club and more good talk and friendliness. What could be better? Not much, if you ask me.
You see, we know that we are not the "coasts," and we like it that way. A lot of educated people sneer at the idea of coastal elitism, but it is a real thing and Midwesterners (and Southerners) feel it all the time. That is part of my reason for writing this.
As a graduate student at a large public university, I am constantly in contact with people from all over the country and all over the world. It is fascinating to see how different people, especially from "the coasts" react to moving to the Midwest. For other Midwesterners, it is like moving but not really. Not so for others, and this is where the elitism comes in.
These sorts of people cannot get it through their heads that things here will never be like they are in Boston or New York or Los Angeles. Ever. What's more, we are happy about this and will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way. Alas, the more we Midwesterners try and welcome these newcomers in our open and friendly manner, they refuse and push back and will not immerse themselves in the culture of their new home.
The accusations and stereotypes are easy enough to recount. All Midwesterners are: hicks, bigots, ignorant, small-minded, fat, crude, beer-soaked buffoons who just do not get it. We Midwesterners would be utterly lost in anything approaching REAL civilization and what we hold dear as the components of our way of life are but laughable shadows of a real culture. The food is terrible, the weather is worse and overall, if everything west of the Appalachians and east of Las Vegas were to vaporize tomorrow, that would be better off for the whole county.
Yep, I'm sure you have heard it all before.
With many of my colleagues, I am running out of answers or witty comebacks to defend my Midwestern home region. I am not sure what to say anymore. So, here is the ultimatum:
Either stop judging, open youself up to us and our ways and maybe, just mabye, allow yourself to be seduced by our charms or leave tomorrow. Simple as that.
If it is indeed so much better where you come from, don't let a measly job or academic appointment here in Dogpatch keep you here. You must have better schools where you come from, right? I mean, you can't take a piss in Boston without hitting a college or its students and UC-Santa Barbara is on the ocean. There must be something there for you, right?
Meanwhile, we will continue to enjoy football in the fall, bratwursts, small towns, manageable cities and most of all each other. The people are really, to again quote Lord Buckley, the flowers of life and we sure do enjoy our garden of life here.
If you cannot see us for the plain and honest people that we are, well, that's really a shame. We tried and tried. What more can we do?
Well, I would be glad to offer you bus fare to the airport. Make sure to just buy a one-way, O.K.?
"Check the Box Sunday"
4 weeks ago