Now that enough time has elapsed, I can post this. A former resident of Springdale had taken considerable pains to challenge a bit of civic improvement. He has a family member still living in Springdale. After investigating the details, I agreed that the city had awkwardly presented its plan. Most of the intended change, however, greatly benefited the city as a whole. Unfortunately for my friend, the improvements would slightly infringe on the previous way of life a bit.
This is just me talking without an appeal for my words to set in stone or to be taken as words of certainty. They are in their totality a walk through some of the thoughts which come to mind when I read or hear words other people have spoken. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have many questions.
First, appeals to the past are strange to me because the people making them inevitably and arbitrarily choose a specific time amenable to their own arguments, rather than the broader scope of history.
At risk of being ostracized from polite company again, I cringe when I see someone say, “My family has owned that land since…” as a defense against change or incursion. I can only imagine what those who preceded them might think about such a narrow view of ownership. The European arrival, for example, dislocated and eradicated millions of indigenous people. Also, this world is predicated on the illusion of permanence, even though we are floating on gigantic and active tectonic plates, swirling in a complicated vastness which will one day extinguish itself.
Yes, I know that we didn’t personally participate in the distant past; we just benefit from it. I’m not immune to being tone deaf myself. It’s strange to see other people failing to realize they also are making errors of both logic and consistency.
One of the people criticizing the previous Springdale resident for jumping into the discussion harshly framed the argument: a rich, white outsider using the process to thwart what the majority saw as a benefit for the community. He used more profane words, but the message was striking.
Springdale is the 4th-largest city in Arkansas. For several reasons, there have been significant changes which have moved it away from its parochial past. The people who’ve stepped up to make the changes have overall done a spectacular job of managing resources, finances, and issues. Yes, I have problems with the way some of it has been done, but it is the price I pay for being a part of a living and thriving community. Change is constant. At my age, I’m not supposed to be enthusiastic about the march forward. It’s supposed to be my job to be reluctant. I disagree, though. We’re moving forward, and it’s as much on me as the rest of the community to take the long view.
It’s also odd to see people who fight change because it impacts them disproportionately. It’s difficult to accept change, despite enjoying the fruits and benefits of the community. By belonging to a city, you agree to a compromise of interests. If your property is affected or impacted, you can at least take solace in the fact that you will have a chance at fair compensation – a chance the indigenous people who lived here before were never afforded.
Those fighting against change for self-interest rarely see themselves in the way I’m describing – or realize that they are fighting the tide of time and impermanence.
New roads, street widening, public amenities, parks, rezoning, public condemnation proceedings, expansion- all of these are presented as improvements, for the common good. All of them happen because communities or their leaders have decided that things must change.
Yes, sometimes boneheaded decisions are made, precisely because human beings are involved. In those cases, it’s wise to use the processes in place to cause absolute hell. Absent those circumstances, though, it is an argument from privilege to rail against the public interest, generally speaking. Poor people don’t generally get to make such arguments.
P.S. I realize that there’s hypocrisy in my argument. That’s part of the point.