Rich History. Regrettable Past.
When I think about the narrative that pockets of St. Louis tell itself, what comes to mind is, "We're trapped in the past. I wish we could be more like some other city." There is without question, things that need to change in this place I call home. Some issues, like greater inclusion and an end to discrimination, are more urgent than others. But when I think about it through a lens of wanting to be a top city or rising star, I see it another way.
I just wrapped up Blood, Bones & Butter, in which the author, who is now a dual citizen of the US and Italy said, "What I love about Italians is exactly also what I don't love. The incredible fastening down of routine and tradition. The nearly pathological preservation of habit. I love that they haven't torn down the ruins to make a highway. That the pasta is still made the same way. That certain foods are only eaten in certain places under certain preparations. This is so reliable and rich and fascinating. This is how countries older than ours become so rich in tradition. Repetition. Centuries of repetition. But its that very repetition that also makes my heart sing a little wanly."
Its interesting to hear her express that what she finds most compelling about Italy is also what she finds most frustrating. By clinging to the past there are ways in which it does not progress as she wishes it might. I would wager her lens on Italy is different but more well-rounded than the average tourist, who probably thinks, "I hope this place never changes because its perfect just as it is." What I am left asking based on the author's comment is, "Should St. Louis take the viewpoint that the author has taken towards Italy? How do we acknowledge and work to remedy mistakes of the past (and present) while also embracing the rich parts of our own heritage that make us who we are and this place unique?
Can a place both love what it is and yet aspire to do better? When is a city a cultural institution vs. forgettable backwater? How much of what makes Rome or Florence beautiful the fact that it is unfamiliar and far away vs. the city and culture itself?
Its about leaning in to who we are, what we stand for and striving to do better. Standing as a closer reference of loving oneself for who they are, I always come back to this unapologetic rust belt video about Cleveland.
Go Forth Boldly