One of the great American Nations debates is whether Pittsburgh should be in the Midlands (it should!) or in Greater Appalachia (which some argue for.) For the past five years, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff columnist Brian O’Neill has been occasionally revisiting this question, starting in 2013, with a personal lament that I put his city in the Midlands, and again earlier this year, when he conceded the Appalachian label might not be quite right either.
This week he calls in a third party perspective with this delightful conversation with a self-identified Appalachian, Eric Jester, who argues for an Appalachian identity for the city.
“It’s an ambitious man who defines the identity of a people who struggle [to] do so for themselves,” Jester says. “The Appalachian in me loves the way a ridgeline dips into some tight little holler with a name like Scotia or Calamity; the way an orange stream dances around and under a tight winding road to the Youghiogheny; the way those fading miners’ hoses sag a little in the middle.”
Hope you enjoy the piece as I did.
For the record: I’m sticking with the Midlands, though I certainly agree that county-level resolution doesn’t capture the subtleties of even first order regional cultural geography. But this placement is due to early settlement history, and to revealing events like the 1794 (Appalachian) siege of the city during the Whiskey Rebellion and not, as Jester writes, because of some “assumption that a beautiful city, a center of education and technology, and an historical hotbed of progressivism, could ever be associated with Appalachia.” Greater Appalachia has a great many cities with most or all of those attributes — Cinci, Louisville, Roanoke, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin, just to name a few — and the region pretty much gave us the “democracy” part of our liberal democracy, much to the trepidation of most of the Founders.
Now if only we could get Columbus’s columnists to weigh in on that city’s inverted status: Appalachian in American Nations, with many residents arguing for the Midlands…..