I spent the first part of this week with my family. Monday was my birthday, and I hadn’t been home for a while, two years to be precise.
Perhaps inspired by a piece on NPR about a book set in West Virginia, I got to thinking a bit about how where I grew up may have shaped how I am today. I grew up in what would today be called the “rust belt”. My hometown and surrounding communities had a variety of steel and other industrial mills that provided good, middle-class jobs. My community in particular also seemed to attract a large African-American community. As the mills close and the tax base deteriorated, my hometown lost population and more of its tax base. My city now seems to be banking on medical marijuana to try to boost its fortunes, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.
I’ve been critical of my hometown, when it is appropriate. After a popular restaurant owner was shot in an apparently meaningless shooting, I thought it could be a wakeup call that the city needed to confront and build a culture of resistance to what I saw as a “culture of deviancy” within the African Community. I created a Facebook group that is still somewhat active, but the actions never materialized.
As critical as I have been when needed, I have also been proud. In 2015, when my High School alma mater advanced to, in the same calendar year, the State Basketball and Football Championships, I posted music videos to rally the fans. One of my last tasks before I headed back to Central Pa was to get a sweatshirt commemorating my High School’s recent State Football Championship.
But where I grew up also I think did play a part in forging my identity. What I now see as corporate greed and a desire to maximize profits by moving work to places where labor is cheaper and more easily exploitable that wrecked my area’s economy may have seeded my distrust of corporations and the political power they hold. I don’t think I would be involved in the anti-racist, or other social justice movements I am involved in if I had not grown up in a community of color. Alas, I sometimes wonder if where I grew up is why more than a few alumni of my High School seem to have joined the authoritarian “Whitelash” that elected Trump. Perhaps what makes one person “woke” can make another want to wave the Confederate Battle Flag. That is for another time, and perhaps another place.
Back Together Again
When I returned home Tuesday, I had a few things to do. Anyone who travels knows that sometimes the hardest part of a trip is unpacking, etc. I had laundry to do, groceries to buy and purchases to log.
I had also determined that I was going to make one last attempt to extend an olive branch to the person I referenced in this post from Christmas. The post was intended to be a public apology to her, but it looked like it had gone unread. I had never removed her number from my list, though I did delete it from my phone. To my surprise, I got a response. I responded and figured we’d wait and see.
Then I did something odd. I turned my landline on; I usually leave it off when I’m at work so I don’t get interrupted. Some force drove me to, and to my surprise, I got a call from her on the landline. We did a bit of catching up, I did make another apology–I think.
I’m going to have to rethink my roles a bit. I think I can still be conduit and chronicle, but I may need to retire the Guy Fawkes mask.