Cleveland Fremdschämen

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Last week, I post­ed on the fol­low­ing on Facebook:

Cleveland and LeBron should be two, re­spon­si­ble, con­sent­ing adults, and if it is time to move on, the last thing Cleveland needs to be is the co-de­pen­dent, I’ll-debase-myself-if-only-you’ll-stay, undig­ni­fied, crazy ex.

I’m not go­ing to de­bate the mer­its of what­ev­er de­ci­sion LeBron makes. That’s up to him. What I’d rather talk about is Cleveland’s be­hav­ior re­gard­ing his de­ci­sion. Fremdschämen doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe it.

Pinging the Problem

Connie Schultz wrote a col­umn touch­ing a bit on this, and the 2030 Club mem­bers quot­ed by her get a bit clos­er to the point, but still miss it. I fig­ure the best way to root at this is­sue is to take a cou­ple of ideas from the col­umn and point out where they get de­railed.

Mike Gruss thinks that “in­stead of spend­ing all this mon­ey and ef­fort to keep LeBron, lo­cal leaders/​celebs/​billboards [should be] fo­cused on stem­ming brain drain­ing [sic] and keep­ing oth­er peo­ple un­der 30.”

Good thought, but mon­ey isn’t the is­sue and keep­ing folks younger than me isn’t the is­sue.

Then there’s the folks from the 2030 Club who say at­ti­tude mat­ters.

That’s the first step! But then, it sud­den­ly the 2030 Club point morphs in­to wait­ing for po­lit­i­cal lead­ers or the City of Cleveland to come to them. Derailed!

A Flanking Maneuver at The Big Fix

All the talk about LeBron be­ing a ne­ces­si­ty for this City, and the hy­per­bol­ic “he’s the on­ly thing keep­ing this town from go­ing ghost” is sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly symp­to­matic in the Cleveland zeit­geist. This town al­ways looks for The Big Fix Silver Bullet Solution™. Roldo has been beat­ing this drum for longer than I’ve been alive. LeBron James, The Medical Mart, Gateway, are the three that come to mind most eas­i­ly. All are/​were sup­posed to save Cleveland from Certain Doom™, right?

Big fix­es aren’t the an­swer, or just a band-aid, or any oth­er crum­my anal­o­gy. What hap­pened with Katrina, the Haitian earth­quake, Deepwater Horizon? Thousands of peo­ple rushed to the sources of pain like white blood cells af­ter an in­fec­tion. Thousands of in­di­vid­ual so­lu­tions to the same prob­lem, work­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly in con­cert.

The Real Problem

Sports fans think the Big Fix is keep­ing LeBron, the 2030 Club thinks the Big Fix is get­ting politi­cos & pow­er play­ers to pay at­ten­tion to the 2030 Club, oth­er folks think throw­ing mon­ey at this or that is the Big Fix.

Cleveland doesn’t need a big fix, be­cause Cleveland ain’t broke. What’s broke are the at­ti­tudes of the folks who live here. It is easy to come up with ideas that spend some­one else’s mon­ey, it is easy to say that no one in pow­er pays at­ten­tion to you. The Real Problem isn’t with Cleveland, it is with the folks who think that Cleveland is the prob­lem.

A Possible Solution

If there is one thing I’ve learned in this town, it is that you can’t wait for oth­ers to give you per­mis­sion, to come up with ideas, or to im­ple­ment them. You take ini­tia­tive. Cleveland is a place where you have to do things your­self; a true American city. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of talk, but not much fol­low-through. What Cleveland needs are the hun­dreds and thou­sands of young peo­ple men­tioned in Connie’s col­umn, plus the hun­dreds and thou­sands of every­one else to have a good at­ti­tude about this town, to re­al­ize that Cleveland ain’t broke, and to do their part to make it a bit bet­ter any­way.

Attitudes mat­ter, and Clevelanders have to stop feel­ing en­ti­tled to sav­ior ath­letes, en­ti­tled to at­ten­tion from those in pow­er, and en­ti­tled to cash mon­ey. People haven’t been flock­ing to Portland, OR, or Austin, TX for years be­cause of their star ath­letes or con­ven­tion cen­ter fa­cil­i­ties but be­cause the peo­ple that live there are pas­sion­ate about liv­ing there.

You get what you work for, not what you beg for. So in­stead of beg­ging for LeBron to save us, and pay­ing folks to stand on street cor­ners hold­ing plac­ards that cheap­en the mean­ing of the words Home, Commitment and Mission, we should love Cleveland be­cause it is home, and be com­mit­ted to the mis­sion of our com­mu­ni­ty; thou­sands of peo­ple with their own so­lu­tions, work­ing for each oth­er, not them­selves.

The beg­ging is just plain em­bar­rass­ing.