Grassy and tranquil front lawns. Streets where parking is a relatively quick event and traffic not too much of a sore. Your friendly neighborhood butcher, hairdresser, and barbeque restaurant owner, all of whom you are familiar with on a first-name basis. Nice, quick vacations to neighboring natural sites and cities. Driving your kids to school and PTA meetings.
These are the kinds of sights that characterize what we often refer to as “Middle America,” or the enormous trunk of our country that lays beyond the towering skyscrapers, day-to-day inward-looking debates, and highbrow delicacy cuisines of cosmopolitan clusters, often both literally and figuratively, such as Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles.
It is here, in a world beyond the chattering classes, in the small towns, medium-sized cities, suburbs, and vast rural swaths that the bulk of the American population lives, works, enjoys their days and raises the next generation of Americans.
It is in this world where journalism means, rather than degrading the President of the United States on a daily basis with anonymous sources and wildly unprofessional and indecent disrespect, covering local events and news fairly and building a relationship of trust and respect with the local community.
It is here that an array of denominations and faiths are practiced and respected rather than demeaned and mocked. It is here where those who grow up to serve as an electrician, a soldier, or a teacher are considered just as worthy citizens as those who travel far and away to become shiny parts of the international corporate machinery. It is here where a neighbor or citizen is happy to help out another, no matter their class or status and without expectation of reward.
This world was oft fantasized about by said chattering classes during the 2016 election and even now, as many wondered about the kind of person that lay beyond DC’s 495 Beltway or the 405 in LA.
I grew up in Middle America, even if now in recent years my life has taken me to the heights and heart of our nation’s political, government, media, and corporate worlds. I can undoubtedly say both are immensely different, and while many do interchange between the two realms every so often undoubtedly they also have remained more separate and distinct than one might think.
This disconnect was what led to the turbulence we saw in our country and the sheer disbelief many had that then-candidate Trump was sweeping the primaries in 2016 and then won the general election. That was a wake-up call that reminded many in the elite cultural circles that the country was more than just the crowd at the cocktail party circuit.
Undoubtedly many living in our nation’s major urban metropolises have also felt a disconnect, as it is in these gigantic urban fortresses where often the disparities between the mega-“elites” and ordinary folk are intensified and reminded of more frequently.
Our country is beautiful in many ways, whether because of its natural contours or its noble history. However it is our people even now that give this nation an incredible depth and variance and reminds us of the power of the human spirit, and the inherent generosity and patriotism of our citizenry that makes this the greatest nation in the world.
I am proud to be an American for many reasons, but especially because of how great our people are. We have come from all backgrounds and live in all ways of life, but together we form the unique civic identity that is represented by the red, white, and blue.
There will always be “elites” and they serve an essential role in our society. Upon deeper reflection however, beyond a select few “masters of the universe” the true definition of “elite” becomes more unclear. We are all “elite” in our own ways, whether with a special skill set or some other blessing in life, and fundamentally we are all human, as delicate and moved by many of the same forces as anyone else.
I hope that someday the disconnect that has contributed immensely to our nation’s wild polarization in recent years will recede and we can all go back to doing our part in this incredible country. Middle America’s daily ingenuity, grit, and love drives this country forward every day, and in recent years has begun to remind our “elites” that they are still here.