John Bergman, an Auglaize County commissioner, announced last week that he is switching to Republican from Democrat because new House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "doesn't share the same Midwestern values that we do here."
Pelosi is known for her support for AIDS research, human rights in China, abortion rights and other apparently non-Midwestern values.
All of which raises the question: What exactly are Midwestern values? And are we really that monolithic?
I've been thinking about that ever since watching the recent Dayton-based episode of "The West Wing." White House press secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Oakwood's own Allison Janney, returns home to speak at her 20th high school class reunion.
The first glimpse of Dayton is of a rainy, deserted airport. The scene bears more resemblance to a lunar landscape than an airport terminal. When asked how things are going, C.J. breezily replies, "Usual, uneventful, Dayton-esque."
It's hardly the first time Dayton has been relegated to the "uneventful" (read: boring) trash pile of the national psyche. But we had high hopes for this episode. Native Daytonian Rob Lowe may have left the show, but two of its remaining stars, including Martin Sheen, hail from Dayton. Apparently the writers never consulted the stars or anyone who had the slightest inkling of what makes us our quirky, Dayton-esque selves. People here could have told them, for example, that C.J. would have been unlikely to graduate from West Dayton High School.
NBC filmed in Chicago because it was "cheaper" than filming in Dayton. That's like saying you're staying at the Ritz because you can't afford Motel 6, but no matter. The writers didn't bother to research Dayton because they're sure they know everything there is to know about us.
Well, they might have found out how a person from Dayton actually behaves. For instance, we don't act like this:
C.J.'s father is grappling with Alzheimer's disease and her stepmother, unable to cope, has gone to live with her daughter. C.J. reams out her stepmother as if she were ripping into her staff or the Washington press corps.
And we don't act like this:
At the reunion, C.J. has barely launched into her speech before her cell phone rings. It's a White House staffer calling with the crisis-du-jour. "I'm really sorry," she tells her astonished classmates, "but I have to go." What's going on in her world that is so important that she can't take 10 minutes to finish her speech?
What are Midwestern values? We get stereotyped from all sides, from right-leaning politicians to left-leaning TV shows. In reality, Midwestern values can be pro-life or pro-choice, pro-war or pacifist. We believe in affirmative action and we don't. We're vegetarian and we're not. We run the gamut of American political opinion.
But most of us wouldn't leave our high school classmates in the dust, as C.J. did, with the implicit message, "You stay there with your stultifying, Dayton-esque lives, and I'll go back to the Big World."
And her Dad? Well, stepmom seems to be back in the fold. Not my problem any more.
If you forced me to engage in stereotypes, I would say that is not a Midwestern value.
Mary McCarty writes for The Dayton Daily News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2003 Cox News Service