I had written and posted an entry on this blog that was a letter to my former classmates concerning the attitude and the belief that the old neighborhood that they graduated from was a dangerous place to live. If you recall, one of my classmates had described it as a "ghetto" and the purpose of the entry was to demonstrate that it isn't a ghetto as a matter of fact not even close to a ghetto.
After swapping a few e-mails with the classmate who described the neighborhood as a ghetto, we both came to agree that each of us was rather over the top in our words concerning the neighborhood.
My classmate pointed out to me, correctly, that I over reacted somewhat and took it a little more than personal when I saw my neighborhood being described as a ghetto. Looking back on the events, I can see where I possibly did over react. To start with I posted a reply in the thread that was more or less combative and rather terse followed by un-friending all of my classmates on Facebook. I followed that up with my blog entry which I mailed to the describer of the neighborhood as a ghetto.
While I stand by the over view that I was trying to get across the writing was a little acidic. I used the word "ignorant" and "foolish" many times in describing my former classmates, but was really targeting my friend who described the neighborhood as being a ghetto. There was a day or two where I feel that he was irritated with me and my writing as well as the attack that I had leveled at him with the writing. At the same time I was irritated and frustrated that he seemed to refuse to back off of the idea that Ruskin was in truth a ghetto. It was two days of not feeling good about the whole situation.
I have been friends with the original poster since we were in grade school together. We had a lot of classes together through the years and we finished by graduating High School together. It was many years of a friendship that was on the line and looked like it would end under very bad circumstances. I didn't feel good about that and I don't think he did either.
Let me tell you about this friend of mine and how I saw him through the years. As long as I can remember he was a sort of leader in the class in his own quiet way. He was never conceited or self promoting even though he had plenty of reasons that could have led him to be that way. He always was and still is very intelligent. He is thoughtful and a good thinker, who thinks things out before speaking. He was and is an extremely charismatic personality, something that I have always envied. He is well know in the class even after thirty nine years since graduation. He is the kind of person that reaches out to others, not seeing himself as better than anyone else. One thing that I really did envy about him was his talent as an artist. I have mentioned numerous times how badly I wanted to be able to draw and be a natural artist but I never had that talent. This was the thing that guided me toward engineering as a career because as an draftsman or engineer, I could draw and make the drawings would be nice and have an artistic look to them. My friend was a true artist. He could draw anything.
Over the weekend as we swapped a few emails between us, I think we both came to a couple of realizations. One of the things was that my classmate was holding some well deserved bitterness over the last thirty years towards my neighborhood and the neighborhood that he grew up in. I have said and continue to do so, that the Ruskin area did go through a rough period of about ten years from the mid eighties to mid nineties. Lots of transient people living there was a main force in the communities struggles. During this time he had run into some situations where his family was trying to deal with the community and things did not work out the way it should have. During that period of time, in his eyes, Ruskin was not the place it was as he was growing up. Add to that the fact that his boyhood home and suffered from a major fire and is literally destroyed and his bitterness grew somewhat.
From my point of view, I constantly read and hear things from former residents who are constantly putting down Ruskin as crime ridden and dangerous. Usually I read these comments and while they irritate me I am able to shrug it off. This post last week was different though. The post took the criticism of Ruskin to a totally new level. When the word ghetto was used to describe where I live, I felt like it crossed a line. I felt like it went too far. Ruskin is growing and changing. Houses are being kept up and lawns are manicured. It is far from being a dangerous place to live. I spent some time driving around the neighborhood this past weekend and affirmed my thinking that Ruskin has is a clean community oriented neighborhood. I did not see any graffiti at all as I drove around and only one house that was boarded up. I also went by my friends boyhood home that had suffered from a fire. It was a bad fire that hit his house. It is burned bad enough that the city put a sign on the front door specifying that it was dangerous to enter. I felt like when that house burned, my friend had lost a part of his life and that was indeed a sad situation.
After swapping a few emails we came to a conclusion where each of us went wrong. He said that he first off he wasn't aware that Ruskin was not what it was thirty years ago but he did know that it was not a ghetto. He has been through ghettos in other cities and that Ruskin did not come close to being that kind of an area. He explained to me that he thought I had over reacted with my writing and had taken it too personally. He is right that I did over react and all my writing on his post was knee jerk at it's worst. I should have taken time to calm down and write a better explanation of how the area really was now without the anger and irritation that filled what I did end up writing. I still am proud of the area though and whenever someone goes over negative talking about the area, I do take it personal because it is where I live. I know what Ruskin is like because I am there day in and day out and I can understand my initial reaction to seeing Ruskin described as a ghetto brought about the anger and frustration that drove my writing, as knee jerk as it was.
The good thing is that we were able to work it out as adults and as friends. I think we both have a new insight into the the thinking of the other that led to the responses that each of us had toward the others writing and that is a good thing.
So in ending this writing and putting the issue to rest, I want to thank my friend for being patient and for listening and for sharing with me his experiences so that each of us could get past this unfortunate situation.
I feel much better now and hope he does as well.