Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'll Give You a Diatribe!

I won't lie, my original post tonight was going to be about text messages, and how they may very well spell the end of society as we know it, and how THOROUGHLY creeped out I am by the fact that I finally agree with Wisconsin State Senator Alan Lasee on ANYTHING. But when I sat down to write, I took a look at the comments posted on my last piece, and I found this *gem*.

I take exception to your quote:

"But if the city strips him of the livelihood he's made for himself since 1992..."

written near the end of this diatribe of yours against the City of Madison, along with the basic premise of your story.

Madison existed before this guy came to town. To quote the old Tammany Ward Boss George Washington Plunkett, "he saw his opportunities and he took 'em."

Well, Jin took his opportunities and also took parking spaces away from Langdon Street area residents that badly need them. Not bad, if you think you can get away with it.

We don't exist in a vacuum, yet you make it seem that Jin is the David in a classic "You can't fight City Hall" battle against Goliath.

Jin wouldn't have his business if Madison didn't exist, so it is proper for the city to set down rules and regulations when one wants to operate in the city.

If Jin can't play by the rules, maybe he should set up shop some where else where the residents don't mind him taking up a parking space or two. I doubt that will happen when presented the facts.

Parking enforcement exists to give all of us a fair shake at finding a parking spot. If Jin wants something permanent, maybe he should do what most other business people do in Madison and the rest of the Western world: Rent a space.

It's so easy to complain about getting a parking ticket and getting a sympathetic following.
This feeble attempt to generate outrage as if you were Upton Sinclair won't win a giraffe award (for sticking your neck out, get it?) from me.

Keep in mind that Jin has no right to "own" a parking spot, and I for
one am glad the city is throwing the book at this piker.

Sincerely yours,

Adam Young

P.S. Alderman Verveer is a very good friend of mine.

Try as I might, I couldn't overcome the urge to hurl some invective back at the guy. The end result ended up being postworthy, so I'll talk about Lasee some other time. The remainder of this post is my response to Young's comment.

... ... ... ... ...
Mr. Young, it seems you won't be joining us on the fence, which is unfortunate. Perhaps a second perusal of my "diatribe" is in order, for a trifecta of reasons.

Firstly, as well read as you seem, you failed to take away from the piece that there is no such person as "Jin." There is a very colorful story behind that name, and I'm sure Jeff Okafo would be happy to tell it to you if you were to so much as attempt to engage him in conversation. Then again, if you're the type that doesn't associate with "pikers," "rule-breakers" or "black people," google up an article I saw by the Badger Herald about his business, and you can get all the information you need without associating with any "undesirables."

Secondly, I too consider myself a friend of Mike Verveer's, which is why I felt comfortable consulting with him before I wrote this story. I'm sure I don't know him as well as you do, nor have I known him as long, but I went so far as to note the respect I hold for Mike, undermining the very "argument" you seem to think I was making. I weighed his opinion heavily while I crafted this piece, but in the end, I decided Mike's perspective is conveyed everywhere else you look: in city policy, in the minutes from the Vending Oversight Committee meetings and in people like you.

Which brings me to my third point. A "diatribe?" Seriously, is that what passes for a diatribe nowadays? No, Mr. Young, I was telling a story that I thought people might be interested to read. I gauge this based on the fact that I was personally interested to hear Mr. Okafo's perspective, and as a "people" myself, I can generally figure out what they would like to read about.

A teacher and inspiration of mine, Steven Walters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, once told me, "Everybody's got a story they're just waiting to tell. They're just looking for someone to tell it to." Jeff Okafo was happy to impart his story to me, relieved even. Then, as a story-teller, I had to ask myself, "Is there a value to this story?" I sure think so, if as nothing more than a cautionary tale, but also to outline the inherent dangers any kind of institution can pose to individuality.

I'm not personally waving the flag of anarchy, and I'm not condemning anyone here. From my honest, common-sense perspective, while a six month suspension may be a little steep, Jeff Okafo ought to come under some kind of scrutiny to ensure that he finds a way to make his living without breaking city laws.

But, for the sake of conscience, I simply chose to outline a perspective many people may not have considered in this story, and the fact that you perceived it as a diatribe and reacted in such a kneejerk fashion tells me you have firmly entrenched yourself on one side of the proverbial, aforementioned fence. As such, humanizing someone like "Jin" kind of turns your whole worldview upside down, doesn't it? It makes you uncomfortable. I get the feeling you're still struggling to figure out if the whole "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" cliche isn't just some kind of play on words.

In closing, let it be known that when I write a goddamn diatribe, you will know it as such. I hope I have made clear what my intentions were with this piece. I hope that I have not offended you to the point where, when we meet in person (because this town's not that big), we can't order a round and argue it out further in person. And I don't really think you're a racist, an elitist or a simpleton, but it sure was easy to perceive you as such based on the 321 words of florid prose you vilify you and dehumanize you, as it were.

But mostly, I hope I've conveyed a broader message. The hardest skill I've had to learn in my line of work is the suspension of judgement for someone I may think clearly deserves it. I'm still learning it. There are days I'm sure I've utterly failed at learning it.

So, simply put...lighten up, dude.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't get distracted by the comments. Just keep writing man.

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