DEFIANCE, Ohio -- Most days, life in this small town is the redundant. Mundane. Boring. Go to Work. Go to school. Cheer at the local high school game on Friday night. Gossip. Go to the bar. Gossip. Go about life. Gossip. Lately though, we're hearing something different when people gossip. A new guy is moving in. A skinny black guy with a funny name.
A "Change Candidate."
Instead of the usual "I don't like her," or "did you hear what so and so did?" The gossip has turned to Barack Obama. It started as a mere whisper. You didn't dare speak loud enough for others to hear without turning your head to see who was listening. "What did you say his name is? Barack who? Isn't that a funny name? How do you spell that? Did you hear he's black?"
You see, this is Republican country. Farm country, Church country. White, with old money and old ideals, a mixture of blue collar autoworkers and white collar lawyers.
This is George Bush territory.
Republican is rooted deeply here. Roots that are as deep as this town is old. As far back as anyone remembers Republicans have ruled. It's a gun-toting, bible thumping town, full of holier than thou Christians, who drink on Saturday night and sit on the front row at church on Sunday morning. George Bush is a hero to most here. But this town also has an inexplicable diversity. I see it every day at Barack Obama's campaign office.
Black, White, Hispanic, young, old, they are all there, and the excitement is overwhelming and emotional. The gossip has turned from, who did what, to "did you hear that so and so is voting for Barack?" It is slowly becoming an unabashed and unashamed conversation, and the mundane is turning to extraordinary.
It's the beginning of a movement; it's the gossip of change. Although not exactly a fast-moving freight train (it's more like a coal-powered steam engine), talk of change is there just the same.
The talk is getting louder and folks don't turn their heads as frequently to see who's listening. People just don't care who hears anymore.
Folks here in George Bush country are hurting. They've lost their jobs along with their self-esteem. They are not able to support their families. Young people are leaving in droves. Workers have been bought out and tossed aside. The children of generations of blue collar workers who have depended on the auto industry and other factories for their livelihoods, have no hope that they will be able to go to work for the companies where their fathers once provided their families with a good life. Those companies don't exist anymore. They have been replaced by the politics of fear. Blue collar jobs are leaving this small town along with the companies who provided them, and as John McCain puts it, "They're not coming back".
The middle class is slowly disappearing from Northwest Ohio, so inevitability the gossip has turned to "Did you hear that Cindy McCain had on an outfit at the republican convention that cost 300,000 dollars? I can't even afford to buy an outfit at Wal-Mart. What could John McCain possibly have in common with me?" or "I don't care that he's a maverick, that doesn't do anything to help me. What can we do to change things?" "Are you gonna vote for Barack? We need to make a change".
People are beginning to put hope ahead of fear. Barack Obama has that kind of power.
He has brought people together and filled them with the promise of hope. Hope that they can change the direction this particular small town is heading. Hope that they can fight for a better tomorrow for their children and grandchildren.
George Bush is still a hero to the older population in this town, but even that is changing. The undercurrent of hope is stronger than George Bush and John McCain politics.