I took a break from the KKK the past couple of weeks. Actually a break from blogging about recent events in Charlottesville. A break from the politics, the statements, retractions, mis-statements, arguments over statues, etc, etc, etc.
It’s exhausting. On many sides.
I’m from Dayton, Ohio, Centerville to be exact. A well-heeled community, triple A high school, definitely upper-middle class. But as a kid I rode my bike everywhere, anywhere two wheels might take me. I also met some friends at camp and often drove to Cadiz and locales close to it in southeastern Ohio, formerly coal country. Then later I went to OU in Athens to finish my Bachelors degree where I rode my bike and ran in the foothills surrounding the university.
The Ohio I remember was this: colored leaves in autumn, small towns, Main Streets, hills, small liberal arts colleges, ravines, waterfalls, hiking in Yellow Springs, car wrecks on Friday nights.
I saw Ohio from the saddle, from the passenger and driver’s side of the car, with these two feet hiking the hills or walking uptown on Saturday night. I’m not trying to be sentimental, but perhaps years have a way of softening memories. We look through a filtered lens that casts a golden glow over events—yet I still recall the loneliness of growing up, the feeling that no one got me, that I was somehow an outcast. But that’s to be expected, I guess.
What I do not remember is an empathy for the South or the Confederate flag. In school I learned Ohio fought for the North, that we were on the “right” side. There were no African Americans in my school, and only a few by the time I was in high school. Folks were conservative, mostly. Conservatives were white, well-off, and superior to not only minorities but to hillbillies. White trash.
Flash forward to today where the Republicans my dad voted for are far and few between. Both of my parents could care less about the wedge issues of today (ie abortion, bathroom bills). They were conservatives along economic lines, which is still a hoot as they were the biggest recipients of big government as any generation. But back to my point.
When did Ohioans start flying the Confederate flag and marching with the KKK. James Alex Fields Jr. the driver of the car used as a weapon which killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville was from Maumee, Ohio, up in the Toledo area.
Many of you know I LOVE to bike tour and when not riding I read Crazy Guy on a Bike an on-line platform that archives people’s bicycling journals. I get a lot of inspiration from reading other people’s biking adventures. One woman was journaling her trip on the Adventure Cycling (maps, resources) Underground Railroad. Anyway she commented that after entering Ohio she was astonished at the number of Confederate flags she saw. One guy had the flag plus lawn signs for Trump/Pence right across the street from the John Parker home site. Parker was an African American who helped hundreds of slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad resistance movement based in Ripley, Ohio.
There is no way to sum this up. It is not the Ohio I remember, yet it must be the Ohio that was always there, seething in some kind of bigoted Ohio underbelly.