The American Midwest: A Story Of Decay And (Eventual) Rebirth

The American Midwest: A Story Of Decay And (Eventual) Rebirth

The Midwest, its downfall, and how it can rise atop the pile again.

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"You know what the Midwest is? Young and restless." Kanye West once uttered those words to describe his environment in Chicago, but it almost feels like that could be applied to most, if not all, of the Midwest; young in age and restless in desire for change. A place once filled with burgeoning manufacturing industries, innovation, and unabated prosperity, now left behind by them and forced to ponder what can bring them back to glory and relevance nationally.

From Detroit and the automobile industry to Youngstown, Ohio and the steel industry, many cities and states have been left in ruins, as the rest of the industries that endeared themselves to the populace slowly departed for new lands. Cleveland? Down nearly 2/3 of its peak population. St. Louis has lost the greatest number of citizens as a percentage of its population since 1950. Detroit, the city on a hill, has lost one million since the 50's. Walter Mondale described this area as the "Rust Bowl," which would evolve into the Rust Belt, which comprises so much of the Midwest. The question is; what got us here?

First, let's define the Rust Belt, since it isn't the most well-defined phrase. Though used in a more derisive context, it is usually defined as the area from western New York (Buffalo) out to, St. Louis, Missouri and Iowa out west. This includes nearly, if not all, of the Midwest. This area used to be the engine of the country's economy; U.S. Steel, AK Steel, GM, Ford, Chrysler, and others called this area home, and many still do. This brought in a plethora of immigrants from overseas, as well as African-Americans (the Great Migration) who sought a better life away from the oppressive Jim Crow south.

This hodgepodge of individuals didn't work in harmony consistently (more on that later), but they certainly contributed to the economic boom that would define the area for decades to come. The area became defined not only by its industry, but the ethnic heterogeneity. The area prospered; at the 1950 Census, the following cities were in the top 20 cities by population; Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. This is not even including cities such as Baltimore. Other small cities, such as Galesburg, Illinois, (Maytag Factory), Burlington, Iowa, and Youngstown, Ohio thrived as a result of their respective industries. To put it concisely, the area thrived. However, it was not to last.

There were many, many factors that led to this precipitous decline that continues today. Some of them are unique to cities, while others are more general. One of the most obvious phenomenon observed? Redlining, or the denial of services to African-Americans. This included loans, insurance, healthcare, and even access to supermarkets. This led many African-Americans to abandon their neighborhoods as businesses were unable to thrive, leading to lower population densities and shelters for those seeking to trade drugs and commit crimes and leaving those who stayed in dangerous conditions (this still happens today, FYI). There was also blockbusting, which was inherently linked to white-flight; white homeowners were encouraged to sell their homes at a loss because of the amount of black people moving in depressing their property values, and then proceeded to sell the properties to black people moving into the area at a mark-up, causing them to lose their money. This was fueled by white flight, where white citizens fled for the suburbs, removing a significant tax-base for the cities.

This doesn't even begin to touch on how cities lost industry to not only the suburbs, but other countries. A sad beginning to the decline to come.

And now, here we are. There are many ways this could be solved, one would hope. Though the cities would never decline enough to where they could disappear, losing a city as a key economic hub is damaging. Where does it all stem from? Loss of industry. So the question becomes this: what can we do here in the Rust Belt to bring jobs back? For some, it is easy; just spend what is invested. Dan Gilbert bought up much of downtown Detroit and renovated it, attracting people from out of state, which has actually led to people coming back to Detroit (per Census estimates, but still down from 2010).

Pittsburgh has oriented itself as a tech hub, which has slowed the decline. The problem is that most of these benefits, while benefiting the central business district and raising the prices in these areas, have not been passed along to poorer individuals in these cities. Many of the city services still have not improved for these individuals not living in the city center.

How do we pass along benefits not only to them, but also the smaller cities, such as Kenosha, Wisconsin? There are some proposals. Some involve grants being allocated to states that build environments conducive to start-ups. Others place immigrants in these particular cities for innovation's sake (similar to how refugees are placed). Some require the changing of the manufacturing still present; looking ahead to new technologies and building. Whatever it is, there has to be a solution somewhere.

I am a Rust Belt kid. I have essentially been one my entire life; I spent my years in a suburb tucked in between Dayton and Cincinnati, in a steel town called Middletown, before moving to St. Louis. While rugged, and not always aesthetically pleasing, this region is my home. These are the people I grew up with, the people that provided me with hope that the Rust Belt could cease rusting and somehow be restored. These people inspired me to write this. Not just to reverse the decline, but to bring back prosperity to people who live in the big and small cities, whether it be Detroit or Galesburg, Cleveland or Youngstown.

We will be back someday.


