Midwest is best: Don’t badmouth heartland Midwest rocks

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Midwest is best: Don’t badmouth heartland Midwest rocks

A tractor drives down County Road 450 E. in Monticello on Sept. 6. Columnist Ellen urges students to recognize the beauty of the Midwest.

A tractor drives down County Road 450 E. in Monticello on Sept. 6. Columnist Ellen urges students to recognize the beauty of the Midwest.

Brian Bauer

A tractor drives down County Road 450 E. in Monticello on Sept. 6. Columnist Ellen urges students to recognize the beauty of the Midwest.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

A tractor drives down County Road 450 E. in Monticello on Sept. 6. Columnist Ellen urges students to recognize the beauty of the Midwest.

By Ellen Barczak, Columnist

People like to badmouth the Midwest. I, for one, have had enough of this blasphemy toward the heartland, the breadbasket of our nation, especially from Midwesterners themselves. I like to focus on the positives of this sprawling, fertile, friendly region.

I’m just about as Midwestern as it gets. I was born in Illinois, often vacation in Michigan and Wisconsin and have a rather impressive tolerance for inclement weather, if I do say so myself. My family has roots in the Midwest going back at least four generations.

Obviously, I have a bias toward the place I gladly call home. Most people I’ve grown up with, however, do not share my affection for the heartland. They call it boring and uneventful, uncultured and overweight — not to mention our winters.

But, you know what? The Midwest rocks. And I’ll tell you why.

We feed the whole country. According to the USDA, “the Midwest represents one of the most intense areas of agricultural production in the world and consistently affects the global economy.” 

Here at the University, we’re in the thick of the “Corn Belt.” There are 127 million acres of agricultural land in the Midwest. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.

The Midwest is also incredibly safe in terms of risk of natural disaster. We don’t have wildfires or earthquakes like California, hurricanes like the coasts, you name it. None of our cities are close to going underwater, either.

Mark my words: When California finally cracks off the West Coast and sinks into the Pacific, and Arizona has drained the Colorado River, people will flock to the Midwest. We have water. We also have an enviable lack of tectonic plate activity.

The Midwest also boasts down-to-earth values and just about the friendliest people in the country; its lack of pretension and snobbery is admirable.

I recently visited my uncle in Bonduel, Wisconsin, near Green Bay. Was everything I ate either fried, smothered in mayonnaise or both? Yes. Was everyone absurdly friendly? Again, yes.

I could have chosen to go anywhere in the country for college. I picked the University of Illinois, where my dad, uncle and three cousins went. My blood runs orange and blue. My hair is made of corn silk.

I didn’t just pick the University because others in my family attended, though. I came here because, as stellar as the academics are here, Midwestern values permeate every aspect of campus. 

Unlike some other colleges in the Midwest — cough, Northwestern — the University of Illinois maintains propriety and high standards without one ounce of pretentiousness. Humility is a virtue few Midwesterners struggle with, including this institution.

So, stop making fun of the heartland, the hometown of America, the safest, friendliest, least pretentious place in the country. Help yourself to a bowl of chili as you watch the snow fall on the sycamore outside your window and hear Tom Skilling on WGN. 

There’s no place like home.

Ellen is a junior in LAS.

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