Where are you from? That question is loaded for many of us. Do you identify the place you grew up with all its nostalgia but also its real flaws? Do you list the place you live now even if you've only recently moved and still don't embrace the peculiar local customs? Or do you name the place that will impress others for its size, its trendiness, or its cultural influence?
The place I live now barely resembles the place I grew up, the farm in South Dakota that shaped me in permanent ways. But I don't ever expect to live there again, so I've resolved to make a place in the Deep South, learning the unfamiliar ways of the aristoratic class that reared my wife. I'm a farm boy also shaped by the cosmopolitan values of a northern metropolis where I attended college and started my career but now learning to enjoy the leisurely lifestyle of Alabama. Should I live several more decades I may stll be from South Dakota. But I'll call Alabama home.
I'm far from alone in America as I straddle varied places with contrasting values. So how do we make a home where we live? I turned to help by interviewing Mark T. Mitchell, chairman of the department of government at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches courses in political theory. He is the author, most recently, of The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age. He contributed the essay “Making Places: The Cosmopolitan Temptation” to the new book Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America, edited by Wilfred McClay and Ted V. McAllister. You can also find his work at Front Porch Republic, where he is editor in chief.
In this 40-minute interview we discuss hashtag activism, the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the problems of perpetual perfect possibility, and the goods you can only realize in the wake of commitment, among many other topics philosphical and practical. Listen in to learn why you the most important thing you could do right now might be to plant a tree. As always you can get other TGC audio on iTunes or subscribe through your other mobile devices.