My Missouri manifesto - John Samuel Tieman

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I chatted with friends. They said that if former President Donald Trump wins a second term, they're moving to Canada. The subject of moving comes up a lot. I certainly sympathize. If I attended the corner synagogue, the near-by mosque, if I was the target of Trump's racism, xenophobia, any number of horrors, I might want out. Now that Roe. vs. Wade has been overturned, a friend's daughter talks of emigration for no reason other than she is female. Who am I to judge? That said, I think it is important for liberals and centrists and conservatives to stay. Trump and his ilk will be gone one day, or so we pray. At that point, we will rebuild.

I am a native St. Louisan, as is my wife. Like many of our fellow St. Louisans, we had homing devices implanted at an early age, ones that made us eventually come back up-river to spawn. I just can't move to Canada. Besides, I've been throwing away Canadian pennies all my life. That and I only know the first line of their national anthem.

But beyond any political agenda, I am a native Missourian. On one side of my family, I come from an unbroken line of hillbillies from the Ozark foothills, a lineage as pure as any Windsor ever traced. And, yes, I also hold a doctorate. I lived overseas. I taught literature and history for forty-plus years. I've traveled the world, speak a little Spanish. I write essays and poetry, and do translations just for the fun of it. I wore my “Vietnam Veteran” cap to the polls when I voted for the old socialist, Bernie Sanders. All of which means that I have as much in common with the folks who love Sheryl Crow as I do the folks who love the St. Louis Symphony. My partisan opinions, while important to me, are just that – partisan. Almost all of them have shifted throughout my lifetime. The permanent bit is that I am a Midwesterner. In other words, I'm the leftist son of a hillbilly, and I ain't about to go nowhere, no way, no how. If folks can't put together my politics and my home, that's on them.

(And a side note. I'm a Midwesterner. I speak the Midlands Dialect Of American English. I am not a northerner. I am not a southerner. I am not an easterner. I am not a westerner. For further information, consult a map. And one more thing. Just because we speak with a twang, that’s no reason to presume that every Missourian has gone recreational possum tossing. Some of us have actually gone to the ballet.)

But the simple truth is, after decades of wandering the earth, I really can live nowhere except here. I love this place, and I love these people when they're not driving me crazy. As I age, I have come to value intimacy in ways I never have before. I can walk to the church where I was baptized, the grade school in which I was educated, the room in which I met my beloved at Washington University. I can hear the Angelus bells from the church in which Phoebe and I were married. I could go on. But my point is the intimacy I feel with these people, with this place, an intimacy I just can’t substitute for anyone or anywhere else. I spent many years trying to get away from here. I have finally become to be one with my home, my people, and, really, with myself.

Let me be clear. Just because we share a Zip Code, I am not excusing anyone’s racism, Antisemitism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, Confederate flag waving, or membership in the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. I always used to wonder why the Good Book asks me to only honor the parent, but love the neighbor. Then six out of ten of my neighbors voted for Trump. And one day soon we'll have to clean up that mess. And I say – We. WE will have to clean up that mess. We will have to restore our faith in science. We will have to restore our respect for the immigrant. We will have to restore our embrace of races and religions and those who are LGBTQ. We. Because we live here. Because we live here together. Because we start with – bein's as how we ain't about to be goin' nowhere no how no way.

2022.07.04 / 10:39
John Samuel Tieman
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