Losing Faith In Almost Everything

We go to famed Middletown, USA — Muncie, Indiana– for a portrait of tough times and Americans checking out of faith in almost everything.

An American flag is seen through rain drops on a window as rain falls in Baltimore, Sunday, April 22, 2012. (AP)

An American flag is seen through rain drops on a window as rain falls in Baltimore, Sunday, April 22, 2012. (AP)

Muncie, Indiana has been under the microscope of American sociologists for the better part of a century now. Middletown, USA. The archetype. The tuning fork. Know Muncie and you know the land, was the idea.

Well, if that’s true, two big reporters now say, we are in trouble – or, at least ready for some major change. They’ve gone back to Muncie and found Americans giving up on just about everything. Banks, schools, city hall, church. “In Nothing We Trust” is their headline. Wooph!

This hour, On Point: When it all falls down. We’re going back to Muncie.

-Tom Ashbrook


Ron Fournier, editor-in-chief of the National Journal Group. His latest article with Sophie Quinton is In Nothing We Trust.

Sophie Quinton, staff reporter at the National Journal.

From Tom’s Reading List

National Journal “Johnny Whitmire shuts off his lawn mower and takes a long draw from a water bottle. He sloshes the liquid from cheek to cheek and squirts it between his work boots. He is sweating through his white T-shirt. His jeans are dirty. His middle-aged back hurts like hell. But the calf-high grass is cut, and the weeds are tamed at 1900 W. 10th St., a house that Whitmire and his family once called home. “I’ve decided to keep the place up,” he says, “because I hope to buy it back from the bank.””

Salon “Fournier and Quinton’s piece goes on to describe the decline in various Muncie institutions: the mainline Protestant church dying as a corporate-inspired Megachurch thrives outside of town, some local government scandal involving improperly cast absentee ballots and an arrogant one-term mayor.”

Reason “But none of this addresses the core argument of this wrist-cutter of a journalistic endeavor: Americans are losing faith in the institutions that made this country great.”

American Radio Works “Robert and Helen Lynd published their groundbreaking study of an ordinary American community they called “Middletown” in 1929. “Middletown” is actually Muncie, Indiana, and over the years many other researchers have returned to study the people who live there.”

Video: Virtual Middletown

The Virtual Middletown Project at Ball State University brings to life the 1929 and 1937 Lynd Study of Middletown America through the virtual world of Blue Mars. This prototype recreates elements of industrial life from that period, specifically the Ball Glass Factory.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 25, 2015
Three of baker Renee McLeoud's delicious pies, on display in the WBUR studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »