“Do they wear shoes there? Do you have electricity? What about running water?”
When I first moved from Paducah to Seattle, my classmates in middle school bombarded me with such questions. For them, “rural” — and all of Kentucky, in their minds, was nothing but farmland — meant “impoverished” and “ignorant.”
I could understand that 12-year-olds who had never had any reason to visit Kentucky might have some misconceptions about the area, and would even play along from time to time. After all, I had a wealth of preconceived notions about urbanites: they were all snobs, too wealthy for their own good, and notoriously unfriendly. It’s just what I’d been led to believe.
But after the age of 14, I began to let go of those ideas. I was disappointed when I relocated once more and realized that others hadn’t.
During a French class in Boston, the American students tried to help explain the geography of the U.S. to our French teacher, who had some confusion making sense of the states west of Pennsylvania. One girl attempted to enlighten him.
“Basically, the farther you get from an ocean, the dumber people are,” she said.
The statement was so flawed that all I could do was keep my mouth shut.
Fortunately, I discovered that the kind of ignorance and snobbery that young woman expressed is rare. In fact, Boston was one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to live in.
Some stereotypes held true — people talked faster and, it seemed, were constantly in a hurry — but I found them to be no less likely to smile or strike up a conversation than the people here in Paducah. And none of them asked about whether or not the citizens of my home state wore shoes.
I always felt grateful that the girl spoke up that day, though. It made me realize that my judgments, until that point, hadn’t been completely fair, either.
Intellectual ability, as anyone who possesses it would know, has no link to one’s proximity to the ocean. Snobbery can thrive just as easily in the South or Midwest as it does on the coasts. I look forward to seeing how “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel,” featured in this week’s edition of Current, handles these facts of life.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.