(Though many people in Buffalo already know how cool it is!)
The road to recovery begins in Youngstown, Ohio.
That was the take, at least, from Reuters reporter Nick Carey in a special report on national economic recovery.
“Today, the city immortalized by Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 Rust-Belt anthem ‘Youngstown’ is moving on,” Carey writes.
“Among other things, it has created an incubator to attract the types of small businesses that are expected to drive future growth. Despite the thousands of vacant homes that serve as reminders of a traumatic past and turbulent present, some business and civic leaders think this heartland city has a chance to lead the U.S. into its next era of prosperity.
“Getting to there from here, however, won’t be easy — for Youngstown, for Ohio, for the nation.”
There are two points I would like to make about this article. Feel free to chime in if you feel differently.
No. 1: I entirely agree with this writer. That’s why I think it’s important to save the Rust Belt. If America is to prosper in the future it will need to come to grips with a drastically different economic environment. No where is this battle more plain than in America’s industrial heartland.
Secondly, this is the third national article I’ve seen lately that seems to acknowledge that Youngstown is on the road to recovery, long after it was written off as a lost cause. This is encouraging news for any Rust Belt city.
If Youngstown can do this, any city can.
Writer David Masciotra is working on a book in which he will analyze Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics in context of politics, globalization and industrial decay.
He has displayed some of his work in a blog post about The Boss’ blue-collar ballad, “Youngstown.”
The song can be interpreted as a scathing condemnation of business practices that put the bottom line over the interests of American workers, to the detriment of Midwestern manufacturing towns, Masciotra writes.
An excerpt from the song:
Well my daddy worked the furnaces
Kept ‘em hotter than hell
I come home from ‘Nam worked my way to scarfer
A job that’d suit the devil as well
Taconite, coke and limestone
Fed my children and made my pay
Then smokestacks reachin’ like the arms of god
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown
“The comparison of smokestacks to the “arms of god” not only provides the song with powerful imagery, but gives one a sense of the unmatched importance of the steel industry to Youngstown life.
It was a benevolent giver of jobs, livelihood, opportunity, and identity. It helped individuals maintain decent lives for their families, and established value and meaning for their larger community.
Pride and purpose could be found in the assistance that Youngstown’s labor gave to American foreign policy. That is, until the foreign policy became confusing and ignoble, and the American steel industry folded.
The worker recalls his father, no doubt at this point an elderly man, expressing scarred bewilderment over how the world’s evilest men could not destroy Youngstown, but wealthy American elites with their own agenda could.”
Interesting stuff. Masciotra has also analyzed John Mellencamp lyrics from a Midwestern cultural perspective on Mellenblog.