When you buy a lot in South Park you don’t buy just so many feet of land. South Park has an individuality. It is a high-class residence section. A fashionable neighborhood, in a beautiful location. You would enjoy living in South Park.
My neighbors and I agree that quote is on the money, so to speak.
See the sun come up from behind the mountains in the mornings. See it sink beyond Point Loma in the evenings. See the ocean sparkling in the sunlight. Sniff the fresh breezes, tempered by just the right distance inland.
So far, so good.
Here’s the thing: both those advertisements were published in June, 1906. (South Park San Diego, California, Susan H. Bugbee, 2010, p. 13).
There were, and are, durable features of South Park SD which are also its biggest joys, such as:
- The unique breeze
- Switzer Canyon to the north
- Balboa Park in the backyard
- Views of Point Loma, The California Tower, Naval Base San Diego, San Diego Bay, and Tijuana, Mexico.
- Proximity to downtown.
So is South Park SD just living up to its reputation?
Not so fast.
In September, 2019, a mural was vandalized on the corner of 30th and Juniper Streeets, on the west wall of Matteo, also known as the latest member of the Buona Forchetta family.
Buona Forchetta is a community-focused South Park SD institution.
I hope we can all agree that defacing someone else’s property (and public art for goodness’ sake!) is ridiculous on every measure other than a brief, neurochemically-drenched release of the vandal(s)’ tension.
Ironically, in the worst sense of that word, the vandal(s) targeted Matteo, a business whose mission is to give back to the wider community.
So was the vandalism truly wanton? Or a message about a bigger problem?
What if it’s both?
What if there is some truth in the graffiti? Not necessarily for the affected business, but for South Park SD.
Who are we as a community if we don’t actively seek the kernel of truth in EXACTLY this situation?
Who will we be in the future if we don’t learn from what we’re “told”?
It’s easy to accuse the vandal(s) of petty cowardice and leave it alone. That was my first reaction. “Whoever did that deserves to be punished. They’re just bad.” End of story.
And yet… where does that leave all of Us? Both “us” AND “them”? Because that graffiti looks, to me, as though someone felt like a “them.”
Matteo‘s owner, Matteo Cattaneo, attempted to close the “us and them” divide when he made public that he would rather talk with the offender(s) than get anyone in trouble.
I think he’s on to something. I believe the road to the heart of the disenfranchised is to suspend judgment, welcome, and listen.
Maybe the vandal(s) once lived in South Park SD but were pushed out by the increasingly unforgiving cost of living. Economically-forced displacement is one of the themes of South Park SD’s growth. Maybe the vandal(s) already felt alienated and had a bad experience with “us.” Maybe someone with a severe mental illness was set off by something else.
“Nice guesses, blogger boy. But you don’t know. And none of that excuses the vandalism.”
Isn’t it still worth trying to understand how the act made sense to someone at the time?
How can we be a proactively inclusive community if we can’t embrace and learn from people who have a problem with “us”?
“How are you so sure the graffiti was directed at South Park SD? How do you know it wasn’t random? Or misdirected? Or a passing squabble with the muralists? Or those scooters? Why are you making it about ‘us’?”
It would have been easier to paint hash tags in secret and NOT at the area’s busiest intersection exactly over the world “NEIGHBORHOOD.”
And if it was a street fight with the muralists, or a menace on a scooter, then why “#ETHNIC CLEANSING” and “#Hipster Pacifism”? If it was done to spoil a painter’s morning, why not just paint you-know-whats in hysterical, hard-to-fix places?
I believe this was a judgment of South Park SD communicated in the neighborhood’s most visible place. Drivers HAVE to pass that intersection on their way to and from busy North Park, University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard, etc.
That mural is practically a “Welcome to South Park SD” sign! Click here to see the actual welcome…
Whoever vandalized Matteo was sending a message about South Park SD to anyone in eyeshot.
It’s normal to experience cognitive dissonance when a typing tutor like me implies “we” are less than okay.
It’s like seeing a surprise blemish on the end of your nose in the mirror. It’s so startlingly uncomfortable you reflexively want to make it disappear.
But all of us take time, after getting rid of the offender at the end of our nose, to calmly evaluate if we look okay before showing our faces to anyone else. To re-establish our sense of “how we should look.”
I’m asking all of South Park SD to please keep the blemish on our noses, psychologically speaking, for a few more minutes.
This is an opportunity for South Park SD, all of us, to reflect.
Who, whose best problem-solving resource is a can of spray paint, might have a problem with South Park SD?
What can we do that will make South Park SD a place where the disenfranchised and alienated feel accepted? Where even characters from a Carson McCullers novel will feel at home?
How do we build a diverse, inclusive community in San Diego, a city that ranks among the worst in the United States for cost of living?
How can we build a community so radically welcoming that South Park SD is the LAST place the disaffected would deface?
I believe South Park SD is a place that can live up to its reputation AND be BOLDLY welcoming.
I’d like to know your thoughts.
Let’s have the conversation.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!