Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scare Quotes

I keep thinking about "Connecticut." That is, Connecticut as presented by the hundreds of media people from other states and countries who have been camped out in Newtown, talking about "Connecticut" since last Friday. It's not that they're getting the state wrong, exactly, with the exception of the things they are getting wrong, like the pronunciation of our governor's name and the meaning of "quaint" and the difference between a town and a village and a borough.

It's just that the place they're offering up to the world is so far from the whole picture. And of course it is. I can't really blame them for repeating "idyllic" and "quintessential New England" and "Norman Rockwell" over and over. I can see how frustrated they're getting, trying to explain the intense Connecticut-ness of "Connecticut." At one point CNN's Don Lemon, who'd been getting on my last nerve with his sanctimonious interviewing techniques, seemed on the point of giving up when he finally said, "It's like...one of those little train things!"

"Connecticut" (and a good percentage of Connecticut) really is like one of those little train things. But it's better. Take this church. If the Connecticut of imagination is filled with magnificent white churches on town greens, the Connecticut of reality is filled with gleaming white churches on town greens and with churches like this, the Preston City Bible Church.

It is sweetly, yes, quintessentially New England. But it's also a little imperfect, and a little tilted, placed not on a bucolic green but at an intersection, on a hill. The steeple could perhaps stand to be painted, and the white is not quite as bright as it would be in a painting of a church on a Connecticut postcard. 

When it was built in 1812 it was the Baptist Church, and it faced the other way; it was turned towards the road in 1832, the same year the bell tower was added to the top.

You don't find churches like this unless you have some reason to be in an out-of-the-way, off-the-radar town, or you're lost. Hopefully someday all those media people will get to go to out-of-the-way, off-the-radar towns, and get lost. And exchange their "Connecticut" for Connecticut.

2 comments:

  1. Living in Baltimore now, but being from Connecticut, I have a hard time describing it to those that are interested about Connecticut.

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  2. Weird. I'm from CT but live in Baltimore now, too. I don't have cable anymore, so I've managed to miss most of the cable news coverage, but I don't doubt it's reductive. How could it not be? Aside from the general limitations of language and perception, these "journalists" just haven't spent enough time there to know it. Places, like people, reveal themselves slowly, and patience is not a virtue associated with cable news.

    It's too bad. CT is nuanced place. You just have to look closely. But, I guess that's true of any place.

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