Monday, November 05, 2012


Here we are again, Election Eve. For the second cycle in a row, I've been all but blissfully ignorant of the presidential campaigns. Not the candidates, mind you, but the machinery and messaging that surrounds them. I live in Illinois, considered so solidly in Obama's camp, we barely merit a flyover. (Mistake? Witness Tennessee, circa 2000.) If Ohio weren't just a couple of states to the east, I suspect we wouldn't even merit that.

I don't mind being ignored. I rather like having my commercial airwaves freed up for more important consumer brainwashing. How else would I know that it's nearly Thanksgiving if Target weren't already promoting Christmas?

I'd even go so far as to pity all those undecided Ohioans the blitzkrieg of attention they've been subjected to in recent weeks -- attack ads, the horror! -- if I didn't suspect the Buckeyes weren't secretly enjoying their 15 minutes of quadrennial fame.

I grew up in Ohio and frankly spent most of my early years wishing I hailed from Michigan, my mother's native land. Hello, Kalamazoo, coolest name ever.

Ohio is what I'd call an extremely regular place, indistinguishable from every other decent, solid Midwestern state except Indiana, which ought to be relocated to the Deep South. Ohio is so nondescript in fact, that it's frequently mistaken for Iowa. Three vowels and a consonant -- you can see how that might confuse people.

Allow me to pull back the curtain on this heart-shaped state:
  • Ohioans play a card game called "euchre," termed "poor man's Bridge" by some. This is a past time they share with folks from Indiana and apparently no one else. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  • At Christmas time, Ohioans produce a confection called Buckeyes either because they resemble a buck's eyes (as in a deer's ocular orbs) or buckeyes (as in the tree nut). Whatever the origin, Buckeyes essentially consist of a peanut butter center, coated in chocolate. If you think that sounds like a re-formatted Reese's Cup, well I never said Ohioans were original.
  • The Cuyahoga River once caught on fire. It'll never live that down.
  • Ohio's NHL team is nicknamed the Blue Jackets, to commemorate the state's role in the Civil War. Because when I think Civil War, I think Ohio. Paging Ken Burns - I believe we've discovered a new episode for your epic series.
I mock because I love. Some of favorite people live in Ohio. My parents, half the year, for starters. My sister, one of my brothers, my niece, two of my nephews. I visited back in October and we all spent a chilly fall Saturday raking leaves and tossing Frisbees - the sum of my childhood encapsulated in a single afternoon.

What I'm trying to say is that if Ohioans are notable for anything, it's being spectacularly normal.

Yet every four years, residents of the state are treated like the "Avengers" cast at Comic-Con. They're courted and fawned over and otherwise made to feel like the only voters of importance in all the land. Yet they're no different from the rest of us - no worse, no better - aside from displaying a persistent inability to make up their collective voting mind.

Maybe we should feel good about that. Maybe we should rejoice that this year's presidential election hinges on the choice of uncommonly common people.

Or maybe we should be frightened as hell that our fate as a nation lies in the hands of folks whose state chant -- OH-, IO- -- amounts to little more than a child's spelling exercise.


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