Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Midwessay - “Finding Balance …”

So, a while back I learned of a writing exercise or term I really like - "the Midwessay." It was on a literary and writing website/blog Essay Daily, and there were calls for submissions focusing on individual states. I never completed or submitted my piece, but here is my stream-of-consciousness shot at it.

The Midwest means a natural balance of a hopeful idealism in “the way things ought to be,” and in honest pragmatism about “the way things actually are.” This balanced view is born out of cultural values running back centuries, and it’s hardened by experience. It’s dealing with the weather that happens as opposed to that which is forecast or expected or promised. It’s a place with the moss on a tree or the amount of black fur on woolly worm is every bit as accurate and trusted as the national weather service or the weatherman on television. It can be a taciturn place of few wasted words as easily as it can be spinning long drawn out yarns on front porches that last so long no one remembers how the story started or where it was going. In the Midwest all politics is local. In Iowa, with its disproportionate significance in Presidential primaries, it’s rumored that when asked who they’re voting for or if they support a specific candidate, locals will say, “I don’t know, I haven’t met him yet.” In the flood of 1993 that decimated my hometown Alton, Illinois, I learned it is in those moments that Midwesterners remember there are no political parties during a flood, fire, or tornado. There are just neighbors and a sense of community. It’s a gateway, not a flyover. It’s company picnics and Rotary clubs. Small town homecomings that aren’t about a football game or high school dance, but about carnival games, fish fries, and funnel cakes. The Midwest is, or at least was, a neighborhood where a pediatrician, a journalist, an engineer, a lawyer, a police officer, a factory worker, a teacher, a phone company lineman, and a various small business owners all live in the same neighborhood, or subdivision, in roughly the same size houses.

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