Your favorite newspaper recently published a lengthy story saying Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants to bury the name “Rust Belt,” the less-than-flattering term routinely invoked to describe the states in our region.
Pointing to Ohio’s successes in biotech, data analytics, robotics and drones, Kasich told a group in Columbus that he thinks the term is antiquated and horrible PR.
He is lobbying to replace it with “Knowledge Belt.”
Well, sorry. That just ain’t gonna happen.
Trying to cram a self-created compliment into the national lexicon reminds me of Cleveland’s long-ago attempt to combat its then-deserved “Mistake on the Lake” reputation with a massive marketing campaign based on the slogan, “If New York’s the Big Apple, Cleveland’s a Plum” — thereby spreading the word that Cleveland was an even bigger hayseed than the country realized.
The term Rust Belt has been around since 1982, so burying it anytime soon may be impossible, regardless of the choice of a substitute. But “Knowledge Belt” will never fly. Not only is it clunky, but we haven’t exactly cornered the market on knowledge. Are we packing more knowledge per capita than, say, the Silicon Valley?
If we’re going to try to supplant the term, let’s go with something that’s both succinct and true.
We already have a great one. All we need to do is beam back to the reign of another Ohio Governor, Dick Celeste, who ran the show from 1983 to 1991.
Celeste thought we should be known as the “Water Belt.”
We lead the league in fresh water.
Nationwide, water is an increasingly precious resource. Folks who live in our area may not realize how controversial and confrontational water usage is in many other parts of the country. Bitter clashes are frequent over who gets access to what water, how much of it and at what price.
With our five Great Lakes packing 21 percent of the world’s fresh water by volume, there is absolutely no dispute that our region is in an enviable position.
Even Lake Erie, the second-smallest, has a surface area of nearly 10,000 square miles.
Of course, there’s another school of thought, this one championed by folks like the rusty old David Giffels, that embraces the term Rust Belt. As he said during an interview on National Public Radio in connection with his excellent book, The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt, he is not “ashamed of this past that was partly defined by decay.” Rather, he said, “We embrace it. It’s something that’s integrated with our future.”
I don’t know about you, but, like Kasich, I’m tired of the rust. Give me some water.
Speaking of decay, Tom Gill of Norton is among the many area residents who are a bit misty-eyed over the news that the city of Akron is going to remove the top 100 feet of one of the two historic B.F. Goodrich smokestacks that have been part of the landscape for nearly a century.
Retired from Goodrich after 35 years, Gill called to recount a long-ago chuckle involving those stacks.
“A good friend of mine, Charlie Custer, back in the early ’50s, when [a military draft was in effect], was applying for a job. The boss wanted to hire him, but the boss was afraid Charlie was going to get drafted. So Charlie told him that he was [classified] 4-F for bad eyesight, and he would never have to worry about that.
“The boss looked out the window and said, ‘What does it say on that smokestack over there?’ And Charlie looked out the window and said, ‘What smokestack?’?”
Charlie retired from BFG with 40 years of service.
Has it really come to this? A recent obituary in my favorite newspaper was 117 words long; more than half of those words were used to say this:
“To all the young men and women that will be attending my son’s funeral, I am asking that when you enter into [the church, you show] respect, dignity and self-control of your behavior. I am asking that there be no photos taken and cell phones turned off during the service. If you cannot abide by the … request, you will be escorted out.”
As if we needed another example that times have changed.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.