When people ask me why I choose to live in Ohio above everywhere else in the US, the first few words that generally come out of my mouth are: “Because it’s diverse.” I don’t think there is a better quality for a place to have than to be brimming with a myriad of different beliefs, ideas, and mindsets. In my home state—or at least in the less rural areas that I’ve spent the bulk of my life—every walk of life seemingly exists, and it makes me happy to know that I will not sit in a bubble unexposed to other life-views and experiences than those I hold coming from a white, female, middle-class background.
Last night I attended an event at the oh-so-delicious Happy Dog in Detroit Shoreway, hosted by Ohio City Writers. The event featured a panel of writers, all from the
There were some in the audience who took on the “Love it or Leave it” attitude, and one very brave writer that chose to speak out against shouting the greatness of Cleveland without acknowledging its problems—speaking of love as a complex relationship that involves accepting its problems while still investing in making change. Though there were definitely some comments that made me go “Oooo burn…” from the same speaker, the points she brought up were certainly valid (I believe at one point she said, “The Rock Hall isn’t going to keep me here”), and the idea that anyone with an opinion concerning the city should be attacked for not preaching that Cleveland is the greatest thing since sliced-bread-manufacturing-plants really pains me.
There were comments about how the older, more conservative crowd writes off the ideas of us “young hipsters,” breeding frustration in the youth’s inability to have a true voice. I would argue that ignoring the opinions of the older generation—and others who may show disdain at the city or boosterism—is a huge mistake. Let me repeat here again that we are a diverse region. We are a city of young, old, liberals, conservatives, natives, non-natives, advantaged, disadvantaged, working, unemployed, and everything in between. Every voice should be heard, and a spirit of community should be fostered. Every place has problems, and every place has its assets. In order to improve the city, we should be figuring out how to take that criticism to make change and leverage those assets.
Richard Florida talks about how important the creative class is to the energy, progress, and survival of the American city. I agree that this class of people, which he argues are willing to forgo monetary benefits in lieu of challenge and responsibility, are an important factor in the revitalization of
When it comes to
Whether we are attempting to attract (or retain) talent, or serve the people that are already here, it is important to understand
Boosterism has its pitfalls, of course. If we say the city is great, we need to make sure that it is… and not just for the young, artistic creatives that want to visit our
Sure, we could make the argument that bringing in the talent, the corporations opens up more job opportunities for those that are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Drawing more people to the city means drawing a bigger tax base, which could then be redistributed. I agree that there are some indirect consequences, but in my opinion the effect of boosterism on these issues is about as effective as the idea of “trickle down” economics… not very. I feel this is mostly because those who are disadvantaged are heavily uninvolved—and if they were, I’m sure the message would sound completely different. I’m sure there are things about
I would say our work is to make the city lovable. The city is its people. We are a community. Loving is a mutual process. What person is going to love a city that shows them little love (or worse) in return? We must truly understand love to be able to implement it, however. According to social theorist bell hooks in her book All About Love: New Visions, “Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” I’ve always preferred this definition because she describes loving as an intention, as a verb and not a feeling. Boosterism seems pointless without all of this. If we are each doing our best to provide these qualities to one another, regardless of belief, opinion, or background, that is when our city starts becoming loving—and lovable… to both the people that we wish to draw and those that already live within its confines. Embracing and leveraging the diversity of our population is key to creating a loving community and a healthy economy.
In this case, to love is to do—and if there’s nothing this girl loves more, it’s pursuing actionable change. How are you acting on your love for our city?