This Is Centerville, USA
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A country divided, a people incapable of uniting. This is the refrain we tell ourselves now, over and over, a constant low thrum of discord. We talk of blue states and red, conservative and liberal. We reduce ourselves to primary shades contained within arbitrary bounds.
Yet even in those blue bastions there lies a beating heart, mostly red — New York, California. And even the reddest state has veins of blue. Individuals themselves tend toward various shades of purple: some lilac, others deep indigo, still others more fuschia.
We live in a country that spans the length of an entire continent, and accounts for roughly 40 percent of its area; that comprises more than 327 million residents; that is nearly impossible to confine within a single definition.
And so here’s where this project comes in. Your correspondent is going to the heart of every state — the towns and cities closest to the geographic center. The people will be asked to tell their troubles, their joys, why they are where they are. They’ll be asked for hopes and dreams and stories of no consequence at all, that time the Carrabba’s closed down or how their cousin went to the same high school as Mandy Moore.
The result will be one article per center. There will be surprises. There may also be some mind-numbing sameness — that, too, is worthy of note and exploration. But it will be all be chronicled, lovingly and with empathy, and yet not without a sense of accountability to those who may be underrepresented out there away from the great sprawling metropolises that seem to draw so much ire.
Don’t worry: This is not a coming-of-age story, or a travelogue, or a city-slicker-meets-country-folk tale. This is not some grand tour to find oneself. This is the story of the people who live in the middle of it (or nothing at) all — Prineville, Oregon; Clanton, Alabama; Broken Bow, Nebraska; Oneida, New York — and how we can perhaps move forward together.
This is Centerville, USA.