June 30, 2016

While it's true that most Midwesterners care more about their families than their careers, they're still no more moral than anyone else. True, they almost never honk their car horns and are not likely to throw tantrums at ticket agents in airports, I suspect that their civility, albeit refreshing and generally more pleasant to be around than the standard vibe at Zabar's, is the result of less population density rather than moral superiority. It's easy to be nice to a ticket agent when there aren't 200 people in line. There's no need to honk your horn when rush hour traffic involves a mere ten 10-minute delay.

I suspect that Midwesterners' civility, albeit more pleasant to be around than the standard vibe at Zabar's, is the result of less population density rather than moral superiority.

As much as Midwesterners might like to think they have it over New Yorkers in the goodness department, the truth is that their gas stations still get held up, the kids still cheat on their homework, and the adults still cheat on their spouses. There appears to be no less divorce in Lincoln than there is in Manhattan. Need I point out that John Lithgow's character in "Terms of Endearment," after flexing his moral muscles to the surly checkout girl, proceeded to have an extramarital affair with Debra Winger's character?

Though no one in Lincoln would believe it, the people I know in New York are among the most caring, decent, compassionate human beings I've ever met. I have a friend who delivers food to AIDS patients every other week. I know someone who, among other small kindnesses, bakes a cake for the homeless man on her corner every year on his birthday. I once worked with an extremely busy magazine editor whose godson came to her office every day after school so she could help him with his homework. Every time I went running in Central Park I saw elderly people raking leaves around the reservoir simply because they wanted to. Does this sound immoral to you?

Maybe we don't talk to our neighbors--I rarely did--but when 8 million people live piled on top of one another, leaving a person alone is sometimes the best thing you can do for them. Niceness isn't always the same thing as goodness. It's easier to be nice than it is to be good. It's easier to say "Have a nice day" than it is to give someone a good day, and I've seen a lot of New Yorkers give each other good days. No one ever said we were nice, but we're pretty damn good.