In this line from his famous poem 'Little Gidding,' T.S. Eliot wasn't writing about the Ohio of 2022. But he could have been.
What a great achievement you are describing, this exciting growth across many towns in america is made possible by Our Towns
" All politics is local," is how Tip O'Neill described the American phenomenon of street corners and local issues. " Self-interest rightly understood, " is the deep phrase by deToqueville; reading the book helps us see the foreign visitor's insight.
and of course, Carl Sandburg was one of the greatest observers of the energy of the common man in America :
carl sandburg :
"The republic is a dream.
Nothing happens unless first a dream."
"Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders."
"I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?"
"Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you. "
- Smoke and Steel
You've touched on one of my pet peeves: how little attention national media pays to what's happening in large swathes of the country (and when they do, they get a lot wrong). I have my frustrations with Ohio, especially our state government which has increasingly gone the extremist route of other states under trifecta Republican rule. Life in my city and community, though, is not among them. There are a lot of things that work well, including local governments, much of the time.
I saw the same thing on a back roads camping trip this summer: 61 days, 16 states and over 8200 miles. I saw the dying towns and the despair as well, yet over all I saw a lot of small towns that worked well. And there's nothing like connecting with people in real life to realize that we have so much more in common with each other than the noxious politics that divide us, especially on social media.
I relate so well to Eliot's line in that poem; I spent a large portion of my adult life yearning to return to the region of my youth and now that I am safely tucked into my retirement home 5 miles from the house I grew up in, I could not be more content. That house is in Ottawa County, Michigan; the last time Ottawa County voted for a Democrat for president was 1864, when just over half the county voted for McLellan, whom Abraham Lincoln soundly defeated. In 2020 I drove through miles of local farm land to visit a friend and signs for tfg were as common as fence posts. The trees in this county have red roots going down 20 feet or more.
And yet I and many of my friends are strong supporters of our current president and his agenda. I have occasional mini-debates on Facebook with conservative friends; the last one was addressing their outrage at paying off college debts. Then I see them, shake hands, and talk about all sorts of stuff. Overall, politics represents only one small facet of my relationships with friends & neighbors. I seldom ask about political affiliations, mostly because I don't care. I share the road, the grocery store and my neighborhood with folks who are very likely supporters of politicians I loathe. There is this old guy down the road near a busy street corner who often sits in his front yard, waving at passersby. A couple of weeks ago I saw a sign for a Republican in front of his house. I still wave when I see him, as enthusiastically as I ever did.
My mother adored Fox "News" and Rush Limbaugh. We would have long debates about politics where we would scold one another about our respective affiliations, and end up laughing. Alzheimer's had wiped out her political views by the time I moved in to become her primary caregiver in 2009. She passed in December 2012 - when I was in an airplane over the Atlantic, flying home from Cairo.
It's easier to tolerate those who support the Evil One - who of course wants to end America as we know it - if I remember that if Mom were alive & lucid today that could easily be her. It makes me less likely to swell up with righteous indignation when I see one of those wretched blue & red stickers.
And I don't think I'm all that different from the vast majority of Americans. Some of us get a little crazy, and of course the news media love to point their cameras at the crazies to attract more viewers/readers, but for the most part we're all just trying to get by and help our neighbors in the process. So I'm not a bit surprised to see overwhelming evidence of that stuff in places all over this country. In fact, I wouldn't mind hearing more stories like this.
This is a terrific post! It tickles me.
This is the most encouraging thing I've read in a long time! It's wonderful reading about people making lives better for others as well as themselves. And it would be fun to explore it.
I've been wanting to drive coast to coast and back. Three cross country trips by age 8 were formative experiences for me--great adventures seeing the whole country go by--the Great Plains, the mountains, and the deserts. I've been looking for a theme for such a trip, beyond simply revisiting places I first saw as a small child. This sort of thing is definitely a possibility.
I desperately needed some sort of data that would support my hope that Something Must Be Working for the Good of the Citizenry Somewhere. The key for all of us is to remember that pockets of people committed to making the lives of their neighbors better can happen even beneath an umbrella of otherwise bad things. It is all too easy to dismiss those good things when they are not part of larger perfect things.
Ohio has one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, making it a misogynist's paradise. No thanks. You can keep your idyllic little red state.