Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indiana @ 200

There are many, many things that please me about being home again--first, that I am home now, just about 10 years after I left; what a nice, round number!--but second and most of all, that I've returned home at the Bicentennial time, a celebration of my state being a state for 200 years.

There are a lot of BFD events going on this year--we have a license plate commemorating the bicentennial, and we are doing a torch relay through every county and ending on the State House lawn; but there are a lot of modest events and projects, reflecting the equally modest towns and cities and townships and hamlets from which they originate. All of them, though, share the common thread of fierce pride in our home, and the history of it.

I've always been a bit of a history nut. I would beg my grandparents to tell me about "The Olden Days" growing up on their Indiana farms. I majored in history in college. I devour historical fiction and have a freakish recall for dates and love poring over old photographs. And I love learning about the history and the quirks and the houses and the everything around Indiana, for here's the thing: my grandparents grew up in Tipton County, one of those seemingly insignificant counties, and hundreds of thousands of folks' grandparents grew up in 91 other counties of insignificance in this state, and perhaps millions of grandchildren and great grandchildren and so on will never know everything about their families. The composition of Indiana is more than just its people; it is a million stories, untold, never known, forgotten, modified, buried, preserved, pondered.

And celebrating the Bicentennial is, in a way, celebrating each of the long-passed, long-forgotten, anonymous folks that have populated our state and its history. The weathered farmers, the steel workers, the housewives who were never just housewives, the politicians who steered us to where we are now (for better or for worse), the earnest civil servants, the freemen who fled the South, the Klansmen who persecuted them and brought shame to our doorstep, the hundreds and thousands who have lived and died in this state without making the Hoosier Hall of Fame. We are all part of the history of this plucky, overlooked, defensive state, and we are celebrating our own anonymous spot in the ongoing history. Maybe, just maybe, acknowledging that is my own Bicentennial Project.

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