Friday, July 9

A Sense of Place


Funny how certain usually-unquestioned biases remain deeply embedded within everyday language. Take a word like "urbane," which dictionary.com defines as "polite, refined, often elegant in manner." See how close "urbane" is to "urban"? One silent E and you're there. City dwellers are assumed to be somehow more sophisticated, cosmopolitan (there's another one). What's associated with "country"? Bumpkin. Hick. Rube. Stupid.

I grew up out in the country, somewhere between the village of Broadalbin and the town of Johnstown. Not actually on a farm, but right next door to one. And even I bought into the whole "city = good, country = bad" prejudice. During a certain phase of late adolescence, I did harbor escape fantasies of moving to the City.

Where I lived wasn't the Ass End of Nowhere, but if you climbed a hill and squinted, you could probably see it from there.

When I grew up in the 70s, living out there in the boonies did mean cultural deprivation, it's true. But now, I would imagine that access to cable TV and the Internet would make the place feel slightly less benighted than it was then.

Growing up with a high IQ in a place like this did twist my conditioning, leaving me with a lifelong tendency to feel freakish and alienated. And really, who wouldn't want to feel like an outsider when a lot of your peers look like inbred piglets and the everyday level of discourse involves ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia and who knows what all else because I coudn't stand listening to them for very long?

I may be from there, but I'm not of there. At least, I hope not.

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