Hope for the Holidays

It’s the media equivalent of peer pressure; the end of the year lists, round-ups and overviews on every platform. Some papers will tell you the best books to read, or the best movies to watch. Some will focus on the pandemic, the latest numbers, the wearying repetition of wisdom – if only you’d listened to us last year, we wouldn’t be going through this now. Some will talk about the amazing economic growth the country is experiencing; those numbers are better than they have been in 50 years. 

What I keep coming back to is the way information moves. There is, I believe, hope for the holidays.

My exacting family would say, no, it’s HOME – It’s supposed to be HOME for the holidays. 

 We can have both. 

As the editor of this site, I get all those letters that begin ‘Dear Editor…’ When we have a local issue it is often illustrated by a letter writing campaign. Letters are frequently predictable boilerplate; a few bullet points that people have been asked to repeat by some organization. 

When so and so is running for office, lots of Letters to the Editor remind my readers that Candidate X represents this or that. 

I get a lot of that. 

But the local issues in regard to housing have given rise to a letter writing campaign that is unique. Culver City Crossroads has been getting two or three letters every week for the last few months that have not been a push from an organization, that have not been about local elections, and have all come from (what seem to be) interested individuals. 

Dozens of people have written to tell their stories about how they came to live here, and why they favor more housing. Or how they’d like to live here, but there isn’t enough housing. They don’t hit on any particular talking points, and that is the biggest clue as to how organic they are. They are seldom tied to the council agenda. They come to my inbox even on weeks when the council isn’t in session, or housing policy isn’t an agenda item. They are just people telling their tales, and I’m interested to hear. 

On the flip side, I get people writing, with extreme urgency, about how increasing housing will destroy our community. Their fear is a tangible thing. I have a lot of sympathy for their fear. But the word ‘destroy’ is used often, and that is an interesting talking point.

I never disdain people who are feeling fearful, but have a steadily decreasing tolerance of hyperbole. I’m pretty sure the previous federal administration just used up my entire lifetime supply. 

A hurricane could destroy your community. An earthquake could destroy your community. Increased housing? Um, no. There are plenty of other adjectives that don’t sound like hysterical shrieking. (I’ll carve out an exception for the Neighbors United organization – those letters are researched and methodical, and tend not to indulge in hyperbole.)  Accurate detail is a good way to persuade people. Hyperbole isn’t. 

The pro-increased housing folks read like a group of people telling their stories. The anti-increased housing folks read like they all got the same social media post, and they feel a need to repeat those sentences. 

To get all academic about it, anti-housing reads like theory. Pro-housing reads like practice. 

Fear of the unknown is what keeps people stuck in uncomfortable and unproductive situations. Change is inevitable, but smart, healthy change requires planning.  

I have a lot of compassion and affection for people on both sides of this issue. And that gives me a lot of hope. 

 What I’m observing about the movement of information is that the negative is highly contagious, but the positive is enormously resilient. 

My specific take on the matter is about language. The “American Dream” is not about owning a house. The “American Dream” is about having a home. Just changing those two words gives a totally different focus to the idea. 

So, for the holidays, let’s have some hope; it is there for the taking. We will continue to do our best to let everyone feel at home. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. Judith, as we in Culver City have contended with the very tricky and emotional subject of our city’s (and region’s and state’s) crushing housing shortage– and the economic and ecological and social crises that shortage has triggered– the Culver City Crossroads has been an invaluable forum and resource. Huge thanks and respect for the work you’ve done and for the role your site serves.

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