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The Middle American Mind

Posted: Mon, December 10, 2012 | By: Special Guest

by Alan Brooks

“Americans are a funny people,” wrote James Reston, “they change the world with their hands, they admire those who ‘live modern’, but they are very conservative.” [1]

Reston wrote the above when LBJ was president yet it is still quite valid. It concerns this author (with ‘concern’ a sanitized way of writing ‘worry.’)

In the Midwest where I live, and in the South, the majority of residents ‘live modern’, buy the latest gadgets and get the latest medical treatments & operations but they’re stuck psychically in the far-off past.

For them it is not even to be questioned.

The younger set do tend to live in the Now but they aren’t much interested in the future, plus they’re under the influence (power) of their elders. 

The middle-aged this author associates with live in the ‘80s, in Ronald Reagan’s America, while the Elder-elders, the ‘senior citizens’, live in the ‘60s; no not That ‘60s, not the ‘60s of the counterculture, but the ‘60s of men’s military service in the Vietnam War. 

The politics of the aged (‘aged’ in the chronological not biological sense) reflects such a war-orientation: life is covertly perceived as a war against nature and by extension war against other people because humans are “nature rendered self-conscious”, in the Christian parlance people are of course Fallen and not to be trusted.

The title of Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash” succinctly sums up this omnipotent sentiment.

Being originally from the Northeast, it was a surprise for me to realize just how old-fashioned Middle America is. 

It appears WWII and the Postwar era are the new compass for the American Dream; WWII ended the Great Depression, the War was the time America was most unified and the Postwar era was the outcome, the age of 15 cent hamburgers and gasoline for 25 cents. 

The Vietnam War was a large-writ symptom of America’s fall from Postwar Stability, not The Cause. 

This brings us to now. Middle America is stuck so firmly in the past it will take decades to un-stick it. Were you surprised by the Batman mass murder at the Aurora theater? No reason to be surprised, repressed violence is the Middle American way of life. 

Although Christianity is a tempering influence on Wild West violence, what we call civilization is in reality controlled barbarism. The words powerful, dynamic, wealthy, come to mind when thinking of American characteristics; somehow ‘civilized’ appears to be an exaggeration, a relative term. We spend trillions to bribe people in smoothing things over; the old libertarian jest is “you don’t want to be in the ghetto when the welfare checks bounce.”

More positively is how progressive some areas of America are. Think of how congested NYC is (est. circa 10 million [2] ) yet it somehow stumbles on even through Hurricane Sandy and its floodwaters.

If the South-Midwest were as crowded as NYC, my deer-hunting friends would be hunting hominids.. 

‘Flyover Country’ residents are used to elbow room, the population density of the upper Eastern Seaboard would ultimately drive them battier than the Batman shooter in Aurora.

Depending on how one views it, the Middle-American mind is either hopelessly lost in the past, or extremely ambitious. It would require a Holodeck as fantastic as the Starship Enterprise’s to retain the Middle American illusion of the past in the 21st century.  

Plus the Middle American is double-minded concerning Christianity, not schizophrenic—he can function well, which is the point: he is in full control, one day he can be a sweet-talking Christian; the next he is telling you,

 “I’m a tough customer, Sport, I can beat you to the punch in business seven days a week.”

This author sees Christianity used as a badge by the Heartland of America, with little Christianity underneath. 


1. James Barrett Reston, NYT, 1966.

2. 8.3 in metro area, 2012—which does not include undocumenteds. The total incl. undocumenteds is unverifiable but somewhere in the 10 millions range.


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