Midwestern Nice

(Note: This entry makes some references to a post that has since been deleted.)

Last week I initiated my mom and sister into my experimental little blog world and in one fell swoop, my readership tripled in size – to a grand total of three people! Yesterday Mom and I had a skype session and I got her first reactions and feedback.

Mom says I have to apologize to the dumb 13% and the National Football League. So . . .


Actually, after a few fleeting seconds of feeling like I was 15 instead of 53, I really had to smile as I listened to her explain – very diplomatically! – why the dumb comment bothered her – – you see, for a lot of people, it isn ‘’t that they are dumb, it’’s just that they are working so hard and have other troubles and really don’’t have time to keep up with politics and world events . . . This was quintessential mom. Caring about kindness. She always said that the thing she wanted most for her kids was not success or wealth or recognition, but that they become kind people. And she succeeded, mostly through setting an example like the one above for us to follow. I have tried to pass those exact same values onto my own daughters in the same way. I care a lot about generosity and kindness.

Niceness is another matter.

Where I live now, niceness immediately raises suspicions. “Why is this person being so friendly? What do they want from me?” I may have been raised in a culture of American “”Midwestern Nice”” (- a phrase I keep hearing in news shows when the pundits imagine Chris Christie in Iowa telling some caucus participant to sit down and shut up), but it has been overlaid with 30 years of living with what I will call European ““Southeastern Snark”” – among artistic and musical and funny people with a dark shadow looming over their second souls. This is something that would require many blog entries before my mom really understood it.

But back to the skype session . . .

I explained that I wasn’’t thinking about Americans at all there, but more about these far right, opportunistically xenophobic, scare-mongering, flirting-with-fascism European parties that always seem to get somewhere in the vicinity of 13% of the votes with their promises of returning the country to some mythical period in the past when the world had Order. Having once been on the receiving end of one of those parties’’ anti-foreigner campaigns, I am a bit sensitive on this subject and find it difficult to dredge up any understanding for their sympathizers. As for the second objectionable joke, first I had to explain it (which is never a good sign) and then I defended myself by admitting I had basically stolen it from an episode of West Wing.

We agreed that she will be my Nice-o-meter from now on. But I also made it clear that I wanted this blog to be like life is: a bit of everything. Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes nice, sometimes snarky. Fun and sad and angry and kind. Thoughtful and thoughtless. Past and present. I think that was the point where we reached an understanding. Her final piece of advice: “”Why don’t you ever use the F* word? I thought you were a modern woman!””

All that being said, I probably will go back at some point and tone down those two jokes.


2 thoughts on “Midwestern Nice

  1. here the learned Prussian in me kicks in: don’t tone down past entries
    Two reasons: 1. blogs are mostly read now and hardly ever again, as they mostly also reflect the now in your head, so changing it later may be love’s labour’s lost…
    2. it is funny and enriching to read up later on, what oneself wrote (because the author is most likely one of the very few to ever peep in later on past posts)
    … and third: 13% aren’t enough, if you ask me (and look at some election results). Meaning, there is never the right level of niceness for everyone.


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