Sunday, June 22, 2008

Suck It, "Rust Belt"

The key here is the quotes around "Rust Belt", as in, "I thoroughly dislike the name Rust Belt and I think it would be in your best interest to also dislike the name Rust Belt."

Is there anything remotely appealing about this name? Only if you could somehow convince me that there is some positive quality to rust. Rust implies old, rust implies dirty, rust implies degradation, corrosion, and a general level of disrepair from which the underlying metal cannot be recovered. According to my good friend and one-stop research resource (i.e. always 100% accurate) Wikipedia, The Rust Belt denomination is assigned to several states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and part of West Virginia. Many, many years ago, these were some of the states of critical importance in assisting the United States toward the industrialized nation and global economic force that we know and (mostly) love today. Expounding on the pros and cons of an industrialized US are not the purpose of this post, but it is difficult to argue that the national standard of living that we have enjoyed for decades in our country is not largely based on the backs of the industries and individuals which rose, and continue to struggle for life, in the Rust Belt.

Why, then, are we forced to be continually defined by this classification? Rust is not a chief export (there are actually additives that can and do prevent rust - welcome to 1915 and the wonders of stainless steel), there is not a disproportionately large ratio of rust per person, rust per square foot of land, or rust per trombones in the Rust Belt.

This is a painful, subtle naming convention that continues to cast negativity on much of the Midwest and surrounding states. Sticks and stones hurt people, but names and publicity hurt states and regions. Nobody wants to visit a "rusty (dirty)" place, no business wants to set up a new shop in a "rusty (corrosive)" location, and, definitely nobody wants to slide down a rusty slide. Individuals are allowed to sue for libel and slander, can the Rust Belt sue media outlets with similar charges? I propose the following for as long as the Rust Belt remains the primary classification of this proud area:

The Sun Belt be renamed "The Drought Belt"
The Cotton Belt be renamed "The Former Slavery Belt"
The Bible Belt be renamed "The God is Against Equality Belt"
and the entire US Southwest be referred to as "The Border Fence Belt"

The Sun Belt sounds like an awesome place to visit, but The Drought Belt sounds miserable. There are many positive ways one could refer to our region, so why are we stuck with one that highlights a negative characteristic that continues to reduce the luster of our region?

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