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Ohio Boy No More?

St. Paul–Standing on the floor of the Xcel center last night made me embarrassed about where I come from. Born in Ohio to immigrant parents, with a father who came from nothing — meaning no shoes till he was nine — who then rose to the supposed academic elite, I’ve always played the role of the good Midwestern boy. I love the Reds and the Bengals, and high-school football. I have respect for families struggling on the farm and in the trailer park — because I’ve known them, gone to school with their sons and daughters. It’s a story I share with Palin. Last night, it made me ill.

That’s because I’ve been away from “home” for a long time now. I went to one of those fancy schools that was mocked last night. I’ve lived in Chicago and New York and Washington. I’ve traveled the world. But I’ve always said I’m an Ohio boy at heart. Or so I thought.

Now, I don’t know if I want to cling to that anymore. Palin would like you to believe that we’re not supposed to escape our small-town upbringings. That’s a fine notion, but it made me think about what we’re supposed to do. I’ve always said that I left Ohio not out of a need for some great escape from small-town life, but because the work I wanted to do was elsewhere.

I suspect that Sen. Barack Obama felt somewhat the same way when he left Hawaii for Columbia University and then Harvard Law. But Palin would make you believe there’s something wrong with that. It’s playing the class card and it’s simply wrong.

It’s using this idea of false authenticity to a place, to reject what our great founders envisioned as the forward movement in the American experiment — to say because someone chose not to stay in their humble beginnings he shouldn’t be trusted.

There are many times when I’m proud to say where I’m from. But Palin cheapened that narrative and millions like it last night. Today, I’ll just say that I live in Washington — with no backstory. And leave it at that.

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