The communities of East Central Indiana are isolated from the realities of life in the Middle East.
We are rarely touched by the deaths of American soldiers - at least personally.
We read about Iraq, Israel, and Gaza on page 8A of our USA Today run-financed newspapers. The increasing terror of the middle east is mostly abstract to Indiana citizens.
Midwesterners are touched by the terror of higher gasoline prices. They know very well that Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other middle east hot spots are sources of reasonably priced oil. American capitalism runs on low energy prices. Who had rather walk than ride?
As partisan politics goes, midwest America voters are pragmatic in their solutions to most any problem - domestic and/or foreign.
Honesty and competence are values that Americans care about. The phrase, "an honest day's work," certainly works well in the heartland. All of life is an effort "to chase truths." Time never stays still.
9/11 and the Iraq war speed up the consciousness of human behavior. If not for those earth shaking events, official diplomats would still be plodding along, negotiating this reality with that near-reality. Once innocents die before their times, the righteous, bereaved, and otherwise pained become incensed. Nothing is as it used to be.
As with previous wars, the Iraq war may never be "over." In Israel and Gaza, violence will continue to beget more mayhem, disorder, and death. We will not trek back to where we were before 9/11. The carnage in Manhattan, the Pentagon, Iraq,
Israel, and Gaza permits no status quo ante. The United States, Europe, and Middle East have changed--and so have we.
The American midwest is losing its once solid industrial base. Industry brought us our higher incomes and wealth. In my neighborhood of towns, New Castle was a Chrysler town, Kokomo the same, Muncie a Chevrolet town, Anderson a Delco battery town, and Marion a RCA community. These medium sized burbs are located along Interstate 69 on the Indianapolis-Ft.Wayne corridor.
The region's population is declining as jobs go elsewhere. American workers are pragmatic. They get up in the morning with purpose. After coffee, they head out for work--some to jobs and others to careers. Jobs give them more than merely livelyhood.
They provide meaning to their very existence.
America is a pragmatic country. When we see a speeding train coming, we do our best to get out of the way. 9/11 was a train that almost no one, including President Bush2, anticipated. Once a victim, phooey on someone else. Victim time and time again, phooey on us. What motivated the pirates of 9/11? That scenario is not broached.
Competence and truth dominate U.S. culture. If we are victims to the CIA, Bush2, Congress, and the media, why? Are they not truthful about Iraq? Are they incompetent leaders? If Americans were deceived on reasons for the Iraq war, who deceived them?
Americans are pragmatic. But pragmatism depends knowing what the truth is. Or chasing it. Truth seeking is joined with competence--in the White House, Congress, bureaucracy, and media. President Bush2 attempts to be a leader on 9/11 and Iraq.
But does he tell the truth? Is he competent?
The terror of increasing gasoline prices hits home to the citizens of New Castle, Muncie, Anderson, Kokomo, and Marion. They depend upon energy sources to be effective in their jobs and careers.
These midwest burbs are frequently boring places. Folks in these communities are likely conservative, traditional, religious, moral, judicious, authoritarian, tolerant, hard working, well fed, and optimistic. Their personal opportunities come through democracy. Their achievement is realized through capitalism. They dont tolerate incompetence for long. They dont like being lied to.
These Hoosiers are likely religious - and less likely proactively Christian. "Religious" means that Americans along the I-69 roadway are creatures of religious habits - molded by structures, authorities, formalities, creeds, and routines. If these folk were more Christian, rather than religious, they would insist that their priests, pastors, and believers speak out on the whys and wherefores of 9/11 and the Middle East.
Many citizens who live in my geographic neighborhood choose to be ignorant regarding matters of the world. They apparently think flag waving is the way to show commitment and resolve. They are largely uninformed about the Middle East.
But once Americans "get burned" by errors of their leaders, agencies, military, and media, they start "to feel the pain." Once the pain of suffering sets in, those who were closeted in ignorance begin to ask why. Competence and truth, once again, creep into their daily existence.
Ignorance may turn to arrogance. But arrogance has its certain limits. Humility then becomes an alternative. We are not there yet, but humility is at the end of this tunnel.
John Rouse is professor of political science at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.