In the last couple of elections, Ohio has been designated as a “battleground” state. It seems an obstinate place; a state that rather enjoys the bloody battle for our country’s political will. It is one of those places that clings to its guns and its religion; its burning working-class furies. It is a place of disappearing industries; rubber, glass, paper. . .things are being constructed of other re-purposed materials. It seems perpetually an angry place, spawning political bomb-throwers and minor-league intellects like Michael Steele. And for the life of me, I will never be able to figure out what the Republican party has to offer African-Americans, other than Horatio Alger-Style bromides about boot-straps, and “helping those who help themselves.” It’s beyond me.
In literature, Ohio seems a place of suffocating ordinariness, a place so much the middle of America as to be almost erased by this definition. James Wright’s poems, Sherwood Anderson’s little town, even Chrissie Hynde’s songs underline pervasive, whistling miles of emptiness.
I’ve driven through it. In fact, got a ticket for driving on a suspended licsense in 1986 in Fulton county from a humorless state trooper who was hiding behind one of those salt depots and was only too happy to extract most of my cash for a bond, in lieu of waiting in jail for a court date. It seems one of those places that is about consequences. In the ’60s, cities like Cleveland lost their middle class to white flight and industries leaving town, as did towns like Youngstown, yet oddly, Ohio is home to some of the best colleges in the country–Oberlin, Ohio State, Miami of Ohio–and people from Ohio are your basic salt of the earth Midwesterners. It seems a kind of “Our Town” type of state. It has four seasons like Illinois and Indiana; big cities and a cultural legacy of art and music and literature.
Yet there is an otherness and abiding sadness about this state; a great deal of unemployment and disintegrating manufacturing culture. It is the tiny America; a microcosm of all of our ills brought into high relief geographically by mere location.
Ohio is our middle–tensile and utilitarian–a November kind of place. . .