Monday, July 26, 2010

"_______ is the best of the Fifty Nifty United States..."

This is Virginia. (Richmond, to be specific.)

And this is Maryland. (Baltimore.)

When I was in these states last week, in fact every time I'm in these states, I'm reminded that Virginia is just so Virginian, and Maryland is just so Marylandish. In a way that Connecticut is just so not Connecticut-y. You would never see, I don't know, Nathan Hale's "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" painted in funky colors on a wall. (Though I suspect he said something more like "I only regret that I got drunk in that bar on Long Island and told the enemy everything. Oops.") And you'll never see anyone flying the Connecticut flag from their house. Granted, Maryland has a much more distinctive flag. But there's a sort of...state pride sounds cheesy...state awareness that's lacking here.

Maybe it's because there's nothing here that's important, or distinctive in any way. But I don't believe that. I wouldn't have moved back here, going against everything I once stood for, if that were the case! And anyway I've seen places with a lot less to recommend them go a lot further in terms of believing in and promoting their special-ness.

Maybe it's something that can only be seen by non-residents. Maybe Virginians and Marylanders don't notice their own states' particularity, and I am blind to the Connecticut-ness all around me. But I doubt it. I gather that Connecticut's reputation in the rest of the country ranges from "lots of traffic" in the minds of the informed, to "um...where?" in the minds of everyone else. And inside the state I think it rarely goes beyond that. I know I've said and heard others say casually, about some girl's style or some town's odd rules, "Oh that's so Connecticut." But that's about it. Most people who live here don't appear to see the state as any kind of cohesive whole. If we had any sense of ourselves, would we ("we" meaning residents, CVBs, town governments, everyone) keep listing "between New York and Boston" as our #1 feature?

In a way it can be a positive thing. Kids in Connecticut schools are not (or were not, when I was a kid in a Connecticut school) taught to define themselves by their state. Or even, truthfully, their country. If there was any sort of agenda behind our education, which I don't think there was beyond "get them into Ivies", it was to raise little citizens of the world. Which, in theory, is all sophisticated and fabulous. Except there's something empty about living here sometimes, and there's something nice (as a visitor, anyway) about those high self-esteem states. I sort of envy them when I'm there. Though I'm not about to start flying this thing off my balcony.

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