Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Championing Flyover Country

Once upon a time . . . . well, just over a decade ago, I was at a party amongst people who had lived their whole lives on the West or East Coasts of the US.  As will happen at a gathering of people who move around for their job, I was asked the various places I'd lived.  After presenting my list, the person asking giggled and said, "Oh . . .  flyover country!"  Maybe she was being cute.  I'm thinking we didn't know each other well enough for such teasing.  You know, like in elementary school, when a boy would pick on my sister and I'd get so furious I had to go after him.  Yes, I picked on my sister one hundred times a day, but there was no way he could be allowed to do it!  So it is for those who have never visited the ENTIRE MIDDLE SECTION OF THE UNITED STATES!!! You're not permitted to brush us off.

Just before we went on vacation this summer,  I was reading old posts on a blog I discovered thanks to 7 Quick Takes. I happened upon a good one from a few summers back:

In Defense of Flyover Country

Kathleen Basi.  Here's how she wraps it up:
The cities, the coasts are great, and I will enjoy them to the fullest when the time comes to take those stereotypical vacations. But everybody’s been on those trips. Everybody has the same pictures, the same stories, the same experiences. I’m going to go looking for places to enjoy in flyover country. Because this is where the untold story is.
Such were my thoughts when travelling this summer.  I've seen a lot of the country's tourist hot spots.  I've seen those in a few other countries, as well.  Never, though, have I felt that the soul of a country has been discovered until getting off the beaten path.

Let us start with the United States and the entire middle section of the country.

There's the physical beauty.  Every land has its own beauty, as every season does.  Just because you happen to like flowers in summer or tree color in the fall, don't neglect the stark beauty of a crisp winter day.  The rugged California coastline is breathtaking; the mountains of New England and the shoreline of Virginia are lovely.  But you haven't any soul if you cannot see beauty in the plains states, with golden wheat on the ground, blazing in the sun, and a crystal blue sky up above; or the rolling green hills of Wisconsin or Kentucky that bring calm to the soul.  Their topography remind me of my ancestral home (hint: notice the title of my blog).

There are cities, too, in "flyover country."  Yes, Chicago.  Marvelous in itself, but certainly special when looked down upon by those from NYC.  But also small- and medium-sized cities.  I assure you, there are museums, fine dining, professional sports.  There are professional ballet companies, operas, symphonies, theaters where new works are premiered to appreciative audiences.  I recently wrote about a book I've just finished reading, "A Jane Austen Education."  Author William Deresiewicz shares his experience with East Coast snobbery when he started dating someone from (gasp) flyover country:
When summer came, I went to stay with her in Cleveland.  Some of my New York acquaintances were a little appalled that I was involved with someone who lived in the Midwest.  One, that glamorous woman who had broken up with the guy from Ohio because he didn't dress well enough, ran into me one night.  "Are you still going out with that girl from St. Louis?" she demanded. When I introduced my girlfriend to another one of those people, the son of a fairly well-known modern artist, he said, "Oh, I've been to Cincinnati.  I thought it was just going to be a bunch of strip malls.  But you know, it wasn't really that bad."
Yes, friends, those are the public policy makers of our times.  Great to know we're so well-respected on Wall Street and in DC, no?

Someone with a bigger blog readership than I have needs to do a link-up of "How I spent my summer vacation in Flyover Country."

Other nations have their own versions of "flyover country."  Based on how many people have asked me about Dublin, London, or Paris, I'm thinking that a lot of people think there are only two types of Irish, British, or French:  Dublin/not-Dublin, London/not-London, Paris/not-Paris.  At the risk of inspiring the wrath of big-city dwellers, I will venture to say that the people of New York, London, Paris, Dublin, (yes, sorry, even) Chicago all have more in common with each other than they do with the people who live in the non-urban areas.  So as to avoid political conflict on my blog, I will limit myself to this:  There are French people who are not bringing up bébé like the Parisians.  There are British people whose political views are decidedly different from those expressed by the BBC.  Apologies to friends and family of the coasts and of megalopolises who do have more broadened views of the world: you know my complaints are not aimed at you.

I am pleased to have visited some of the nation's largest cities.  I was able to see the Twin Towers while they were still standing.  I've seen all the great buildings in Washington, DC.  I've stood under the Eiffel Tower and looked up into its apex.  It was magical, the day I stepped out of the subway in London (please mind the gap) to hear Big Ben chiming.  I'd go back to any of these places in an instant; there are many big places more I'd like to see.  But, given the choice between a tour of the tourist traps and the true heart of a place?  There's no contest!

I wonder, though.  Maybe in championing "flyover country," we should put a positive spin on that name.  Sort of like people from Illinois use "cheesehead" as a term of derision, people in Wisconsin proudly wear that label.

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