Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Louis, Detroit, Metaphor & Home

A documentary movie review: in which the reviewer, talking about what it means/feels like to live in a troubled city like Detroit says. "I’m just tired of living in a metaphor."


[met-uh-fawr, -fer] 
a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”
something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol. is one of my first few blog posts in which I ask a simple question: What issues arise when some one's reality serves as a metaphor for the perceptions of another? I didn't try to answer the question. I simply showed the photograph of an incredible little house that seemed to symbolize a lot of different things. Given the TV dish it seemed safe to assume someone lived there. The house was demolished a couple of years ago - it stood off I-70 between St. Louis & Columbia.

We don't want to 'represent something else.' We don't often want to be a 'symbol.' To live in city which is constantly used as metaphor is to experience acute insensitivity. To see a thing this way is to borrow it and use it as a means to an end without due consideration to the citizen/occupants. When this becomes, not the occasional view of a place, but the dominant view I imagine it can be/would be troubling and challenging to overcome. Neither Detroit nor St. Louis exists solely as a metaphor or symbol for America's decline - at least not to those of us who call these places, 'home.' I know I don't like or learn much from  the city/county arguments that pass for reader response in

The way we are represented is not always the way we are.

Crime reports published in show that there were just 4 nuisance crimes on my block in Tower Grove South in the past year. The Riverfront Times listed our neighborhood as the best place to live in the city. It is the most diverse area in the region as well.  A metaphor for progress and success? Perhaps, but we just call it home.

Metaphor and symbol are important ways to discuss and share ideas but we need to do it with sensitivity and respect when it involves real communities where real people live. When a view of a place as a metaphor becomes embedded in popular culture it becomes an uphill struggle.