Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Am, Ohio is, Purple: Election Reflections

My social security number is a fun topic of conversation in the Midwest. My SSN reveals the deep east of my roots. The parts of me that peed on the NYC slides growing up, skipping down New Jersey sidewalks, and thinking Manhattan was this small dirty playground in my backyard.

I was eight when I moved to Ohio and hated every inch of the plains. The slow talkers, slow drivers, and no honking rule. In my dreams as a child, New York and Jersey were my pathways home. Now, twenty years later, most of my Filipino cousins who lived in Ohio with me eventually moved to the coasts, away from green lawns, suburbia, and conservatism. Oakland and Hoboken resonated deep in our Brown hearts of progress, diversity, and accessibility to culture with people of color.

Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Managua, and Manila have all been mailing addresses at some point in my life. A deep wound in my marriage has been reconciling geography, where to live means questioning exactly HOW you live and what you value. Three of my closest friends live in Manhatten and often remark, "Just move here already! You visit too much."

So much of my twenties has been wasted on wishing I was in a different color state. Erroneous, so erroneous, is placing one's identity with geographical surrounding. As if life is as simple as that: where you live is who you are. (Not what you DO or how you take action.) What privilege, I realize, comes in choosing state and that specific state's government. How foolish, I see now, to measure my politics with the velocity of my state's ability to align itself with my values.

I've returned to Ohio, the mirror of the United States, to the northeast region. I've lived 3 months now in Cleveland. A post industrial city with unsung heroes and gifts, Cleveland began to show its colors to me during this Autumn season, this election year. Slowly, without any noticeable wind, I began to understand how and why I must embrace my new state and its Purple identity. How fitting that I, once Republican, once Democrat, and registered Independent reside in a state that changes with the times. Sometimes disappointing, sometimes slow, but always reflective of the state of progress of the larger picture. Ohio is a continual work in progress.

Cleveland is the blue horse, a lover of Buckeye football, a city of trains and an empty downtown. Cleveland is a sorely unimpressive lakeside developer with stains of unemployment and unfulfilled projects. But, like the rest of the nation today, Cleveland is a site of promise. I saw it yesterday in a mother who said she was an at-risk pregnant mother who couldn't walk, but showed up to volunteer to sit and make phone calls for the Obama campaign. I saw four children playing together, all different ethnicities and colors, yelling on a non-descript street, testing their knowledge of Spanish and Japanese words with one another.

Ohio, in its quiet strength of home and corn fields, is also home to a keen (buck)eye to recognize when change is needed. From Red, it turned Blue. The pundits keep calling it a traditionally Red state, but it's not. There are many activists and progressive minds in the deep "South" of Cincinnati and fighting the fight of racism in Over the Rhine as found in the NGOs of Brooklyn. There are writers of every creed, bleeding their way to be heard, just as the dreamers of San Francisco. There are fresh bakeries, vegan chefs, sidewalks of Spanglish, and local farmers as there are in the coastal cities. We are mixed. We are Purple. This is why Ohio reflects the nation. There are skyscrapers in the distance of the harvest and the hues of yellow, orange, and red as the sun sets drops a majestic background of peace and negotiation between farming fathers and scholarly daughters.

There may not be an Empire State building, or even a red carpet invitation with a Midwestern zip code, but I can promise you this of Ohio: it always tells the truth, unabashedly, of where it stands. And I may not like it. I may rip the Ten Commandments billboards down and curse the SUV drivers roaming the flat roads, but Ohio reveals all the superficial and best parts of our journey.

I wondered last night, on the couch with Adonis, where I'd rather be in witnessing the first Black president win the general election. We contemplated a five hour drive to Grant Park or maybe even D.C. But when I saw the pundits claim Ohio blue, I smiled in the way I have when I reconciled stark differences with an old friend. Humbled, eager, and ready, I've reached a cheesy reconciliation with my state and realized that I do not belong in a permanent shade of blue region. That would be erasing my years as a pro-life marcher, the years of exploring Catholic dogma, the Clinton tears, and my controversial Bush vote of 2000. I don't want to erase my Red. It's changed, but it's still me.

The color Purple has long been my favorite. And today, especially, I regard the mix of the two as I watch my beloved state hand the election to Barack Obama with the grumbling and rejoicing that can only be heard in the neighborhoods of mixed identities, my home, my state, Ohio.


1 comment:

  1. I-O!

    This post resonated so fully with me. I, too, am a formerly red, turned blue Ohioan, and I couldn't have been more proud of our state last night. Thanks for writing this.


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