From the Heartland

A state that is chronically ‘underwhelmed’ may offer values that can help America

My roots go deep into Missouri soil. My wide Missouri soul misses the huge expanses of farmlands and rolling Ozark hills and beautiful Europe often seems cramped in comparison. The Missouri landscape becomes almost contemplative. Yes, it’s an acquired taste. Missouri is not even a tourist destination, much less a trap. In fact, it’s more than a little insulated from outside influences.

I arrived in St. Louis on Dec. 2 and left on Jan. 22; I wanted to be home to watch the almost extinguished torch pass to President Barack Hussein Obama. It was clear upon my arrival that I would have to make a choice: I could either express my Obama enthusiasm or celebrate the holidays in peace. I chose the latter and felt a pang of remorse.

“The heartland mood on Jan. 20 was muted, to say the least. After all, Missouri was one of the last states to remain undecided on election night.  This state is cautious and chronically under-whelmed by most everything: the state slogan is “ Show me.”

Generally, Missourians are down to earth, hard working, friendly, honest, practical, dry-humored, careful and stubborn. Think Harry Truman and Mark Twain, et al. It’s almost bad form to get excited about anything except Cardinals baseball. (Yes, but… St. Louis produced one of Obama’s biggest campaign crowds in the shadow of the courthouse of the Dred Scott Decision.)

So Inauguration Day was just another day, with a brief pause at 11:00, Central Standard Time, and then back to work.

Now, back home in Vienna, I think about President Obama’s inaugural address. This was a sober speech, spoken at a time of crisis. Hardly a sound byte in it. We were expecting his moving rhetoric to pull us to our feet, to scream our love and approval of him and ourselves. (We are so, so proud for electing him.)

We wanted to FEEL. He made us think. And he will make us work. We must return to our founding character – we must step back from excess, greed and arrogance.

We voted for change. We thought he meant just change in the government. Turns out he also means change in us. This meteor man flamed into one of our darkest nights, ready, eager and supremely equipped to lead us back to our former ways and values. This is not just a political thing, an organizational thing. It’s spiritual. It’s about our character as much, maybe more, than his.

We the People have done a good thing: we elected him. Now we must do an even better thing: we must deserve him.

Maybe Heartland values can help.

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