Whew, I found the weirdest thing over at Forbes.com. It's cute at first — Paul Jankowski being all proud of Nashville, and a little hipsterish in his "I already knew how awesome it was" attitude.
The New York Times has bestowed their blessing on Nashville, sort of. Whew! I feel a little like Navin Johnson in The Jerk when he first saw his name published in the phone book, confirming that he finally “made it.” A tad bit snarky, yes but we know how great living in the new Heartland is; especially Nashville. Admittedly, getting some ink in the venerable NYT is pretty cool.
And then it gets creepy.
Nashville, like any other new Heartland city, is built on a foundation of core values. Although not exclusive in the new Heartland, values such as faith (not religion), strong community connections and a love of family are constantly at the surface; topics of casual conversations. Core values are what make the new Heartland a unique cultural segment, full of diversity and a tightly held point of view. We love our favorite brands and are fiercely loyal.
What places in the country don't people talk about faith, community, and their families? I've been all over this country and I've never been any place where people don't love their families. I've also lived in Nashville long enough to have been asked by everyone three times where I go to church and whether I'd like to go to their church, so this idea that we have faith, not religion, seems to me a strange misreading of where we are as a city.
"Core values." What a weird phrase.
It's supposedly what makes us unique, but then the core values listed are pretty universal. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but Osama bin Laden had faith, strong community connections, and a love of family. And I'm pretty sure we all agree that maybe no one should emulate him.
There's an idea that's taken root on the Internet that, if you're not paying for something, then you're the thing being sold. (So, in other words, Facebook isn't a service to you, it's a vast, constantly updated collection of information about consumers for sale to advertisers.) Nashville, we are the thing being sold.
And it's true, we have always been the thing being sold. We have always been a tourist destination, a sound, a place of hopes and dreams. We have always been a real city AND a city in the nation's imagination. And that's awesome.
But Jankowski's piece indicates we've reached a point where our brand is so ubiquitous that just throwing "Nashville" on any old set of empty words is supposed to give those words value and get the person writing them recognized as an expert on us.
Which is kind of funny and, like I said, a little creepy. After all, we're not just a brand, not just a set of images or phrases to be sold to the rest of the nation. There is a city under all the marketing fluff. But I'm starting to wonder if folks are losing sight of that.