I once had this philosophy professor who would present a theory to the class and then ask us to “Rip, shred, and lacerate” the central claims. It’s an exercise that’s always stuck with me, and it’s a good way to sum up philosophy in a nutshell. The problem with doing that, with being a philosopher I mean, is that sometimes people will hate you. In the real world, people like their own ideas a lot. We cherish and nurture them. We protect them. They are like our little idea babies—and nobody wants anyone to rip, shred, or lacerate a baby.
But the thing about ideas is this: they are not babies. They should be tested and attacked. The good ones will rise to the top, and the bad ones will toughen up. They’ll adapt and change and become better ideas. If you only surround yourself with people who tell you how great all of your ideas are, the chance for growth is nil.
That’s why we started (260), and that’s what my “love, fort wayne” piece was all about.
I wasn’t attacking any particular person or group. I was attacking an idea. I am clarifying this because the morning after we posted “love, fort wayne” online, I got a message asking if it was a “first strike” against a particular project. Now, obviously, a particular project (or set of projects, or perhaps one project and not another, depending on how you look at it) is implicated, but that’s mostly because the name lends itself to a double meaning that seemed like an obvious choice to play with. My hope is that the people who read the piece in the context of (260) as a whole (meaning people who read the whole zine) will understand that it’s a general idea that is being critiqued. And, hey, if it’s an idea you care about, why not welcome the critique and see how it holds up?*
Instead of debating ideas, I hear a lot more of “if you don’t like it here, just leave.”
I hear a lot of people talk about how they wish Fort Wayne was “more like [enter name of cooler, hipper, city with more things to do and better breakfast tacos].” I am one of those people sometimes. I often wish things were different here. I wish we had an In-N-Out or an awesome taco stand or a rooftop martini bar or a million and one other things that would make Fort Wayne more fun and more convenient. But when I really think about it, those things aren’t what’s most important to me. I’ve lived in other cities that, in many ways, had to more to offer in terms of convenience, entertainment, nightlife, etc., but I left those cities in search of something better.
I left Los Angeles because I never felt comfortable there and, despite the nearby beaches, I’ve always felt there is a lack of natural beauty in that city. Living anywhere near Los Angeles means fighting traffic to get anywhere and constantly worrying about money because life, all of it, is just more expensive there. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s diverse. Yes, there’s always something happening. But it’s also impersonal, competitive, often superficial, and in many ways a hard way to live.
I left San Francisco for some of the same reasons and because having a good job there just wasn’t enough. I didn’t have family nearby, my car got broken into like a trillion times, and the nearly two hour commute each way to work was killing my soul.
I left Muncie because you can only drive down McGalliard so many times (and I’d already taken a Ball jar full of dirt).
I left Austin because it is a city full of transplants with few real roots, and the lack of diversity in certain areas is astonishing if you stop eating queso long enough to notice. It is a city that seems to me to be unaware of it’s flaws and too set on being whatever it has decided to be this week to embrace much in the way of meaningful and lasting change, and again… the traffic.
People sometimes don’t understand why I would intentionally leave LA, or San Francisco, or Austin and choose to live in Fort Wayne. But I saw potential for something different here—I saw a community that wanted something better but wasn’t sure what that was. So, when I hear people frame that “something better” as being more like San Francisco, or Austin, or Portland, or any other city, it makes me cringe, especially when those discussions generally involve how we should have more entertainment and dining options and rarely involve discussions of diversity and tolerance.
Maybe sitting through a ton of traffic is the price you pay for diversity and tolerance, but that seems unlikely.
I was talking to a former instructor of mine who now works as a television producer in LA, and when the topic of home was brought up she asked, “So how are you liking Indiana?” I said, “I love it here, but I do have to admit, it’s sort of a love/hate relationship at times.” She responded, “I totally understand that… well, really just the hate part. I hate Indiana.” And that stung a bit. It stung in the way it stings when you are complaining about your little sister and someone else chimes in and agrees. You know you just said the same thing, but your first impulse is to punch them and yell, “HEY! THAT’S MY SISTER YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.”
But after the sting subsided, I thought to myself, “Ya know, she’s probably got good reasons to hate Indiana.” What has the rest of the country heard about Indiana lately? Probably a lot about how Indiana wants to make it real clear that if you’re not straight, you’re not welcome here. Probably not a lot else. And likewise, a few months back, one of my best friends told me that, as a protest to the proposed same-sex marriage ban, her husband wanted to get a divorce and remarry in another state so that they would no longer have an Indiana marriage license because he hates Indiana that much. So, how does one respond to that? I mean, I couldn’t really blame him for feeling that way.
Yet, I’m incredibly proud of the people I’ve met here and the community I’ve found. It’s people that make a place worth staying in and fighting for. So that’s what I’m doing. I can think of plenty of reasons to leave Fort Wayne, and maybe someday I will, but for now, there are some really great reasons to stay. For me, the biggest reason is that Fort Wayne’s future isn’t set in stone. This place, this city, this state, it could be something new, something different, something better.
It really could be.
So, to anyone who thinks that (260) is just about hating on Fort Wayne, I would say this:
You are wrong.
I know it’s not very midwestern of me to just come out and say that, but it’s true, and I’m not from the midwest, so maybe I’ve got some things to learn about how to communicate here. Hmmm… maybe this is a better way to say it - to suggest that (260) is cynical or hateful or anything but hopeful, in my opinion, misses the point. Sure, it’s optimistic and hopeful to think that Fort Wayne could be the next Austin. But, it takes a shit-ton more optimism to think that Fort Wayne could be a whole lot better than that. That’s the space where (260) lives.
And, sure, if I don’t like it here, I could just leave. But if you think (260) is just a collection of personal gripes, you would (again) be missing the point. I can’t speak for everyone who has been or will be published in the pages of (260), but as for pye,brown, we have jobs we love. We own a house that we also love, and it’s down the street from neighbors that we adore. We’ve found ways to be involved in organizations that we enjoy and feel are important. Personally, we don’t have a lot to be concerned about, but when we look beyond our rosey, little view of this city, we see issues that need to be addressed.
Fort Wayne is bigger than our experiences of it.
As a female, as a Latina, as an ally, and just generally as a human being, I care deeply about the experiences of others. The experiences of others impact us all. You want to decrease crime and raise the quality of life here? Then the experiences of others ought to matter a lot to you, and you ought to be seeking out the stories you don’t know, not just reinforcing the ones you do.
That’s my hope for (260). I hope we’ll find those stories, and I hope they’ll find us. I hope people who haven’t felt heard or included elsewhere will feel heard and included here.
And while I may not be from here, I’ve chosen to live here, and I’ve chosen to invest my time, money, and energy here, because I believe in a better Fort Wayne. But I’m not just hoping it will happen—I’m demanding it, and in my own small ways, I’m working for something better. I know that my vision of a better Fort Wayne will be different from others, and who can know which vision will win? If we’re lucky it won’t be just one person’s vision of “something better.” It will something better for all of us.
*I wrote this sentence before reading Christy’s response, and I’m thankful for her willingness to engage in a thoughtful dialogue about her project, my piece in (260), and Fort Wayne in general.