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Our Story Begins: Why “The Middle” Is Not A Bad Place To Be


 Our Story Begins:
Why “The Middle” Is Not A Bad Place To Be

I honestly thought things like tragedy, as in the shootings in Newtown, CT  or even strife, like the so-called fiscal cliff would bring people together.

I guess I was wrong.

Where a shooting should bring us together, a radical group has threatened to protest the childrens’ funerals. In retaliation, a hacker group has targeted that very group.

We’re about to lurch over a financial cliff as a country and both sides are refusing to give in; the radicals in their parties have threatened to take down candidates who vote for either the President or the House Speaker.  We hear so many people talking about how hard it is to “reach across the aisle,” but I argue there’s no imaginary line we ever have to cross.  You have to meet in the middle.  The problem is so many people think the middle is bad.

Worse, they use this figuratively and literally. When I tell people I grew up in the middle of the country, they act like I take an extreme view and am nothing near enlightened.  But here’s why I know they’re wrong:

There’s a lot about being in the middle that applies to me.  I’m the middle child of three boys.  I’m the son of a middle child.

I grew up in the middle, quite literally.

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 I was born in Topeka, Kansas, home of the now infamous Westboro Baptist Church.  They’re the ones who show up to protest at soldier and celebrity funerals and say the deaths are “God’s will.” They planned on picketing the Newtown funerals.  What perception of Topeka does the rest of the country have?  It’s the capitol of a state filled with religious radicals and crazy anti-evolution, anti-gay advocates?  Never mind what the city has for amenities or the help that so many of the majority of citizens of Topeka and Kansas do to help the country.  The screams of a few radicals are the headlines that everyone sees.  I know people from Topeka – none of them go to Westboro.

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I grew up in O’Neill, Nebraska, a small town in the North-Central part of the state, near the geographic center – the middle – of the continent.  I live on the West Coast now and enjoy the East Coast.  Talk to people from the country’s bookends, though, and you get a far different perspective of the middle.  I’ve had people think I’m joking when I say I’m from Nebraska.  “You seem too worldly to be from there,” whatever that means.  I’ve had someone ask once – in complete sincerity – if we still had “Indian troubles” in Nebraska. Being the smart a** I am I told them we ducked behind our horse’s head to avoid the arrows on the way to school.  (For the record: I never owned a horse. We had indoor plumbing and central heating just like everyone else.)  I went to 12 years of Catholic school and was taught evolution as fact (I’m still Catholic, by the way).

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Photo: Huffington Post

Look at an election map of the middle and you see it painted red.  In fact, mention you’re from the middle and people look at you like you absolutely, positively, have to have that same perspective.  The middle, it seems, has garnered a reputation of being radically conservative and has no flexibility.  Yet campaigns are funded on both sides of the political aisle from other places.  Mystery money flows in.  Both sides of the aisle blame the radical messengers and tell the world that the middle is a foregone conclusion.

Read more:  Our Story Begins: But Dad, Just LISTEN!


I’m not arguing politics here.  I’m a journalist and I stay – to go with the theme here – in the middle.  Still, I have lived and worked in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Texas, Colorado and California.  I have done stories and worked on both coasts, been to Germany, Israel, Mexico, Jamaica, even Afghanistan.  I still have a sincere fondness for where I grew up.

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I centered my moral compass in the middle.  I was shown how to be a good man by my parents in the middle.  My Mom showed me you should open doors for a woman.  You stand up when a woman comes to the table.  You never . . . ever . . . ever . . . strike a woman.  I learned how to cook, clean, set a table, and show women – hell people – respect – more respect than I see most days on the West Coast.

I learned that I was only as good as my word and family was the most important thing from my Dad – who raised me there in the middle. He taught me a strong work ethic.

Read More: Our Story Begins: Are You A Mother Or A Martyr?


I married a woman whose family had ties to the middle. After I lost her to pneumonia I was surrounded by friends on the West Coast.  But my family drove from Nebraska to live with me for months.  I had classmates I’d not spoken with since high school help me pay off my kids’ school bills – anonymously.  Most of them still live in the Midwest.

One of my best friends is from my hometown – she’s from the middle, too.

Read more:  Our Story Begins: 365 Days….(VIDEO)


In a time when people have radicalized the country; when little kids can get killed and we debate over guns and security, I spoke with my family in the middle; we felt for the families, unable to fathom the tragedy.  “How do we help,” was the universal message.  Not for or against guns.  Not for or against video games.  We talked about caring for each other.

Perception, you see, is not reality.  The reality is I send my kids to spend every summer in the middle and I have no qualms about doing it.  I value what I learned there.  I’m proud to be from the middle.

What’s your perception?  Do you see the world in shades of only red and blue?  Or is there purple in there somewhere?  Can you look at your life and say in honesty that you’ve taught that same tolerance and love I learned in the middle?  In a time when we’re so deeply divided . . . sometimes it’s good to come back to the middle.

More From GEM:

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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.



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