Words by Evan Harms
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Midwest as a particularly normal conglomeration of 12 states. For the purpose of this introduction, we’ll accept Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and both Dakotas as our region of focus.
The Midwest, though, is not simply 12 states. For some of us, especially here in Kent, it’s home. For others, it’s a racist hellscape responsible for the rise of white, middle-class populism and the presidency of Donald Trump. Further still, it’s the new home of Syrian, Nepalese and other refugees from around the world. It has also been argued that the Midwest is an aesthetic or an attitude.
Often, outsiders try to define us; no, not immigrants, but rather people from either coast. This is especially problematic when these “coastal elites,” or whatever you’d like to call them, work for a large publication — say The New York Times, for example.
Reporters fly in for a day or two, interview a couple sources and write about how quaint, boring, scary or pointless the Midwest is.
This stereotype has been perpetuated for years. For a long time even I, a lifelong Midwesterner, viewed us as backward, boring and responsible for all my personal problems. We, as a region, as a culture, have become fundamentally misunderstood, with no small thanks to media epicenters and the subsequent perceptions by those exposed to it.
“No Coasts” will be an uncompromising effort to redefine the Midwest by the people who live here, for the people who live here.
We’ll examine the strong sense of regionalism — or micronationalism — found throughout the city-states of the Midwest and Rust Belt, and why that matters against a national political system that left so many dissatisfied.
We’ll look at racism. We’ll talk about Dubuque, Iowa, and Flint, Michigan. We’ll look at the ways race built our cities and shaped our present situation.
We’ll talk about geography — why are all the counties squares? Why do we hate the Dakotas? We’ll talk about nature — what grows here? Why? What used to grow here? Do we have any cool animals?
We’ll look at art, music and other creative expression especially. Creative subcultures are the essence of what makes the Midwest great. We’ll look at young musicians, content with playing in basements in Akron, Ohio, and Champaign, Illinois, and understand why they don’t care about signing a record deal and moving to Brooklyn.
Most importantly, we’ll look at ourselves in a way that might end up surprising even me. With such a broad scope and mission, I look forward to bringing you weekly thoughts and information on all topics concerning the greatest place in the world, a place sandwiched smack in the middle of nowhere. A place with “No Coasts.”