Letter FromnCincinnatinby Janet Scott BarlownStranger in ParadisenWhen I moved to Cincinnati fromnChicago in 1973,1 found I could gaugenthe personality of my new city by listingnthe things I missed about the home I’dnleft. I missed the bulging Chicagonnewspapers. I missed being in a placenwhere cynicism competes with humornas the prevailing public attitude andnhumor often wins. I missed the Cubs. Inmissed the presence of an irrepressiblynvocal populace. (Spend ten minutesnwith a Chicago South Sider and you’llnlearn everything from his views on thenstate of the world to his mother’s maidennname, and he’ll throw in a recommendationnon where to get a brake jobnon your car.) I missed politics as ancontact sport and Mike Royko’s bignmouth. I missed Democrats.nI went along like that for about a yearnand a half, keeping my little list andnindulging my grief, until it finally occurrednto me that there’s more than onenversion of paradise. I realized that politicalnboredom can grow on you, especiallynwhen it’s accompanied by civic order.nI realized that one of the reasons mynmorning paper seemed skimpy was thatnit didn’t contain endless stories of horrificncrimes from the day before. I discoverednthat it’s acceptable, even enjoyable,nto root for a baseball team that cannactually win, and rather soothing tonreside in a town where the day’s biggestnnews might be “Reds Sweep RoadnTrip.” I found it could be relaxing notnto always hear everybody’s opinionnabout everything. I never stopped missingnliving in the same city with MikenRoyko, bless his angry, funny heart,nbut I had one consolation: I no longernlived in the same city with BobnGreene. As for Democrats, I stoppednmissing them when I pretty muchnstopped being one.nToday, the biggest difference betweennme, the rooted transplant, andnnative Cincinnatians is that natives getn46/CHRONICLESnCORRESPONDENCEnopenly — if politely — defensive whennthe city is criticized, while I tendntoward covert defensiveness. WhennNew York acquaintances come to townnon business (and a lot of business isndone here) and say to me, sometimesngood-humoredly, sometimes not,n”What do you people do around herenafter 11 p.m.?” I tell them that we justntry to avoid stepping in cowflop andngetting overly excited at the bingongames — and hey, how about that Redsnroad trip?nBut born-and-bred Cincinnatiansnare not given to leg-pulling, mixing itnup, or playing Ht for tat. When big-citynEasterners complain that there is nonplace here to get a seven-course mealnat 3 a.m., Cincinnatians don’t say, “Sonwhat?” or “Who the hell wants to eatnat 3 a.m.?” or “Right you are; so thennext time you come to town, pack ansnack.” What they say is, “That’s true,nbut . . .” Then they go on to mentionnthe beloved Reds and the splendidnBengals (See? We’re in the big time),nthe city ballet, the symphony, and thenmuseums (See? We’ve got culture),nthe general quality of life, the nicenessnof living here. You want more? We’vengot a five-star French restaurant (itncloses at eleven — sorry) and a greatnzoo.nSo Cincinnatians are defensive, yes,nbut they’re also earnest. The city is sonearnest, in fact, that if it finds itselfnmisunderstood too often or consistently,nthe whole place breaks out in mentalnhives, a kind of collective psychologicalnrash.nDefensive and earnest. That’s thenphrase that ran through my mind duringnthe course of our latest controversy,nthe one centering on the now beyondnfamous Robert Mapplethorpe photographynexhibit. Our last municipal disturbanceninvolved, you’ll recall, PetenRose and his banishment from baseball.nCincy took its lumps for its responsento the Rose episode, deservedlynin my opinion (too much defensiveness,nnot enough earnestness), andntook its lumps again for communitynreaction to the Mapplethorpe show.nBut this time it was a bum rap. Asnbriefly as possible, here is the programnnnof events. The sequence is important.n1) Amidst a nationwide debate overneither “obscene” art or obscene “art,”ndepending on who was doing the talkingn(I came to think of it as the war ofnthe quotation marks), Cincinnati’snContemporary Arts Center (CAC)nmakes plans to exhibit the Mapplethorpenretrospective.n2) Citizens for Community Values,na group whose members include localnbusiness executives, religious leaders,nand various Cincinnati Bengals, objectsnto the exhibit’s inclusion of sevennphotographs that are described by thenarts group as “Mapplethorpe’s mostnchallenging works” and by the communitynvalues group as examples ofnobscenity. In the background, law enforcementnofficials, citing local obscenitynstatutes, begin making threateningnnoises.n3) The national media pick up onnthe controversy and cast the story morenor less as “Hick Town Has Fit Over ArtnFix.”n4) The conflict, which has becomenan issue, now stimulates a public debatenon the questions of censorship andnfree expression, the definitions of artnand pornography, the purpose andnlimits of community standards.nThrough the vehicle of their localnnewspapers’ op-ed pages, countlessnCincinnatians participate in the debatenby organizing their thoughts, expressingnthem coherently, and signing theirnnames. The debate takes this form: itnis genuinely searching; it is markednthroughout, with few exceptions, byncivility, sincerity, and restraint; it isnundergirded by the assumption thatndecent people can disagree and isntherefore almost completely free of thensuggestion by either side that those onnthe opposing side are, by virtue of theirnopinions, immoral, unpatriotic, subversive,nor evil.n5) The exhibit opens, whereuponncity and county officials treat Cincinnatiansnto the unsettling sight of uniformednpolicemen clearing out andnclosing down (for an hour) a crowdednart gallery. Immediately, the CAC andnits director are indicted on misdemeanornobscenity charges by a Hamiltonn