Saturday, June 12, 2004

Midwestern Blues

A really bad book review.

And I don't mean that because the reviewer didn't like the book, it's because the reviewer doesn't address the issues of the book as much as claim that the Republican party respects the values of the Midwest, not like those coastal elitists.

Kevin Drum (yeah, again) makes a really interesting point here about Ronald Reagan's origins in Illinois and his fortunes being made in California:
At the risk of being pedantic, it's hard to overstate just how profoundly the Midwest informs everything that is California. Migration from the Midwest made up the bulk of California's population in the first part of the 20th century, and the biggest contribution of all came from Iowa and Reagan's home state of Illinois. (In fact, his hometown of Dixon is about a hundred miles from Cerro Gordo, birthplace of my own grandfather.)

Everybody knows about California's flakiness, but its true character — and the source of its astonishing success — comes from a combination of its famously vibrant openness to new ideas with the down-to-earth heritage of its Midwestern roots. In that sense, Reagan really is the perfect Californian, but it's his Illinois upbringing that's the key to that.

So yes, he was a Californian. But there's a lot of history packed into those four little words.

I'm not from Kansas. Like Kevin Drum's grandfather and Ronald Reagan, I'm from Illinois. I was born and raised there, my family still lives there, and I love the place, but when I was 18 left to go to school in California. While I visit often, I haven't moved back and I don't know if I ever will. The Midwest -- like every other place in the United States -- has its share of warm, caring, wonderful people. It also -- like every other place in the United States -- has its share of small-minded, willfully-ignorant bigots. The "cultural elites" are so phrased as a code to refer to those so-called sophisticates on the east and west coasts, yet I don't think that I routinely read as much about people who equate everything that they say, do, and believe with their geographical location as Midwesterners.

Read Sinclair Lewis. Try "Main Street," or "Babbit," or even the excesses of "Elmer Gantry." Midwesterners are not especially saintly, despite what the fetishists of today's media may have us believe.

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