Arcadia Publishing

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There’s something poignant about this folk etymology, in which the Midwest is a kind of abandoned frontier. You picture the whole region as a sort of once-shiny new mall marooned by suburban sprawl, left to crumble, only a few years after opening, in a no-longer-vital part of town. Such an image might help explain the sense of disappointment that grips so many of us here, the nostalgia for a moment that we can’t quite pinpoint, the feeling not that things once were definitely better, but that they were once understood to be on the verge, at least, of getting better. A place that almost happened;
Shortridge is right, then “Midwest” is a state of mind, or a name for a collocation of moods or tropes, some of them contradictory.
If you read the debates that surrounded the ratification of the American Constitution, the thing that seems most surprising, from our vantage point, is this: a lot of people didn’t want the U.S. to have a standing army. It ranked among the most popular arguments against a powerful central government. After all, why would you provide your rulers—those ambitious creeps—with a tool for seizing territory and enacting tyranny? Why would you prepare for war in the absence of the kind of unifying, immediate threat—invasion, dictatorship—that naturally arouses people to fight? Why would you fight a revolution and then immediately give your president what he needs to make him a king? And why would you do this when your worst enemy lay across an ocean?
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