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Top 50 Things You'll Hear A Southern Say

Y'all.
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For those of you who may need a little help understanding the slang of a southern, I made a list of the top 50 phrases and sayings, along with their translations.

1. Bless your heart.

My favorite saying. It is an empathetic phrase that is usually uttered when the speaker believes the recipient to be sweet, but misguided or stupid. It can also be used if the speaker believes the recipient needs to grow up and deal with it, when the speaker says it in a sarcastic tone.

2. Barking up the wrong tree.

Means being misguided or mistaken.

3. Aren't you precious?

Mostly this saying is used in a sarcastic tone in response to someone being offensive.

4. Britches.

Pants or underpants.

An example would be, "Your britches are too short, you can't wear those".

5. Coke.

Regardless if it's Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, or another carbonated beverage, it's called Coke here in the South.

6. Fixin' to.

Simply means that you are about to do something.

7. Get the short end of the stick.

This phrase means that you basically got an unfair deal or cheated out of something.

8. Give Me Some Sugar.

Simply means give me a kiss.

9. Hissy Fit.

A hissy fit is a grown-up version of a temper tantrum that is as bad as one that a toddler would throw.

10. Hold Your Horses.

Be patient.

11. Holler.

When you say "holler" you are basically letting the other person know something.

Example: Holler at me when you are ready to get something to eat.

12. If the creek don't rise.

This saying simply means that if nothing bad happens, everything will go as planned.

13. You're as slow as molasses in the wintertime.

This phrase means that you are being EXTRA slow.

14. Muddin'.

Off-road four-wheeler riding with the intentions of getting mud everywhere and possibly losing control.

15. Skat Cat.

A phrase that can be used instead of saying "God bless you" when you sneeze.

16. There's Not A Pot Too Crooked That A Lid Won't Fit.

There is someone for everyone.

17. Pitcher.

We mostly mean a plastic container that holds sweet tea, not the position of a guy on the baseball team.

18. Reckon.

When you say "I reckon", you believe that something is true.

19. Hoot With The Owls, Soar With The Eagles.

This simple phrase means that if you are going to stay up all night, you should be able to get early in the morning.

20. Too Big For Your Britches.

Simply means that you take yourself too seriously.

21. Stompin' Grounds.

Your hometown or where you grew up.

22. Back In The Day.

Back in the day could be a month ago, a year ago, or 20 years ago.

23. You're A Spitting Image Of (Insert Family Member).

Yes, I know I'm a spitting image of my mother. "Spitting image" simply means that you look just like someone.

24. "Darlin, Sugar, Sweetheart"

These words are simply terms of endearment.

25. Buggy.

A buggy is a cart/basket at the grocery store.

Example: Who wants to push the buggy?

26. Quit Crying Or I Will Give You Something To Cry About.

This phrase simply means to quit crying and if you didn't then more than likely you got a spanking,

27. Where You Raised In A Barn?

If you are from the South, you have probably been asked this more than once, especially when you left a door open.

28. Close The Door. You Are Letting All The Good Air Out.

This southern heat is nothing to play with. It simply means to keep the door closed so the air (or heat if its winter) stays inside.

29. You Are Going To Make Me Lose My Religion.

When you say this phrase to someone, it more than likely means that person has done something to irritate you or made you mad. Thank goodness Jesus saves.

Example: You are going to make me lose my religion.

30. You Look Like A Chicken With Your Head Cut Off.

This is said when you are running around like a crazy person. It can be said if you are looking for something that you are searching for or if you are just really busy.

31. Y'all.

The southern way to say "you all".

32. You Can't Carry A Tune In A Bucket.

If you've ever been told this, it means that you can't sing.

33. Have Their Feathers Ruffled.

You normally have your "feathers ruffled" when you are pouting.

34. Two Peas In A Pod.

When you and someone else are "two peas in a pod", it means that either you almost always together or that you two are almost identical in the way you think and do things.

35. Well Butter My Butt And Call Me A Biscuit.

This saying can be used when you are surprised or excited.

36. Don't Let The Door Hit Ya Where The Good Lord Split Ya.

When someone say this they typically mean to get out and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

37. You're As Good As Gold.

When you are "as good as gold", it means that you are well-behaved and obedient.

38. It's Raining Cats And Dogs Out There.

This simply means that the rain is really coming down hard. It's not actually raining cats and dogs, people.

39. I'm Full As A Tick.

This phrase means that you ate too much food.

40. I'm Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church.

When someone says this, it means that they are really hot and sweating A LOT.

41. Pot Calling The Kettle Black.

This phrase is used when one person is guilty of the very same thing of which they accuse another person.

42. There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat.

It means that there is anyways more than one way to fix something.

43. Shut Yo' Mouth.

Means to be quiet or hush up.

44. Whatever Floats Your Boat.

This saying means to do whatever you want to do.

