My Midwestern roots are showing.
In the United States, we call a central portion of our country—the piece untouched by any ocean coastline–the heartland. I’ve lived in the heartland all of my life. The heartland = the Midwest.
For those of you prone to consult Wikipedia, you’ve already made some judgments. I must be traditional, conservative, a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of gal.
Not so much. And yes, a little.
I guess if I’m anything, I’m a true independent–a social liberal/fiscal conservative who believes in programs that help when help is needed. I’m not sure there’s a box to check on any form for that. Not really a fan of boxes anyway.
I believe in making an honest living, but I also believe sometimes people need a hand when they falter economically. And not everyone is lucky enough to have a set of generous hands within their immediate circle.
I believe in marrying or mating for life because of love, not money. And yes, despite my own struggles in the true love area, I believe true love is out there. It’s messy and hard. And easy and beautiful. All in one big, confusing package. But you know it when you see it. It usually makes us smile, whether we’re watching a couple on the dance floor or sharing a Sunday morning breakfast. I don’t care what sex that couple is. True love is true love.
I’ve had bosses that have called me “hopelessly Midwestern” because of my belief in what’s right and honest. They said it fondly but shook their heads in bewilderment. I have a close male friend who calls me “adorable” every time I pass on an attractive fling and hold out for the real thing. He seems to marvel every time that I live my values. He’s still as cynical as ever but I can feel the chink created in his armor every time he sees me live true to my ideals. He seems to think ideals are a dying, quaint pastime. And that I’m more like the Don Quixote of the Midwest than anything. Perhaps admirable, perhaps foolish. Perhaps mad.
Are you seeing any of yourself in me? Do I have some fellow idealists out there who are also realists? People tell us you can’t be both but that’s hogwash (oh, there’s a heartland phrase). You can live in the real world but refuse to stoop to its lowest level. You can live your principles and while that may bring scorn or derision, there will always be a few people who are raised up and inspired by your truth and conviction.
Turns out quiet, loving conviction is contagious.
In my country, goodness and light just narrowly won an election. Far too narrowly, if you ask me. Despite my heartland status, I’ve always lived in or near big cities. My liberal leanings are in stark contrast to the voting habits of many people that I’ve always known to be good people. This election tested those relationships as no other did. If you’re a regular reader, you know how I felt about the past four years in the United States. From outdated, vulgar attitudes toward women to separating families and putting them in cages, I was chilled to the bone by what I saw. But even more so, stymied by the reactions of some in my circle who said while they didn’t like our commander in chief, they would vote for him again. And the unspoken part of that sentiment: If I’m ok, then all is ok. I’m not my brother’s keeper. To which I counter: If not his keeper, are you not his equal? Is he not entitled to equal treatment for equal effort? Your privilege is showing.
It’s not very Midwestern of them. That’s not how I was raised. Values trump party. Humanity wins over herd mentality. If you’re going to sit in a church pew, you can’t turn your back on children in cages. Hell, even if you’re not going to sit in a church pew, you can’t do it. Good is good, regardless of whether it’s institutionalized.
In trying to do right by their daughters, perhaps my parents did us a disservice. They spoke to us of truth and light. We had to be honest to a fault. We never got to place blame, only to accept the portion of it we had earned. And then we were expected to fix what was wrong. To speak unpopular truths. And to be unfailingly polite throughout it all. My mother’s mantra to me again and again was, “Be kind.” It frustrated me as a teen and it still does. She wasn’t always kind. And people I interact with aren’t either—which makes “be kind” seem a foolish, weak response.
Recently, something in the zeitgeist has made me see my mother perhaps wasn’t as out of touch as I thought. Have you watched Ted Lasso yet? It’s an Apple TV show. If you haven’t, get to it. Not only will you laugh, you will see the wisdom in my mother’s advice. There’s a powerful strength in kindness.
Bottom line: I am hopeful, despite being more than chagrined over close margins in the presidential election.
More than ever, I need to find my fellow odd ducks—the idealist/realist mix that can be so elusive. We all need to continue to be in the world, but not of it. Don Quixote went mad because he ultimately couldn’t separate reality from fiction. I need to continue to live my ideals while keeping myself grounded in a reality that’s less than pleasant at the moment. It’s challenging. But it’s also sanity. Too far in either direction and I become less than what I could be. We all do.
While I’m hopeful in the heartland, there’s much work to do. On myself, my community, our world. As Don Quixote said: “If thou are not versed in the business of adventures . . . get thee aside and pray . . . whilst I engage these giants in combat.”
Sometimes combat is just living your truth, friends. And remaining hopeful—and kind–while fighting the good fight. Here’s to it.
I’m sharing this post in a blogger friend’s virtual tea party. Please join us, fellow bloggers. Post a photo of what you’re bringing (mine is below–nothing beats a mini bundt cake, no?) and link to Su’s site. You’re sure to find oodles of treats and some good conversation.