by Scott Mooneyham
There’s nothing quite like states feuding over bragging rights.
For years, North Carolina and Ohio fought over who had dibs regarding powered flight.
Ohio claimed the Wright Brothers and the research in their Dayton bicycle shop. North Carolina claimed the actual site near Kitty Hawk where the famous brothers first went airborne.
These days, a common enemy threatening the entire premise of the Wright Brothers being first in flight has brought the two states together.
Connecticut, it seems, has now staked a claim on being first in flight. Lawmakers there passed legislation that gives credit for the first manned, powered flight to Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant who claimed to have achieved powered flight two years before the Wright Brothers.
So, like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, two state legislators from North Carolina and Ohio recently joined forces to hold a joint news conferences, here and there, to express their indignation at such an affront.
“Sometimes people say things that aren’t true, and if they say them enough, people start to believe them,” said state Sen. Bill Cook, whose district includes portions of the Outer Banks including Kitty Hawk.
He’s right. Next thing you know, some state west or south of here will start claiming it knows how to cook barbecue.
Or, some Kentucky upstart might start saying that burley tobacco is better than flue-cured tobacco. (Maybe the day for that debate has passed.)
Or, someone might claim that massive tax cuts are the same as tax reform. (I apologize. I’ve digressed into seriousness.)
I suppose, though, that the history of flight is a bit more important than taste in barbecue.
Just think of all the text and history books that will have to be rewritten if people get to believing these Connecticut fakers.
Connecticut might even start thinking of itself as something more than a suburb of New York City, that it is some kind of center of education and intellectual achievement.
And tourists traveling into Connecticut might begin to consist of more than investment bankers dropping by on the weekends for a quick visit with the family in their gated-community homes.
Also worth considering is the idea expressed by the Ohio state legislator, Rick Perales: “Changing history without any substantive evidence is just, in my eye, irresponsible.”
In my eye, too.
Why, soon someone will be trying to convince us that some Vikings braved the Atlantic and hit North American shores years before Christopher Columbus. Then Columbus, Ohio, will be forced to hold a press conference, with city leaders shouting out complaints about lying Norwegians and Danes.
The good news for North Carolinians and Ohioans is that no one has produced much evidence ol’ Gustave jetting across Long Island Sound. There is one grainy picture purported to be his plane in flight, but some question what it really shows.
Orville and Wilbur, on the other hand, had pictures and witnesses and were soon producing aircraft that did circles around cow pastures.
But why worry about that when you can pass a law?
—Scott Mooneyham covers the state Legislature for the Capitol Press Association.