Wednesday, February 17, 2010
In February's issue of Vanity Fair, author A. A. Gill describes his trip to the Cincinnati area to visit the Creation Museum. The Creation Museum, Gill says, "isn't really a museum at all. It's an argument." It boasts huge, elaborate displays of dinosaurs riding Noah's ark and seeks to explain how fossils, ostensibly 10 million years old, are actually only a few thousand years old.
To Cincinnatians, the museum (and I use that term loosely) is a curiosity, like Miss Emily in Faulkner's classic story. We suspect there's something strange there--a corpse in the attic, perhaps--but no one's really being hurt.
What made Gill's article so offensive wasn't its ridicule of the museum. I get a little uncomfortable when questioning someone or something based on faith alone, but any place that charges its patrons money and then stretches and denigrates science should be subject to challenge and criticism. No, what was most outrageous about the article was the ridicule he reserved for the people who make Cincinnati their home.
Gill begins, "It's not in the stoic nature of Cincinnatians to boast, which is fortunate, really, for they have meager pickings to boast about."
Huh? Blogger Kate the Great responded best when she listed a plethora of cultural and entertainment opportunities in the Queen City and favorably compared a Cincinnati restaurant to a famous one she recently visited in San Francisco. Also, she made the excellent point that "while Cincinnati ranks 32 in media market size, our metro ranks fourth in the nation in per capita giving."
With one broad stroke, Gill paints an entire region the same color as that ridiculous museum. He seems to suggest that we all believe Moses palled around with a T-Rex. Because when we live in flyover country, clearly we don't understand facts and reason - otherwise we'd be smart enough to move to one of the coasts, where we could pay triple the rent for a third of the space and where our friends would all be as tolerant as Mr. Gill.
While Mr. Gill's piece was just one man's opinion - he certainly doesn't speak for all of Vanity Fair or for everyone from whatever coast he comes from - it struck a nerve. From our libraries to our zoo to our museums and beyond, culture abounds in this city and region. And the people are as varied as our landscape, sprinkled with hills and valleys, parks and forests, rivers and lakes, new homes and old homes. Like any city, we have our knuckleheads and we have room for growth.
We're not a destination city. Kids in other parts of the country don't think "I'm gonna move to Cincinnati when I grow up!" like someone might for New York or Los Angeles. But we have a vibrant community that is on the rise. We deserve to be a destination city. Those of us who grew up here may move away for a bit, but many of us return to the city we love.
I'm already late to this conversation. In fact, Gill's piece showed up about three weeks ago. Tom Callinan sums up the blogger reaction to the article. But it made me angry enough that I had to respond with my two cents.