On a beautiful Sunday morning, I was watching young men ages 7 to 11 playing baseball in Noblesville. Quick now: Raise your hand if you know where to find Noblesville. I don’t see many hands.
Noblesville is part of the “quality quartet” in Hamilton County, the wealthiest, fastest growing, highest income county of Indiana. (The other three members of this elite environment are Carmel, Fishers and Westfield.)
As you might expect, the ballfields at this facility are glorious examples of the value we place upon the children of the affluent. The outfield grass appears to be a natural carpet without a single dandelion. The infield is artificial grass so brilliant it may glow in the dark. The pitcher’s mound is movable to accommodate the different sizes of the players. The electronic scoreboard works.
Parents around me were engaged in supportive shouts to their valiant Noblesville Millers. (It seems all the Noblesville teams are known as the Millers, a sign of the uniformity expected of the young in Hamilton County.) Between plays the fathers talked.
“Who are we playing?” said the first.
“The Irvington Screaming Eagles,” offered the second.
“Where’s Irvington?” asked the first.
“Way south of here. Down near Wanamaker and Shelby County, off I-74,” said a third.
“No, it’s outside 465, over east by Cumberland and Hancock County,” said a fourth, refuting the third.
Somehow these ostensibly sensible men knew little of the geography and history of the Indianapolis community. I would bet they are equally ignorant about Indiana itself.
Irvington is a historically-rich section on the eastside of Indianapolis, within the I-465 circumferential highway, that houses a diverse community of people committed or condemned to an urban and urbane lifestyle.
My critics will say, “What does it matter? People everywhere know little about what’s around them. What counts is what they do, not what they know.”
Naturally, as a person who substitutes knowing for doing, I lament this situation. Ignorance of Indiana is an epidemic endemic among Hoosiers.
Members of our General Assembly have told me how they did not know about the effects of bills they introduced would have on people outside their districts. A proud, long-term representative told me he didn’t know anything about the people who lived on the west side of his county.
For years, I’ve advocated exchange programs among Hoosier high schools. Let’s have students from Noblesville spend a semester in Merrillville, Jeffersonville or Ellettsville. Let those who’ve lived their young lives in Princeton become familiar with Plymouth, Portland or Portage. The combinations are legion.
What’s to be learned by these exchanges? Recognition of the common and diverse problems and virtues that bind us together under the blue and yellow state flag. Yes, foreign travel is good; it broadens perspective while encouraging flexibility and respect for others. Why not do that here, in Indiana, away from home?