Many people have read my piece, “Making a Better Place for Children,” that was in Sunday’s Union-Tribune. My friends have responded with “Right on!” And then they ask: “So, do you think the U-T is on the up and up with all this ‘diversity of ideas’ talk?” And to that I say: I do. But we’ll just have to see, won’t we? I mean this is a “new category” of “new territory” for me. But my optimism lies simply in that they solicited me.
See, I’ve had my writing in the U-T before but never, like this time, at their request. I see a whole bunch of “a new day” in that gesture alone. On top of that I wrote my little essay as a member of the San Diego Union-Tribune’s recently created Community Editorial Board. “Voices for a New Era,” we’re called. I sit in this position as an invitee of the U-T, which also is a “huge” (picture Donald Trump saying the word) first as it pertains to me – and this has all been one of the biggest “Who, me?” experiences in my life.
I mean it’s kind of like I’m in the Twilight Zone because I have known a few moments when higher ups at the Union-Tribune looked at me as though I had just come to earth from the moon. Like at an event a few years ago when they were patting themselves on the back after shamefully supporting a thug-like dude to run our city’s schools and I asked “Are you people fools?” with an I-knew-the-answer-was “Yes” kind of attitude.
But this relationship, no matter what it turns out to be, came about ever so simply. I just happened to be at a mixer kind of affair and Jeff Light, the editor of the paper, was there as a panelist and in the Q&A I related to him how he, based on a few things he had to say, was like a breath of fresh air compared to all the higher ups at the paper I had come across over the years. I told him how out of touch and how demoralizing the Union-Tribune had always been to people in my circles: educators, actors, poets, union organizers, seekers of peace and justice. He listened, reacted positively, and we shook hands and said our goodbyes. Months later he calls me and says our conversation made him think about gathering a diverse group of folks together to help make the paper reflect the community in a better way. And, I’m thinking: “Has Scotty beamed me up or something?”
So it’s worth a chance to me. And I’m not going into it thinking that all of a sudden now the U-T is going to be writing: “Free Huey!” or “No Starbucks in OB” kinds of editorials but I already like that we’re engaging in conversations that indicate to me that they are open to ideas that could make it more reflective of the diversity of thought in our community. This potential for change for the better is a big draw for me, based on the paper’s history in this city. Plus, there are a few people involved who I know will help us “keep it real.” Count me among them in the deal.
I see this as another avenue for me to speak for children, a path I chose when I was but a child myself, often to my physical detriment, like one day in kindergarten when my arch-nemesis, Sister Mary Benedict, had us singing “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” a song that’s harder to sing than the “Star Spangled Banner” by more than a hair. I chimed in with: “This song is no fun. Why can’t we sing something we know like Caldonia or Your Feet’s Too Big?” And all I remember after that was there was a flurry of black cloth and desks going down and a whooshing sound and the next thing I knew I was feeling like I was minus a knuckle or two.
But I’m still advocating for children after all these years. In this experiment I will always have in the back of my mind the questions: how will whatever it is we’re doing translate to children; how will the outcome help them grow as human beings in the long run – or short run – any run?
For instance as the U-T weighs in with its ideas about, say, Balboa Park, down the line, I would suggest that they consider how families, especially those with low incomes, will be affected. Will they be priced out of the park and have one less place, one grand place at that, in which their children can run and play?
The truth is: what’s good for children is also a plus for us. And the closer we come to serving their emotional and social needs the closer we come to realizing a better community, a better world. I’ll be all eyes and ears for them. And I’d like to think the San Diego Union-Tribune will be listening.