You Tell Us: Is St. Louis Home of the Blues or Pessimism?

Blues music is not pessimistic or cynical. Instead of letting the individual wither away, it affirms life. Each note rebelliously declares that while we are down, we are not out. Energy still resonates within us. Blues music is the endurance, expression, and release of pain. Blues music is about digging deep into the soul and discovering what it’s made of.

“The blues was bleeding the same blood as me.”
~ B.B. King

On the other hand, pessimism and cynicism jump to conclusions to avoid pain. The belief that nothing is worth doing and that things always go wrong prevents people from making themselves vulnerable. Of course, we should keep expectations in check, but the first impulse should not be a flee to surrender. The blues puts emotions courageously on display. Pessimism hides them behind a mask.

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
~ Viktor Frankl

When the St. Louis Blues hockey team dropped its series lead from 3-1 to 3-3 over their arch-rivals, some St. Louisans said they would sell their tickets, others would never go to a playoff game again, and even some local journalists predicted the same old Blues would follow the same old easy and contrived narrative. Yet, the Blues owned their losses and dug deep into their soul. Out of their pain,courage, and team effort they won perhaps one of the most memorable games and series of all time.

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
~ Viktor Frankl

When the Cardinals hit a losing streak, the news media and twittersphere in St. Louis throws itself into a frenzy predicting the end of the season. Yet, the club is known for digging deep into its roster and farm system to magically produce one of, if not the, best teams in baseball year after year.

For some reason when our teams lose, many of us throw our hands up and declare the sky is falling. To be fair, occasionally that's due to coming up short for a streak of 2 to 3 years in a row. However, what we’re trying to highlight is the media narrative and our region’s tendency to believe in the worst before we believe the best. The phrase “Show Me” might just symbolize an unhealthy cynicism instead of a vital enthusiasm and curiosity.

National Blues MuseumThat attitude carries over into our civic life...or more accurately our civic life carries over into sports. Some believe the city is so dangerous that you can’t walk downtown on a sunny afternoon (try Washington Ave, the Swap-Meet, or the Arch Grounds for a reality check). Others make assumptions about the south, north, west, and central corridor of the county.

Perhaps, this spawns from a slow descent from the peak of the 1904 World’s Fair and Olympics? Maybe it comes from losing manufacturing plants, advertising jobs, and company headquarters over the years? Or does it arise from the fact that entire classes and races have been/are systematically excluded? Or does it possibly sprout from political leaders instilling fear in their residents so they can maintain the status quo?

What do you think? Are we the home of the Blues or Pessimism? How has history played a role? How does the future look? Is our future half full or half empty? How ironic is your answer? You tell us.

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