It seems that everywhere we turn today, every news source we read, watch and hear, it is impossible to avoid the Middle East. And it has been for a while. Whenever there’s violence to be had, it’s had in the Middle East. What, did all the really angry people up and move out there one day? Or is it just that the Middle East is the world’s chosen battleground — like the Thunderdome or something?
“Pardon ME, sir!”
“Pardon YOU? No! Pardon ME!”
“Are you insinuating something?”
“No, I’m not INSINUATING anything. I’m coming right out and saying it. You’re a dunderhead!”
“A dunderhead?! Shall we step outside and settle this like men?”
“How about the Middle East?”
“I concur! To Iran! Where I’ll beat you within an inch of your unpleasant life!”
What is it about the Middle East that draws all the violent folks? Maybe it’s the sand — plenty of it around to throw in the other guy’s eyes. Maybe it’s the AK-47s that seem to grow on trees. Maybe it’s all the oil. Oil, as proven in Texas, draws jerks like flies to crap. And jerks attract jerks, as proven in the Greek system. Maybe it’s the heat. My grandfather lives in West Palm Beach, and he’s constantly in a bad mood.
Maybe the reason the Middle East is such a hotbed of violence is the fact that God and Jesus and Moses and Muhammad and all them were born there– Man, if only Jesus had been born in Milwaukee or something, and Moses in– I don’t know. Let’s say Panama City. If only the all these saviors hadn’t been born in the SAME EXACT place, there’d be no fighting at all. Everyone would have space to worship, and the Muslims wouldn’t be getting all up in the Israelis’ grill, and vice versa.
The gist of this column so far, in case you have failed to latch on, is that I would humbly recommend you cancel your long-standing vacation plans to Kandahar, even if it means ruining the kids’ spring break. The question then stands: Where is the best place in the world to BE right now? Where are we least susceptible to the pulsating bad vibes of the Middle East? Where should we run and hide?
The answer is simple. It’s a word problem, and not even a difficult one at that. Where is the FARTHEST possible place from the Middle East? Well, what’s the opposite of “east”?
No. Seriously. That’s not a rhetorical question. Wait a second, let me go ask my roommate–
(Please wait five minutes before continuing to read column.)
OK, I’m back. Matt says it’s “west,” which makes enough sense. Therefore, the farthest possible place from the Mideast, is, you guessed it, the Midwest — the Corn Belt — America’s unemployed uncle — the land we covered in that whole “manifest destiny” craze, and then kept going.
For a peaceful, safe life, there’s simply NO place like Ohio. No land mines here! Just land. Lots and lots of land. Expanses of undeveloped, flat land. Hey, want some land? ‘Cause Ohio’s got PLENTY. You can have mine.
What’s that you say? No CULTURE in the Midwest? Ha! Indiana ALONE has 32 Taco Bells. Are you a fan of the theater? This week the Greenfield Community Players are staging their long-awaited adaptation of August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” with a cast of dozens. The Greenfield Mule calls it “Fun, fun, and still also more fun!”
Not a fan of theater or Mexican food? Don’t worry, Iowa’s got neither. But you know what Iowa DOES have?
Again– Not a rhetorical question.
The Midwest is simply the happiest place you could be right now. You know what’s scaring me about the world these days? Every damn thing. I sit here on the East Coast with my constant satellite feed from the Mideast, chewing my fingernails. I watch my leaders act in ways which do not inspire confidence in me. I go to sleep and I can still see the MSNBC news ticker ticking across my retinas. I’m on information overload, as I expect the majority of globally minded world citizens are. I’m addicted.
The Midwest is rehab. Whatever it is that has drawn the frantically angry and delusional to the Middle East, that same force has drawn them OUT of the Midwest. Perhaps there was a day when it was the Midwest that was the axis of the world’s malaise, when the expansive corn fields of our country’s lesser-known states were filled with guerrillas, when the strip malls were overrun with tanks. I don’t know.
If there was a day such as that, then it has passed. Whatever ill-will there may have been in the Midwest has migrated East– perhaps out of sheer boredom, who knows. Perhaps all those ticked-off folks in the Middle East are ticked off from the tedium of life in the Midwest. Perhaps long ago they got fed up and moved as far away from their roots as possible, opting for a new life in the arid desert winds.
I don’t know.
Maybe Ohio was always this boring.
Whatever may or may not have happened to make this pulseless American wonderland what it is today, it stands now as a safe haven for all us who desperately seek shelter from the scary world out there, all around us. Whatever happens, I wager, the Midwest will survive, if for no other reason than– why not? What’s there to blow up?
Perhaps as a nation we can never go home again.
I don’t know.
I, for one, am going to Wisconsin.
Greg Yolen is a sophomore in Pierson College and is going to Indiana this spring break. No. For real.