Editorial: Farewell, and thanks for all the memories

Editorial: Farewell, and thanks for all the memories

Editorial: Farewell, and thanks for all the memories

By the time you read this, I will no longer be the editor of the Madison Park Times. My last day at the paper was June 23, and I have since taken a job as the student media specialist for the University of Washington Tacoma.

It’s a career turn I’m excited to make. I’ll be tasked with the advisement of the students who run the campus’ newspaper, literary journal and internal marketing operations, lending my perspective as a professional ink-stained wretch to the work they do on campus. There have been only a handful of times my job has allowed me to work with interns or student job shadows and, in my opinion, helping the next generation find their footing in the world is one of the most spiritually rewarding undertakings in which a person can participate. So it’s a little unbelievable that I’ll be able to make that undertaking my vocation.

It’s also a career turn that’s bittersweet.

One year and two months ago, I took a job editing two monthly newspapers. The Madison Park Times was the newspaper that made me nervous. East-central Seattle wasn’t a trendy commercial hotspot like Capitol Hill, or a flashpoint for bustling civic activity like the top-down city upzones that hit the University District. It was -- and is -- a relatively quiet area of single-family residences. It’s Seattle’s bedroom. What would I even write about?

As usual, my fears made themselves overstated. Learning the ins and outs of the community was indeed slow going at the start. But by parking myself at community council meetings, it quickly became apparent there was an active community churning beneath the placid surface.

I would also come to know the community as one of the most welcoming and pleasant I’ve ever covered. The councils were happy to have a reporter attend their meetings, no one was less than completely enthusiastic to agree to an interview, and I was only called a liberal bootlick once by an angry caller. That’s like winning the community journalism lottery.

I’ve attended events like the Argosy Xmas Ships and, weeks afterward, had attendees present me with printed copies of their photos of me, enjoying myself. I’ve had interviews that, when the business at hand was done, devolved into friendly conversations about video games, relationships, and life. In a business where it often feels like all you do is manage other people’s selfish interests, these moments were… strangely nice. And humbling.

Of course, no community is comprised entirely of puppy dogs and rainbow glitter. From my first afternoon on the job to this very day, residents organized into the group Save Madison Valley have vigorously opposed a proposed apartment building and PCC Market that would replace the well-liked City People’s Garden Store.

I don’t live in Madison Valley. I don’t have a horse in this race. Something can be said for the argument that the city needs more housing units. Something can also be said for the idea that that’s just a self-righteous spin on the developer’s profit motive, and that the “yay density” stance is part of an ideological stance that enables elites to turn neighborhoods into money factories. The most cynical take would be that gentrification is a cycle, and everyone wants to benefit from it, but no one wants the cycle to continue once they’ve gotten theirs. The truth of the matter probably can’t be summed up in a sentence.

I actually have a lot of sympathy for Save Madison Valley, and think their core arguments against the proposed development are legitimate.

But, boy, can they be hard to watch at public meetings.

At the most recent of said public meetings, I saw a man compared a grocery store to a war crime in Vietnam, a man aggressively questioned the authority of a land use planner, and little old ladies took note of who didn’t agree with the stance they agreed with. These meetings have had attendees who believed the apartment/PCC development would be beneficial -- but those people conspicuously did not speak. Why?

This is what Alexis de Tocqueville referred to when he wrote about the “tyranny of the majority” in his magnum opus, “Democracy in America.” Tocqueville observed the benefits of the actively democratic public life of Americans outside the electoral cycle, but he also noted the American democracy’s dark side. Specifically, he saw a country where the public didn’t engage topics in reasoned debate. Instead, the side with the most support stamped out the speech of the minority until the latter resigned themselves to a state of silent political exile.

Tocqueville made that observation about American life 180 years ago. Does tradition make it right? I say no.

If I have some parting wisdom, I guess it’s this. Today, tomorrow, or after the dust settles on this development issue, look out your window. See your neighbors. Remember that they, too, exist in this world.  They have a right to exist, even the ones with whom you happen to disagree. Especially them.

Be nice to those people. Or at least be civil. They might not return the favor, and that’s OK. It’s mainly important to do it because life is short, and it’s not worthwhile to spend that time thinking of the people around you as a dire threat, if you can avoid it.

Because we’re steeped in the casual arrogance of existence -- because we can only see history through the limited window of our own lifetimes -- we’re tempted to think of our place in time in dire terms. We assign our place as the best time that ever was. Or the worst.

The dirty little secret of life is that that is not true. Our time is just a time, for better or worse, built upon and mostly similar to all the times that came before.

And when ours ends, we’ll blow away into a dust far spread and dilute, until it’s those who come after who fail to realize we exist in their every breath.