August 12, 2007

Back on the Trail

The next month will bring an end to my collection of press clips from the St. Petersburg Times, as well as trips to Lakeland and the Panhandle--as far as Century. I will be searching for old-timers who remember meeting Chiles on the Walk and can supply anecdotes describing his integrity, humor, and compassion.

I spent some time in the woods and on the river, away from everything. I did continue to turn over in my mind one concept: the stereotype.

I guess in a literary context we use the term archetype sometimes, but whatever the name, the point is that before a book is even written you've gotta forget about the frills, the bells and whistles, the alliteration.

Because before you put one blot of ink on the paper the reader is living in a world of stereotypes. The Berkeley professor George Lakoff would call them frames, or ways of thinking about ideas and people that are ingrained, second nature, instinct. For example, maybe you've always grown up thinking that Republicans look like dogs, and that's why you don't like them. Or maybe you saw a documentary or read a book on godless Democrats and the image stuck. Regardless, we've all got corners of your thoughts that are so homey and comfortably set up that we keep 'em the way they are at all costs--the truth be damned.

So I have a question; what does the phrase "Southern Democrat" conjure up for you? What adjectives? Don't take long, just a casual thought.

For me, I think of Bill Clinton and all his faults and hugs-for-everyone charisma.

Then think about what you know about Lawton Chiles. The difference may surprise you.

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