Bless your heart.

Those of us in the Southland love to explain to folks from elsewhere the forty-eleven shades of meaning in the innocent-sounding wish, “Bless your heart.” Anyone raised south of Mason-Dixon and east of Big Muddy can interpret them without thinking.  And most people who come here get it pretty fast, because we make sure they do. Spoken: “Your husband left you for that hussy? You poor thing. Bless your heart.” Unspoken: “No wonder. You’re an overweight, vapid bitch in designer denim. Bourbon? Why yes, thank you.”

Since the Cumberland and the surrounding rivers in middle Tennessee bloated beyond their flood stages and made a mess – nay, a wreck – of so many of our neighbor’s lives, many here have felt ignored or unnoticed by “big media.” Nashville received a quick and painful reminder of where we stand on the editorial priority list. Where are the satellite trucks? Why isn’t Katie Couric here? Shit, Gwenyth Paltrow said we are awesome. Excuse me, Wolf, but we’ve got people dying and there’s a building floating down the freeway. Doesn’t that qualify as a situation?

There have been some thoughtful and heartfelt words shared. My neighbor Kate O was quick to chastise me when I snarled on Facebook that I didn’t “give a rat’s ass if we make the New York Times or not” : “The point of working towards national media attention is the chance of increased aid for those who need it & never thought to get FEMA flood insurance.”  She also posted on her own blog some well-articulated thoughts to the same effect. She’s right; we do need all the help we can whomp up.

There is this post, which most everyone online in Nashville has seen, and inspired the “We Are Nashville” groups, t-shirts, twibbons, Twitter hashtags and so on.

My friend, writer and editor Alice Sullivan shared this.

And we did make a splash in the NYT after all, with a great piece from local resident Ann Patchett.

There are others.

Jim Reams, a wordsmith to be envied (I envy him, anyway) shared this: “We noticed that you didn’t notice. That’s OK, there was a bomb that didn’t explode in Times Square and and oil spill in the Gulf. It took up all the news space. Seriously, it’s OK.”

Of course, nobody here is really OK with it. Here’s why: our feelings are hurt. See, this flood destroyed many homes, upended thousands of lives, flat-out ended others, and scared the holy bejesus out of us. And what we received was big media’s equivalent of “Bless your heart.”

Meanwhile, folks rose to the occasion, as folks do anywhere and anytime their lives are threatened. The spirit of the community has been, if anything, more often mentioned by folks here than our lack of media attention. I’m seeing a tweet right now from CNN hottie Anderson Cooper (the chicks all say he’s hot; I think he’s good but slurs too much).

In nashville. so many people volunteering to help their neighbors who are suffering in the wake of the flooding. Truly inspiring

Considering what we’ve been through – are going through – most everyone’s hurt feelings about the media are as natural as catfish in the Cumberland. Getting riled up because we may not get all the support we deserve is right and proper, too. But I’m thinking maybe what we should do is forgive ’em. The President declared us a disaster area in a pretty timely fashion; Mr. Cooper is here somewhere and women all around are wondering where the hell he’s staying; and I even saw Pat Robertson covering us on TV, and he didn’t say that God hates us, or even that He brought the Flood because John Rich is a big fat bigot. It sucks, but the Gulf oil spill IS a pretty big story, and New York IS the biggest city in America and was successfully attacked less than a decade ago. Even a dud bomb in Times Square is pretty friggin’ scary. Being a news editor ain’t easy.

For me, I’m going to try – I said try – and do what southerners do. Which is smile, offer some iced tea, Yazoo Brew or Jack Daniel’s to the crews giving us the coverage we do get, kill ’em with kindness and remember to say this when I start to feel we’ve been slighted by the networks: “Bless their hearts.”

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  1. Kidd, I should have said this a while back, but I love this post. I have come back to it again today because of an email from a well-mannered colleague that ended with, “Bless her heart.”

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