Pride of the Yankees

Aaron Judge. Where have you gone Mr. O’Connor, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. 

I have a problem with bullies.
I suspect most of us do.
Bullies are detestable. They hurt people in ways that leave deep and lasting scars.
I don’t know why I have such an aversion to bullies. It’s not like I was bullied as a child outside of a few incidents which usually ended in a bloody nose (either me or the offender). I was taught to stand up to bullies and sometimes that may cost you a bloody nose or a lost tooth, but it usually remedies the situation.
I learned that bullies  will take your lunch money every day until you say no and endure the consequences which are usually less painful than the daily humiliation and stress of having your dignity compromised.
In politics, you run into bullies on a regular basis.
The typical rule is to never feed a troll. It demeans you and gives the troll status.
But there are exceptions…
If the troll/bully gets traction and begins to move public opinion you have a responsibility to stand up for the truth or at least tell the other side of the story.
And if the bully is picking on your staff, community and teammates or those who are suffering you should take a stand and stick up for people. Indifference never  benefits the afflicted.
Frankly, I’m seeing a lot of bullying in Delray these days.
A lot of it occurs on social media where in between posts about dogs, graduations and entertaining memes featuring cats or Chris Christie in a beach chair, a fair amount of hating occurs.
Two recent examples –out of hundreds –are comments relating to Delray’s recovery industry and the proposal to redevelop the Sundy House and related properties.
I get that issues relating to recovery, heroin and sober homes are immensely complex and highly emotional. There are bad operators, scammers, relapses, overdoses, concerns about PTSD among first responders, fraudulent business practices and the list goes on. All are fair game for discussion and worry. These are scary issues and this is a frightening time.
But there are people who recover. There are people who contribute. There are good people who wake up everyday and try to save others.
But if you see some of the comments on social media you’ll be stunned at the lack of empathy. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe we’ve become immune. Maybe we’ve grown so callous and judgmental that we are ok with painting with a broad brush.
Or wishing that addicts would “just die.” Or questioning whether addiction is real or a sign of weakness or bad character.
Friends, we are all weak at times and none of us are getting through life unscathed. A little compassion goes a long way.
I have close friends in recovery. People I respect and adore. I see how they hurt when they read or hear some of the more judgmental and I believe discriminatory comments.
And I think that’s a shame. Because when you paint with a broad brush you smear a lot of good people.
To wit:
I think the Crossroads Club has been a blessing to our city and to thousands of people. I’ve heard wonderful things about Wayside House and Beachcomber and as a young reporter I spent a ton of time “embedded” at the Drug Abuse Foundation and got to know some dedicated counselors.
Civic leaders such as former Mayor Leon Weekes spent years serving on the board of DAF. I really liked Mayor Weekes and admired his dedication to the community.
Speaking of dedication, I have attended meetings of our Drug Task Force and I’m impressed by the passion, commitment and yes love in the room.
All of these responsible operators would love to go away; if it meant the scourge of addiction was solved.
But addiction is a disease and it’s real and it’s here and everywhere across our nation and world.
We can bash. We can label. We can blame. But all that does is polarize. All that does is drive us further apart. It does not solve a thing.
As for Swinton Commons. I don’t know enough about the site plan to render an opinion. Haven’t seen it other than the renderings floating around the internet.
And contrary to some rumors, we’re not involved in the project. I like Rick Gonzalez, the architect. We hired Rick when I was mayor to help us tighten and improve our historic district guidelines. He’s a dedicated preservationist. The real deal.
Still, I don’t know if the project as constituted works or not.
I do know that the Sundy House properties will be redeveloped at some point. The historic homes on the site are in danger and the South Swinton Neighborhood needs a shot in the arm.
Regardless, the trashing on social media of those who support the project and other proposed projects is ridiculous.
I get it. I get the concerns. Too big, too much, too ugly etc. But what about an understanding of  other views? The need for jobs, the need for tax base to fund services, the need for attainable housing and property rights.
There is opportunity in the concerns. It resides in our willingness and our ability to convene all sides and air the concerns, acknowledge them, mitigate or eliminate them.
But too often we choose the opposite. We choose to pick sides and divide.
People have been labeled corrupt, profit motivated (shocking) and my favorite “Yankees.” As in the Yankees ruined our town.
Not the Derek Jeter, Babe Ruth and Aaron Judge (isn’t he amazing) Yankees –but I suppose those of us from the northeast.
Sigh.
For the record, I’m a proud New Yorker. I’ve lived here 30 years but I guess in some eyes, we will always be Yankees.
That’s ok. We’re proud of where we come from and proud of where we live now. We are also proud of our contributions to South Florida. Some of us are actually pretty nice people.
As my old English teacher Mr. O’Connor once said: “ignorance is its own refutation.”
But is it?
In the age of social media, where every Tom, Expert Maven and Self Anointed Avenger has a bullhorn– will facts, context, rule of law, truth and authenticity still carry the day? Is my old English teacher, who looked like Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinnati (dating myself) but was the coolest teacher at Ward Melville, wrong?
I hope not. But I have some doubts for the first time. I’ve always believed that the truth was a stubborn thing and over time it prevails. I want to hold onto that.
But I do think that we are missing opportunity after opportunity to connect, collaborate and figure out a way to co-exist productively.
I read a blog this morning called “collaboration is the new leadership.”
I hope so, because I don’t see a lot of collaboration. I do see the opposite. And it doesn’t leave us happy. It doesn’t build community.
We can do better. We must.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Mike Sneiderman says:

    I agree Jeff. Thank you for your understanding and ability to bring, what I think, is the obvious into clear, concise verbiage. You are truly a winner in my Homerun Derby! BTW, I’m originally from Stamford and have been a Yankee Fan since my first visit to the stadium, with my Dad, at age 5. Judge is the Real Deal!

  2. RG Bianchi says:

    Jeff,
    Thanks for a well written article.
    I am a member of the Drug Task Force up north and a part time Delray resident, home owner and tax payer. I have also worked in the field of addiction for the past 30 years in various capacities. Twelve years ago I developed an educational program that is used in every court system in my state and surrounding areas as a plea bargain for offenders affording an opportunity for intervention, education and prevention. I had to chuckle when I asked to attend a Task Force meeting in Delray and was told “no” – they are all closed meetings, no outsiders welcome. Resources from ‘outside’ are frowned upon due to the actions of I’m guessing a few, or more, bad apples.
    I get it and it’s sad.
    And yes to Yankees!

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      Thanks for your kind comments.
      I’m hoping we can find a way to move forward with all those willing to help. Thanks for what you have done for people.

  3. John Fitzpatrick says:

    Callous and judgmental are both sadly correct, Jeff. Whether it is on the internet, discussing politics or simply out walking or driving. Our situation recently has gotten well past the point of civility and cooperation. I think we as a society are struggling badly with social media these past 8 or 9 years. It is still new. And as such, so in our face. But the knee jerk reactions and failure to listen are a dangerous condition. What we need more than ever right now is to take a step back, take a deep breath and remind ourselves how critical are kindness, compassion and consideration. With that, I’m afraid our neighbors who need to most will be the most difficult to convince, convert and listen. Still, I remain hopeful.

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