45. Slap Yo' Momma.

This phrase means that something is good.

Example: This BBQ is slap yo' momma good.

46. She's Like A Bull In A China Shop.

When you tell someone this phrase, you are telling them that they are clumsy or careless in the way that they move.

47. Cuttin' A Rug.

Cuttin' a rug is used to describe dancing.

Example: Let's go cut a rug tonight.

48. Clicker.

A clicker is another name for a TV remote.

49. Slow Your Roll.

This also means to be patient.

50. You're A Hot Mess.

When you tell someone that they are a "hot mess", you are simply telling them that they don't have it together.

Cover Image Credit: silhouetteamerica.com

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10 Vacation Destinations That Are Worth Hopping Over To During Easter Break

Colored eggs and chocolate are not the only treats you can get for Easter Break.

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Easter is a time to spend with family, have time away from school, go out with friends, and remember the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, it is also an opportunity to visit many fun and exciting locations. Whether you love swimming, dancing at clubs, indulging in five-star restaurants, or getting a massage, there are a variety of activities that will make anyone's Easter more enjoyable. Here are 10 vacation locations that will meet the needs of any family this Easter.

1. The Royal Hawaiian

Hawaii is one of the best places to visit for vacation. Families will love walking along the shore, getting delicious food or drinks at one of the many bars, and even stopping by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a massage at the Abhasa Waikiki Spa. If you are courageous enough, head out to the beach for surfing or just to relax. With so many sites to explore, this is a vacation that will bring lasting memories.

2. Berry Springs Lodge

Here is a nice and quiet location that is definitely a treat if you want to experience a less hectic vacation. The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is great for anyone who loves taking photos or exploring landscapes. There are two Whirlpool Suites with a fireplace, deck, and whirlpool that gives you an awesome view of the mountains. Activities include playing a game of pool and going on a mountain bike through the nearby trail, so try to stay observant and take in the environment.

3. Lake Austin Spa Resort

If you plan on traveling to a much warmer state for the holiday break, then this would a good choice. This resort is just a short drive away from Austin and is an excellent place to take it easy. Here you can stay at one of the cottages, take a nap by the fireplace, stroll through the outdoor garden, get a massage at the spa or have a seat in the hot tub. This is a vacation that will certainly take your stress away.

4. Fredericksburg

This is another city located in the state of Texas that features a special Easter tradition that families will love. Dress up for the Easter pageant and have a fun time. Visitors can see the Easter fires in the surrounded area that light up the night. There are plenty of food, drinks, and activities to keep everyone occupied, and ensure that they will have a happy Easter.

5. Bay St. Louis

Here is a vacation spot in Mississippi to celebrate Easter. All families will enjoy watching the sunrise and hunting for Easter eggs. Other activities to check out include the Stella, Blues and Barbecue festival for some tasty food and fun. There is also a yelling contest in which participants scream "Stella!" which is a reference to "A Streetcar Named Desire." No matter what you choose to do, this location will result in plenty of excitement, laughter, and possibly a sore throat.

6. Flagstaff

If you are traveling with a small or big family and do not mind the heat, then head down to this destination located in the very hot state of Arizona. The land is beautiful and gives photographers a chance to capture the amazing forests and mountains there. If you are feeling adventurous, check out the Snowbowl Ski Resort or if you want to take it slow, there is always Humphreys Peak where you will see gorgeous landscapes. Lastly, make sure to visit one of the restaurants that they have to offer for a delicious breakfast for an amazing start to the day ahead.

7. Lake Powell

This destination features cool rock landscapes and is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Despite the place being surrounded by boulders, families can still have a fun time. You can take photos of the environment or visit a petting zoo. Take a walk around the land, find a spot to catch some fish for dinner, and you will agree this vacation definitely rocks.

8. Santa Monica

Here is an awesome vacation spot for anyone who loves working out and engaging in various outdoor activities. This is the place where you will find the Half Marathon for Easter. There are other options like the 5k, 10k, or 15k run, as well. The weather is sunny and it's a nice place to go for a swim, visit a farmer's market or participate in other Easter themed events.

9. Savannah

Do not let the heat discourage you from visiting this location. There are multiple gardens and parks to check out, along with markets and a music festival. If you are looking for additional fun, there is a Savannah Riverboat Cruise for families to travel around the city. There are a variety of delicious options for brunch or dinner, and other surprises for your holiday.

10. St. Augustine

During Easter vacation, there are so many things to do with family and friends. If you decide to travel to this location, you will enjoy the Easter parade known as the Parada de los Caballos y Coches or the Parade of Horses and Coaches. If you are looking for a nice family event, head on down to the parade and listen to the music. The horses and carriages are great to see as well, and there are multiple restaurants located around the city when you need a break from the festivities.

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