Although Westmoreland County is 96.2% white according to the last census, whenever we went back there to visit my grandparents, it was the closest that I have ever known to familial roots in this country. The gentle rolling hills, lush and green with forest and fields, a land that is a living Currier and Ives print, have never been anything other than a place that represented peace and serenity and all that is good about America.
I'm that sure my parents and the rest of the family could fill me in on stories of life back in the day, but I do know that when Dad came home for the family reunion, he was treated like a hometown hero (which he is, but that's another story for another time).
There could be plenty of malice hidden out of view, but that's not what I ever remember feeling. It's a little too far to the nearest espresso for me to contemplate living there; San Francisco it ain't, but only San Francisco can be San Francisco. Every visit I've ever made since I was a child has filled me with such a sense of comfort that I could only wish those who have childhood memories of families less embracing and full of love and diversity than mine could experience.
If you want to tear up when you hear the Star Spangled Banner, and have a belief that you belong to this country and know that it is possible to feel good about being American without being embarassed or ashamed for it, pass through here and look for that essence that makes this country and its people all that it is, and all that it could be.
I know that not all of America is there yet, perhaps not even all of the Keystone State; and some parts may never be, but I'll not sit idly by and let all of Western Pennsylvania be impugned with such an ugly taint.