Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Place Debate Around The Term Rust Belt

I don't like that when one Googles "Rust Belt Ohio" and looks at the images the search term pulls up that my hometown shows up first.  That's St. Joseph's church and the South Side of Massillon, Ohio right there.

I want to change that.  I detest the term Rust Belt.

Though I can agree to wanting a change, change to what is the question. I'm not in the camp with those who are advocating for singular focus on classes of people and attempting to make Ohio "hip and cool" as a magical recipe for economic development.

The concept implies steering us away from the manufacturing sector that fueled, and still fuels, our economy.  Opportunity for a cross-generational, working age population is how to grow our economy. Upper mobility is our aim and from where my thinking comes.

Ohio Governor Kasich is quoted as taking on the cause of burying the term Rust Belt.  A few national stories over the weekend ran the story.

It was the contrarian to the change in name and who is also quoted in the articles, Richey Piiparinen of Cleveland State University, who caught my attention though.  He has embraced the "R" word, but I nonetheless often find myself agreeing with him because he often takes the view that what we need to change to is a better version of ourselves, not something we aren't or something we used to be.

Piiparinen points out that later generations don't share the same dim view of how things are based on a rosier view of how things used to be.  The distance between where they are and where they want to be isn't as great as those who are cursed by remembering some better time.

He's quoted in the article as saying of the emerging working age generation, "They don't have the psychic baggage, they were not born in the heyday. And so this idea of resiliency, of struggle, of fighting for your land, of being proud of your land, but at the same time not having any illusions about what we were, that's been a whole new generation owning that term."

This is a place debate really.  What sort of place does Ohio want to be?  What sort of place does the entire American Heartland of the country want to be?  What opportunity is there to be what we can  be?

1 comment:

  1. Piiparinen has the correct perspective. Embrace the label but transform its meaning. The "steel city" reference was a degrading term when the mills were still along the rivers in Pittsburgh. Now, 'steel city' is a label of strength and honor built from working class ethics and a lot of culture.