Just How Friendly is the Midwest?

cat-and-dog-cuddling1While social strife has launched Missouri into the national (and international spotlight), the region is traditionally known for its friendly residents. It’s one of the main reasons so many people feel St. Louis is a great town to raise a family. Having lived in Denver for a few years and going to school on the east coast, I have been able to find mutual friends or acquaintances in common by asking a random strangers sporting Cardinals gear where they attended high school.

“In many respects, the Friendly [and] Conventional region reflects Middle America,” but then why does our history find itself speckled with social strife—see: Missouri Compromise 1820Dred Scott v. SanfordRace Riot of 1917Jones v. MayerMissouri ex rel. Gaines v. CanadaFergusonA closer examination of the Midwest’s characteristics helps put context around the incoherent narratives of regional friendliness and historical oppression.

A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology asserts that the ‘configuration of traits’ of Middle America “portrays the sort of person who is sociable, considerate, dutiful, and traditional.” Such a picture paints the character of a person who feels obligated to exchange social pleasantries with their fellow residents. This type of regional character, “suggest[s] a place where traditional values, family, and the status quo are important.” So, St. Louis really is a great place to raise a family.

Yet, the region is not so great when it comes to change. Change upends the status quo, challenges values, and can lead to contentious debates at the family table. Unfortunately, this desire to preserve our present identity might just starve us of a prosperous future. As the economy changes St. Louis will need to attract innovative high-tech companies to remain competitive. That also means we’ll have to have a smart enough workforce to support those companies.

Why would companies invest in a region where municipalities find themselves pitted against each other on tax regulationlocal businesses fall to ruin in riots, and the education gap remains agape? If we are to survive as a region we may have to shed some of our scales; however, we can still retain our best traits which form the crux of our identity.

helping-hand-610grLet us apply our sense of duty to help our distant neighbors. Let us consider that people we disagree with care for families just like ours. Let us remember the great American lessons that “extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong,” (Eisenhower-R) and that “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened,” (Kennedy-D).

We say we are friendlier than the coasts while they laugh and point to our faults. So let’s roll up our sleeves and prove once and for all why middle America is called the heartland.

Source: Rentfrow, Peter J.; Gosling, Samuel D.; Jokela, Markus; Stillwell, David J.; Kosinski, Michal; Potter, Jeff. “Divided we stand: Three psychological regions of the United States and their political, economic, social, and health correlates.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 105(6), Dec 2013, 996-1012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034434