I’m a staunch defender of Ohio. In my early twenties, I outgrew the need to see it as a geographic space somehow culturally inferior to others, or too stodgy for real ideas. But I still hear the echoes of that opinion from many who live here, and certainly from many who do not – who have formed their opinions driving across I-70 or the two-dimensional way we’re often cast by the media.
They see strip malls and corn fields and aw shucks values and test marketing opportunities. I see those things too. But I also see the home of the underground railroad and the one of the first colleges to admit women and African Americans. I see the state where the first women’s rights conferences were held and Sojourner Truth delivered her famous Ain’t I A Woman speech.
I see the Kent State shootings and the untold stories of massive anti-war protests at Ohio State. I see Toni Morrison, an author able to bring us to a new consciousness about how we understand history and race and ethnicity.
In my own town, I see James Thurber standing up to McCarthyism. I see many radical feminist collectives that thrived here in the late 1960s. I see the Yippies‘ Blacklisted News and hear the songs of Phil Ochs. I see how we’ve preserved the work of visual poets and cherished the wild sounds of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
For every perception that this is merely a conservative or bellwether state that twists in the wind, that change and progress are something a place like Ohio can’t possibly understand, I know an alternate story. I know what’s in the roots of the buckeye tree, and there is much more than a love of sports and a fear of God.
The chance to be blue again, to think about everything that means and to remember that this, too, is who we are, is another gift this remarkable week has given us.
Sorry to those who got an unfinished version of this in their feed readers last night – this was part of my last post, until I realized it would be better on its own, went to save it for later and accidentally hit publish.