Thursday, May 29, 2008

Geographical Elitism

I am a geographical elitist. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have it, and I admit it. I am a geographical elitist.

In politics, there is a lot of talk about elitist folks on the coast (east and west), but it is primarily presented as a class issue, or an urban/rural divide pitting the cities of the east against homespun, heartland folk. But that doesn't quite get at what I feel. My geographical elitism centers around the fact that I live near the capital, which is in one corner of a very sprawling nation. It feels very imperial: there is the capital, and then there are the provinces -- like the difference between Rome and Gaul or Lycia. Other East Coast cities (the Washington -- Boston corridor) at least feel like they are part of the same segment of the nation (they are all Italia). Get much beyond that, and things start to become strange.

I spend time sojourning in Minnesota, with their strange customs (ridiculous quantities of politeness), dialect ("ofer cute!"), and food (lutefisk?), and it's difficult to resist the sentiment that I'm approaching the borders of the imperial reach. The Twin Cities are a charming little outpost. And I know it's not an urban or population thing, because I have similar views of Chicago, even though it is nearly 5x larger than Washington. They are far-flung tendrils of the American civilization, but when the empire falters and begins to crumble, they're going to be the first to go. By the time Washington is sacked, they'll have been long lost to the Canadians.

It's a very bizarre feeling, but it's very much there. D.C. is very central to my identity, and it feels very much like the center of the world. So I apologize to all my friends who are not east coasters. I mean no disrespect, and since I've signed on to another three-year tour of the mid-west, maybe it is a character flaw I can outgrow.


PG said...

If you'd come to NYC, your sense of where the center of the world is would rapidly change. NYC also is good for squelching lawyers' sense of importance, which has free rein in DC.

Anonymous said...

DC pride seems monumentally unfounded. A shortlist of America's greatest philosophers would suggest that Massachusetts is far and away the philosophical hub of America, distantly seconded by NYC. American Nobel winners have hailed from Minnesota, New York, Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, California, Michigan and Ohio, but never DC. America's best Universities can be found in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Chicago, New York, New Hampshire, St. Louis, and so forth, but not one the nation's top 20 universities or colleges is in DC. Great innovators in soul, r&b, jazz, and rock and roll have come virtually every part of the country, but who from DC? Basically, if it weren't for Ian Mackaye, I'd swear the was never an original thought or artistic notion ever to come out of DC.

So DC does get to be the capital on the coast, which may be of interest to skeezy politicians and damned politicians, but it as an intellectual or cultural entity it may not even qualify. And lets face it, "when the empire falters and begins to crumble," odds are that whatever malaise is doing us in will have the capital as its epicenter.

David Schraub said...

Georgetown University represents DC quite well in the university setting.

And as for people we have...well Pat Buchanan! Hah!

More seriously, DC has produced, among others, Duke Ellington, Dave Chappelle, Al Gore, Bill Nye, and Samuel L. fucking Jackson(!). So eat it.

Unknown said...

Funny. When I visited DC I had the distinct impression it had been sacked long ago and never recovered.