By LINDA WOODLAND
During the War of 1812, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry reported after the Battle of Lake Erie, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
Those infamous words have been used many times in many different circumstances through the years and became a turn of phrase in a 1970’s poster promoting Earth Day. The poster was about how we are trashing our own world. The phrasing on the poster changed Perry’s words to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Even cartoonist Walt Kelly used that turn of phrase in his popular “Pogo” comic strip.
Regardless of its origins and how it came to be, that phrase came storming back to me this past weekend during a Thanksgiving Day get-together with friends.
One of those friends is the owner of a small business in Tiffin. My friend was telling me about how his company was recently contracted to do some work in Fostoria and, obviously, he wanted to talk about my hometown.
I braced myself.
“Okay,” I said to my inner warrior, “Here it comes.”
I prepared myself to defend my community. I anchored myself to do battle against the onslaught of negativity I was sure was coming my way. My hackles were raised and my sword was drawn. ‘Bring it on,’ I told myself. I don’t want to do battle on a day of thankfulness, but I will if I must because I do not let others speak unkindly of my hometown.
And then, before I could even raise my shield, I was struck down with the blow of a feather.
This 30-something Tiffin business owner, who admitted he had never really visited or spent much time in Fostoria prior to his recent work here, had only good things to say about it.
Only. Good. Things.
He began by saying what a gem the city is and how it is lucky to have so many good things going for it. He talked about the rail park, the glass museum, the library, the quaint little downtown.
He talked about how warm and welcoming the decorations hanging from Main Street’s light posts made him feel.
He asked about the new school being built and how impressed he was the community made such a commitment to the education of its children.
He expressed even further admiration for the community for making an additional 5-year commitment to a 6-mill levy to help get the city back on stable financial footing.
He was over-the-moon for the Fostoria Learning Center which recently opened and talked about what an ingenious solution that was to meeting the needs of both employers and those seeking careers throughout the area.
He further expressed how fortunate Fostoria is to be within 40 miles of endless job opportunities within the community itself as well as Tiffin, Findlay, Fremont and other surrounding towns.
The whole time he’s gushing over Fostoria, I’m hearing whispers of all the bad things I hear from Fostoria residents themselves.
The negativity that comes from those who are quick to talk down the city, talk down the schools, talk down the community.
The searing words of current and former residents who predict the community will turn into a ghost town with tumbleweeds blowing down Main Street because we have lost so many factories.
I could hear the murmurings of all the people who have ever lived in Fostoria who jump onto social media where their comments place the community in a bottomless pit of despair.
Like a vicious dog nipping at my heels, I could still feel the prickle of all the caustic things that have been said recently about the city’s financial status, how the 6-mill levy is the final nail in Fostoria’s coffin, how the last guy out of town doesn’t need to turn off the light because it’s all just doom and gloom here.
The conversation with my friend went on to encompass discussions about how the close proximity of Tiffin, Findlay and Fostoria are a bonus for this area because when one community meets success, we all benefit — the idea being that we are all free to utilize each other’s resources. He talked about how life, and business, doesn’t have to be a competition but should be a partnership so what blesses one blesses all.
In a nutshell, we discussed how we climb higher by lifting each other up than we do by stepping all over one another.
So now, here I am days later, still processing the whole conversation and trying to regain my equilibrium.
I am seeking my footing for the Fostoria my friend encountered and the Fostoria our own residents perceive.
I’m sure the truth lies somewhere between.
But for now, I am taking myself to task and reflecting on what I thought my friend was going to say and my surprise at what he said.
I am both pleased at his perception of Fostoria and disappointed at my expectation of what I thought it would be.
And while I continue to replay the whole conversation over and over in my mind, I keep hearing the small, soft voice that always speaks the truth to me.
It keeps saying, “I have met the enemy, and he is us.”