I spent the last weekend in New York City catching a few plays/musicals and just enjoying a brief respite of winter walking along the seaport all while struggling with a residual cold but exhilarated being in my favorite city in America.
That said I hit two traffic incidents that were out of the norm even for NYC when I found out the President was in town as well catching a play. I was pissed until my Lyft driver goes, "the other one." We both laughed. The irony was that Obama and his daughter went to the white Arthur Miller play, The Price, while I went o the black play of August Wilson, Jitney. I did find that sort of interesting as Miller is my all time favorite writer with Wilson likely number two or three as it is hard as Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee (largely as they focus on complex women).
As the weekend unfolded I was asked frequently, "where are you from?" and my response, "I live in Nashville but I am from Seattle." This is often my pronouncement when I meet people here as I am not sure if I am excusing myself or explaining myself as this is a culture of which I have understanding but little tolerance.
I explained to the many who asked me about Nashville what it was like and how they wanted to visit here which I concurred this is a hell of a place to visit but living here is another story. And the next conversation was about race. And taking this from Facebook I always go, "it's complicated." I have written about the odd contradictions, the reverence for the past that literally paralyzes the present and the structural and emotional segregation that divides most based on class over race. It is only then inside each respective class does true racism emerge.
We have few protests here and they too are largely defined and dived by race. The women's march was attended by some women of color but that was not inclusive of the many women of "other" colors - Latino, African, Arabic and Asian. We have all of "those" people here but within that classification of working poor/poor they are harshly divided.
Then are Gay Community which is also segregated and in a City that has targeted LGBT rights getting one bill passed that was clearly sexually oriented directed and more on the plate shows that despite their presence they are invisible. And why? The reality is Church, Religion and faith. Almost all movements here come from the Church and that has been the history behind the Civil Rights movement and there are more Churches here than schools. A whole other problem.
The standard query, "What Church do you belong?" is a given among a certain generation. It crosses color, gender and class. You are judged by that association regardless and if you choose none even more so.
Nashville despite all its proclamations to be the city of now, I always point out that by now they mean the one in 1953. The divisiveness and segregation here is not only physical it is psychological and that has a strong affect on those who have been born and raised here. To newcomers is is a cross between WTF and not my problem. I fall somewhere in between and the comes from my being in the schools here that on average are just that - average. They micro manage every aspect of the behaviors of the students and the staff, down to walking the right way down the hall, to how you do every aspect of your job. It is appalling, utterly condescending and truly bizarre.
I spoke with a Teacher who moved here from Alabama and her feelings were oddly the same and she is white woman from the deep south, so there you go. She hates her job, loves kids but has spent her entire working life - 10 years - wanting to Teach but in the last 5 years since relocating she asks herself why she continues.
It made me realize that all of our decisions and our ability to integrate and assimilate into a new culture is a matter of trust. I read this article about Syrian women and their struggles with a community that put many refugees/migrants at constant conflict, with the Government, and each other, in order to survive. I think many people are unaware that yes you can be "Syrian" "African" "Muslim" but those are just identifiers and labels in one aspect but they do not define you nor actually explain you or those who share said labels and their ability to fit in or not.
The idea of stereotyping and generalizing makes things easier for those who used said labels to make decisions about how to respond and accommodate/ignore/justify or ignore when they meet those who fit into said category.
And in order to understand, cope and learn from anyone who is not like you means you have to let down your guard and put your trust into them to enable them to do the same. Not always an easy thing to do when you share little in common other than perhaps working or living in the same place.
I had lost trust in Seattle after what happened to me there. I saw the remnants of the "other" life and my rage and anger could not enable me to ever get past it. I had to move and needed to and ended up here, sight unseen. I knew that I was walking into the unknown but this was not at all what I thought it would be. To move here is like anyone who comes to another country, city, or place they have to rely on those there to help them make the transition, as it is a unspoken contract, and in turn a mater of trust.
And by now I have come to the realization that there are few here I trust in the same way I lost trust in Seattle that the implied contract, the belief that if one needs help and in turn is willing to do their part in this unspoken agreement that cooperation and compromise was possible. And it took two cops to come to my door unsolicited and uninvited to assure to me that here I was once again a person to whom no one would listen to nor respect. The shades of Harborview Medical Center was coming back to meet me at Vanderbilt. And I became afraid. Fear is the major factor that prohibits the idea of suspending defense and placing trust in others to do the right thing. Yet later I realized that the medical surgical and dental team were not the problem it was one woman and I had to let that go if I was to finish my procedure and walk out here healthier and in turn happier.
But I have made the same sweeping generalizations and stereotypes when it comes to the fields of law and medicine. I have no trust nor faith in either that they ever do the right thing regardless and it is only a matter of chance and luck and so I will have to hope for the best as the time comes closer but there is little one can do otherwise but keep trying to find someone who you can both trust and respect. And in reality I doubt that will ever happen given my history. And that is when again history defines you to the point of making change or choosing not.
Nashville is a city under great conflict with itself. The lack of quality paying jobs dominate, the poor infrastructure, the lack of services and businesses that are not hospitality related are of major import, the level of ignorance, poorly educated populace, massive health needs, appalling public schools, expensive housing, over crowded traffic and a truly segregated and divided populace that at one point you just go WOW! And I said yesterday there is no one here willing to do it as they are just beaten down to the point you stop. The adage if you don't like it change it is not a mantra here, it is almost always, why are you here or why did you come here. It as if you are the problem and you have nothing to offer if you refuse to accept it as it is. There is much resentment and suspicion about those who are the "others" and that is ingrained into the soul of the city here, despite their claims otherwise. Again the South is a place of constant contradictions.
And today the bogus U.S. News came up with its best state list, Massachusetts comes out number one. I have been to Boston and had a bad vibe from the moment I walked around, it is a wealthier version of Nashville but that is because the schools there are wealthier and of course whiter. Ultimately we only have Vanderbilt which I suspect graduates most migrants who come and go upon receipt of said degree and again that is because the deep red sea is neither as liberal and tolerant as those states whose reputations and economic success reflect a larger socially tolerant philosophy. And color me (pun intended) shocked, no southern states made the list!
So, no I don't trust anyone personally in Nashville. I have seen little evidence here that speaks otherwise. And I imagine many who come here feel the same and in turn I suspect the expansion and growth that Nashville is planning on there vague and unverified "figures" to go on and in turn it will hit a wall and hit it hard unless they make dramatic changes politically. I don't see that happening. Church rules here and those are brick walls that take immense effort to break through. So you have to walk through a door and trust that you will be welcome. I am not sure from what I have experienced would demonstrate that I would be a welcome guest.
Living in our world today is just that - placing our faith in others to do the right thing. For that is the unspoken contract, the agreement that they will make decisions that vested in the whole. It is a matter of trust.