Friday, March 11, 2016

He's absolutely right. It should be named the Eliza Harris Bridge.

In the overall scheme of things, we live in a region that values dull uniformity, and isn't afraid to wield it like a deadly weapon. We're positively evangelical about rote mediocrity.

This explains why certain of our legislators have again chosen to walk the rutted path of deadening predictability and advocate naming the new east end bridge for Lewis and Clark. The state recently electing Matt Bevin as governor chose Abraham Lincoln as the name for the downtown bridge, pointing to another facet of life hereabouts, namely an immunity to irony.

But it gets even worse. With living white males having narrowed the naming competition to dead white males, Indiana's fascist governor is said to prefer Ronald Reagan. I'd rather cut out the middle (dead white) man and cast Steve Stemler and Ron Grooms in a remake of Bedtime for Bonzo, to be filmed at One Southern Indiana.

Keep a pail nearby as you read the recurring, sad litany.

Lewis and Clark bridge naming resolution dies in Senate committee, by Elizabeth Beilman (Clark County Jail TV Guide)

Public safety concern hold-up in naming process

INDIANAPOLIS — The official name of the east-end bridge is still uncertain, since a resolution to name it after explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark died in Senate committee.

My friend LP has sensibly suggested an alternative. He proposes we name the east end bridge the Eliza Harris Bridge, so as to "celebrate the literal freedom crossing that the Kentucky/Indiana border and Ohio River represents."

Eliza Harris: Famous Escaped Slave

Eliza Harris was the name informally given to a slave sheltered by Levi Coffin after a precarious escape on treacherous ice floes with her baby. The event was retold to Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was inspired by the brave slave and based her character, Eliza Harris, upon the slave in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Levi Coffin and his wife thereafter referred to the unknown slave as Eliza Harris.

Or, LP adds, perhaps the Harris-Coffin Bridge; after all, while white and male, the abolitionist Coffin afforded shelter to the escaped slave. It's real history that genuinely matters, and Eliza Harris has the tremendous advantage of NOT being yet another dead white male.

I replied to LP that given the limitations of our creativity-challenged area "leadership" cadre, it's almost impossible to even imagine pitching this idea to Grooms or Stemler. Just try. LP did, and produced this imagined dialogue about the Harris-Coffin Bridge.

Grooms: Coffin was an abortionist? Why would we celebrate that?!?
Stemler: Oh, yeah. A tree doctor.

[I leave room]

For once ... just for once ... could we think outside the claustrophobic confines of our cultural box?

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