2/17/14

My Beloved Wichita . . .


It has been a(nother) rough week to be a Wichitan. NOT because of the weather or the winter "blues" and certainly not because the WSU men's Shockers got to 27-0 (the women's team is 26-2 and currently on a 12-0 run (equal time, equal time)). No, no. It was a bad week to be a Wichitan because it was a bad week to be a Kansan because we got exposed for how conservative some of our neighbors really are.

You SHOULD have heard by now about the mind-numbingly stupid language, intent, direction, and PASSAGE of HB2453. What you probably didn't hear (but that I am thankful for) is that the bill will not survive the state Senate. What CLEARLY so many of my fellow Kansans also never before heard is how ideas become bills, bills become laws, and the legislative process actually works (that is a different rant for a different post but - seriously folks - you're better than this confusion).

WHY did this activity "all the way" in Topeka make me want to re-profess my love for Wichita? Because we ALL need to re-pledge ourselves to this great state and the best city in the state. Make NO mistake . . . "they" are pointing and laughing at us. "They" think we are all closed minded, overly conservative, socially slowed (if not dead in the water) followers, and they think we actually LIKED that bill and its intent.

I moved here 6.5 years ago (almost to the day). I had visited Wichita many times before we moved here (including one stay of seven weeks while we waited for our daughter to be born and released from the hospital) and a few two week stints. I will never forget my first flight in . . . after what seemed like an eternity of flying over dark, empty Americana I saw the glow of our fair city in the distance and immediately realized I may have misjudged Wichita. By the time I left (we were here for eight days the first trip) I had fallen in love with this city. Truly. It was just three months later we had our first discussion of moving here.

WHY did I love it so much? This town STINKS with opportunity. We keep the world flying (or did - that statistic might be dated). We have these amazing start-ups and entrepreneurs here. Sure, sure . . . we also have the Evil Empire (as I like to call it) located here in our fair city and we are all but killing our own downtown because of the abundance of cheap land and cookie cutter houses that surround us. Even the BAD things about Wichita are good . . . The Kochs give HUGE amounts of money to help fund our cultural elements (dismiss it and their intents any way you want, cynics . . . without them there is less art and culture in this town - period). That abundance of land and lower cost of living helped motivate me and dozens of other people I know to leave lives in other parts of the country to come here and to refocus life on family, friends, and happiness vs. keeping up with those friggin' Joneses.

I have TWO issues with Kansas and with my neighbors here in Wichita . . .

1) Somewhere along the line (pun intended) the average Wichitan decided their life was about a blue collar job. NOT that there is anything wrong with an honest living based on hard work and expertise but, more over, because it is not about how they make a living - it is about how they GO ABOUT living. I know so many Wichitans who think that they have to keep their noses down. Do exactly what they are told. Don't ask questions. Don't rock the boat. Just get your check and go home. Don't look for more. Don't take more. Don't give more. Just do what you are told to do.

2) We are soooooo "polite" here. And this is my biggest issue. Let's clarify what polite means (to me) . . . being agreeable. It does not mean you are kind or welcoming or accommodating or accepting. It simply means, like in the gripe above, that we don't ever question or discuss or debate. We just nod our heads, agree, and let the argument take place entirely in our brains or the ulcer-ridden stomachs we carry around. We let people find out "later" (minutes, weeks, YEARS) that there was never as much accord as believed and that there was not a coalition of mindsets, etc. that was needed.

What do these gripes and this very bad week to be a Kansan have in common? They all work together to show that WE did this to US! We allow Legislators to just keep their jobs. We don't even, statistically, know who our representatives ARE in Topeka (and I would argue DC is also a mystery). We don't look at issues. We don't try to understand what is happening in this state politically. We don't vote in compelling numbers. We don't take politics seriously. We keep our noses down and rivet away at our daily lives. We don't point out the craziness that is happening around us. We are simply dutifully polite.

Until we can't take it any more. I've reached that point. The "Northeasterner" in me has officially had enough (if you know me on a personal or professional level you'll know I have never gone out of my way to distance myself from the stereotype that all of us from "that" part of the country are loud, opinionated, bullish, and inconsiderate of feelings). I hope you have to.

It would be the BEST thing for Wichita and Kansas if you've had enough. If you are ready to have a conversation or an argument. If you are willing to poke your head up and ask questions. This is our city, our state, our future. Let's make it great.