Look, it’s been a bad summer for the American Heartland, and it ain’t even technically summer yet. The St. Louis Cardinals are the latest victims to what can only be called a skid of rotten luck; the FBI wants to know whether they were hacking into the Astros’ personnel files, same as the country’s been wondering why the Duggars seem so blase about their oldest boy getting handsy with his little sisters. Add to that Blue Bell ice cream maybe-sorta knowing that it might be shipping people lethal Listeria-tainted ice cream, and the crusading Nebraska woman who filed suit against all the homosexuals in the world, and you might think, wow, Middle America is a simmering cauldron of hate-filled disregard for basic human values.
Slow your roll there, you croissant-nibbling elitist. America’s big, half-deserted midriff is still what makes this land of ours the finest in the world, sure as you gotta piss downwind on a moving bass boat.
I mean, I figured out this East Coast / West Coast superiority thing was bullshit about an hour off the plane when I moved into my first apartment in Brooklyn. You grow up in God-fearing, Satan-thwarting Illinois farm country and every time you see a movie set on the coasts you’re portrayed as provincial rubes, bigots, or good-hearted yokels a shade dimmer than Forrest Gump. And if you’re an impressionable kid you buy it and think all those people wearing flannel and drinking cheap beer and growing their own food in their backyard or owning chickens are backwards. Then you go out to have a beer on the coast with all the cool people wearing flannel and drinking cheap beer and eating farm-to-table, as if Etsy invented country living and put a bird on it.
God hates fads.
Not even Jack White can stand you anymore. Of course, he’s from Detroit. One of the many midwestern cities currently dominating the cultural discussion: Tulsa, Ferguson, and Cleveland have been all the rage lately.
The big middle is where real Americans are living the dream: buying trucks, making babies, eating carbs, voting without having read a single book between election cycles. Out in the Heartland, freedom isn’t free, but it’s usually on markdown at the Walmart.
You know what it means to really make it in New York? Having an apartment big enough to fit a dog into. The city’s lifestyle porn reads as dark comedy if you live anywhere outside of superheated San Francisco or the Logan’s Run serial that is New York’s housing market. Paul McCartney drops $13 million on a four bedroom apartment and what does he get? Even a top-tier Beatle has to answer to a co-op board and share walls with neighbors.
Of course without the heartland Paul would be singing “All You Need Is Love” in German. Department of Defense numbers on the state’s with the biggest percentage of the population going into the military. Top five: Montana, Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Texas. We can keep going through the top ten and you know who’s still not showing up? California and New York. Nah, it’s cool though, you guys have brunch. We’ll deal with the terrorists, despots, oppressive regimes. Enjoy your bottomless mimosa.
Hell, where would we even have gotten the idea to invade/save Iraq without Texas’s George W. Bush, Wyoming’s Richard Bruce Cheney, and Illinois’s Donald Rumsfeld? Even knowing that the Coasts would take the brunt of any non-Mexican invasion, we step up to keep all Americans as safe as an investment in Enron stock (pre-2001).
But what thanks do we get? We get the likes of the New York Times driving by to snicker at the fiscal meltdown and maybe Constitutional crisis that Kansas’s Sam Brownback wrought by swearing off taxes, and we get the L.A. Times complaining that handguns are going to be headed home with law-abiding Wisconsinites without some namby-pamby 48-hour waiting period. Where’s the gratitude, indeed.
I recently moved back to Iowa, where I went to college. Home of the most influential writers workshop in the country, place where the first electronic computer was invented, early adopter of gay marriage, state that gave Obama his caucus win proving he could beat Hillary and setting him on the path to becoming the first black president, but somehow I don’t feel like I’ve lost much yet. But I’m sure I’ll be back in New York soon at another one of those parties and hear some condescending remark about the heartland. And I’ll smile and bite my tongue. Because I’m from the midwest, and I’m fucking polite.