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Shades of Gray

February 2, 2010

Apparently I struck a nerve with many in the blog post I wrote on the fairgrounds, and it is important that we recognize the place of factors like class, race, national heritage, gender, and all sorts of other things in the decision making process. Decisions such as the one about the fairgrounds are seldom made in a vacuum, based in pure logic, divorced from our own personal experiences. Some of us have wonderful memories of the fairgrounds, memories that we can’t easily cast aside, while others have no emotional connection to the place and can’t understand why folks are deeply connected to a bunch of metal buildings and poorly kept fields and parking lots. Our stories are different, and both are as right as they are wrong. What is required in the decision making process is to listen to these differing perspectives and come to a decision that respects and honors what has come while recognizing the future prospects within the constraints of time, money, energy, and all the other things that limit our ability to bring about positive change.

I share all this because my friend Mike Hodge has reminded me that the preacher in me can sometimes be driven to hyperbole, and overstate a case in the desire to move a conversation in a particular direction. Such is the case when I paint with a wide brush and pit development against heritage,  and newcomers against old. I completely recognize that such characterizations are usually flawed, and that my own biases and experiences regarding unchecked development get in the way. I may be reflecting what is true at these times, but it’s probably not the whole truth in all it’s messy glory.

So there is an additional set of facts in the fairgrounds debate, a set of of facts that involve both newcomers to the community and those who have lived in the area around the fairgrounds for a long time. These persons have legitimate complaints about the property, having lived with a racetrack that seems to get louder each year, traffic and parking in their neighborhood that at times is out of control, and a property that hasn’t always been well maintained nor an especially good neighbor. These folks have been speaking for years in community meetings about improving the property and dealing with the track, and are rightly frustrated when those of us who don’t live at ground zero fail to recognize their story as we seek to continue our own story.

I share this because it’s important to recognize that there are always other sides to any story, other perspectives that are important and cannot be missed. There are legitimate problems with the current configuration and operation of the fairgrounds that cannot be ignored. To do so is to dishonor the stories of those who reside in the fairgrounds area.

What is required is the will and patience to gather all the concerned players in a room for sharing their stories and discerning together the correct path for the fairgrounds. That is time consuming and expensive in many ways, and yet given the stakes involved, isn’t it worth taking the time to ensure that all are heard, and maybe coming up with a solution that no one has yet considered?

Change is hard, and the easy way to deal with it is to cut and run. When we do, many people get hurt along the way, and their stories and concerns are trampled on.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike Hodge permalink
    February 2, 2010 6:01 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Jay!

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