A friend in the village told me that she has been to Ohio.
“Ohio is so ugly."
I was a bit hurt. “Where did you go in Ohio?” I asked.
Columbus, Ohio is my hometown. Lyrics about going home always make me think of Columbus. I am nostalgic for its neighbourhoods, and its bars, cafes, and galleries. But when I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to leave Columbus. Opportunities seemed so limited, and I heard the call of the big cities.
It has been nearly two decades since I lived in Columbus. Sometimes I am annoyed being from Ohio is STILL one of my defining characteristics. Provincial Ohio and its cornfed jock Midwestern values—I am too sophisticated to be from Ohio! (OK, not really.)
I have a love-hate relationship with Ohio. In my teens, Ohio seemed like a battleground in the culture wars. Ohio State (which was then the nation's largest university) helped make Columbus a progressive city. But at the same time academics and artists were criticized by deeply held pockets of the conservative right, and accused of undermining traditional “family values”.
Ohio is a state full of contradictions. With its industrial and rural regions, Ohio is part Northeast and part South, part booming suburbs and part struggling poverty. With a population of 11 million, it can be a Blue State, or a Red State.
Recently I was upset by a New York Times article about my fellow Ohioan, House Minority Leader John Boehner. In the article (“Boehner’s Path to Power Began in Small-Town Ohio”), Mr. Boehner is practically anointed by the New York Times as the next speaker of the House.
“Can't we just have the election first?” I grumbled to myself while I skimmed the article.
But in spite of the article’s glowing descriptions of Mr Boehner and his humble origins, it did point out a couple of uncomplimentary things about him—like his perpetual orange tan, and his penchants for exclusive country clubs, designer clothes, and fine wines.
Mr Boehner is closely allied to corporate industries like mining, and to a tightly knit group of lobbyists. He claims to be able to cross the aisle to get things done in Washington, but so far he has been a rabble-rouser in "The Party of No".
Although the New York Times article portrays Mr Boehner as a “small-town boy from rural Ohio”, he actually is from Reading, a suburb with a population of over 11,000 in metropolitan Cincinnati. Mr Boehner’s upbringing, as described in the article, is middle class, not rural.
Lately the mainstream media has been focused on the re-emergence of the culture wars. I wonder if depicting a suburb as a small town is an attempt to fold “rural” and “small town” with the middle class, especially since the culture wars increasingly are being waged between rural and urban districts.