THE LEGEND OF THE CLEVELAND/N.E. OHIO INFERIORITY COMPLEX.....
I am currently overseas in grand old Sydney, Australia. I recently have been house hunting for another place to lease in Cleveland as I am to return in April. I began searching the net, the local newspaper, etc. So goes the hunt until I decide to purchase a home to renovate. Eventually, I found and responded to an advertiser who had a place for lease and have been corresponding about the possibilities. But low and behold, it was only a matter of time before the "we're not good enough" " Cleveland/Northeast Ohio Inferiority Complex" stuck again with the following statement/question:
"BUT, why pray tell, does a person want to move from Sydney Australia to Cleveland, Ohio?"
SIGH!!!!...... Let me start by saying that I feel I need to make a example of such repeated lowly civic pride sentiment spewed by locals in order to help them realize just how miserable it is from the outside looking in. I will do so by writing it on a big chalkboard much in the same fashion as Mr.Hand did in the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High, when he asked John Spicolli why he was late---And Spicolli numbly replied "I DON'T KNOW"
I will echo Mr. Hand and write: "BUT, why pray tell, does a person want to move from Sydney Australia to Cleveland, Ohio?"
If I had a dime for each time I heard a statement like this, I'd be retired. Seriously, friends....How does such question strike you if you have never been to Cleveland/N.E. Ohio and were possibly going to be there for whatever reason? Would it make you think good thoughts or hurry of and pack your bags because you cannot wait to get there to see what all the negative hype is about? Probably not! Yet, that kind of question is often asked by many when encountering newcomers who actually might have chosen Ohio as their place of work and residency!
I have lived my entire life in the Cleveland/N.E. Ohio region and have come to the conclusion that such "Why Cleveland?" questions take root in and are a product of what I have officially unofficially dubbed as "The Cleveland/Northeast Ohio Inferiority Complex" (and probably most Ohioans are afflicted with it for that matter)
ROOTS OF THE INFERIORITY COMPLEX.....
Where did it start? Hmmmm.. Great question. Here is my opinion: The complex may be a byproduct of years of what can be considered a phase of economic re-invention from a manufacturing base to a more high tech and service/business economy---which through it all---many have witnessed and endured great hardships of survival that result from losses of jobs or population, or degradation of the surrounding natural or urban environment. Whatever the source of this social civic pride disease, we've got it bad!
The typical N.E. Ohio inferiority complex: How many of you have experienced it in the attitudes of Clevelanders? Of all our challenges in this region, I feel the inferior attitude is our biggest hurdle and challenge to overcome, and is by far making OURSELVES our worst enemy! And to think most Clevelanders think their worst enemies are the pro-sports championship drought, The EPA, the closing of a mill/or bar, or Dennis Kucinich causing their every problem from bad wieners at Progressive Field to their erectile dysfunction!
Yeah, no kidding!!! We have the inferior complex so bad that we have economically and socially typecast ourselves as aspiring to be a sports, manufacturing, and blame- it-on-Dennis or the EPA, town! For those of you who are actually trying to make Cleveland better/great, believe we can be more then just leBron James and casinos.... and who have researched enough history to learn how our city has---for the most part of its history---been a success and great contributor to shaping the nation in so many ways---and for those who are familiar with all the attractive attributes about N.E.Ohio that are taken for granted---HOW OFTEN do you hear such a question of: "Why did you come to Cleveland when you lived in...?" floating around like a fart in the wind---and again, especially directed to newcomers? 99% of the time I hear it, it radiates from the locals! It is almost as if they were taught by their parents, who were taught by theirs, to hate their city and state!
Some with the complex tend to think everyone on the planet thinks bad things about Cleveland, when in fact, few people think negative about Cleveland unless we give them reasons to---and nor do they have the time to do so, or even CARE about us! If people walk around thinking terrible thoughts about Cleveland, perhaps a lot of that has to do with the old idea of something being unconciously repeated so many times that people conciously start to belive it! Such self doubt, lack of civic pride, confidence, etc. naturally, exudes negative things such as negative thoughts/perceptions of the city, and hence Cleveland is condemned to death row before it even has a chance to speak! For certain, the typical “Why would you want to come here?” question is amongst the biggest red flags this region has in its self perception.
Being a realist, I am also an optimist, and I have a better idea in helping to shape better opinions locally and nationally about Cleveland/N.E. Ohio. Let's start like this: Instead of asking that kind of "Whys did you come to Cleveland?" question to a visitor or newcomer, or returning resident for that matter, maybe we should be asking.... or say something to the effect of.. "Oh, well what brings you to this part of the world?... We will do our best to show you the best of what we can…. and by the way....WELCOME" Instead, when placed in a position to ask such a question, we're often offered the pathetic Shchleprock 'woe-is-we, wousy, wousy, wooo...wooo' reply.
HOW DOES THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER NOURISH THE CLEVELAND/N.E. OHIO INFERIORITY COMPLEX?
Looking further, our local paper has done nothing to help improve our city’s perception of itself, and instead has done mostly what feeds and fosters Clevelanders poor self image by starting every article that should be something focusing on a positive or strengths of the city, with some negative anecdotal connotation of something negative such as ”Cleveland, a city that is terrible, horrible, struggling, poor, continues to fail, lose population, and so on (you know their drill!)..…has attracted new interest in downtown revitalization”
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we should sugarcoat or downplay truths about problems here or feed people all that is light and fluffy on the menu. However, we should not solely deliver stories about Cleveland---which are supposed to be covering something positive---and sneak in the usual negative approach that cancels out the positive. Those who have consistently read The Plain Dealer and who care about this city, know what I am talking about: The sensationalistic/dramatic and non-matter of fact delivering of news. I can just hear the violin and organs playing when I read that paper. Why can’t we just say something like “Cleveland attracts new interest in downtown revitalization” full stop, with no added: "but people still scared to come downtown!" Yep...they even go a step further and make people afraid of their own city! Such writing styles we have witnessed in what I now call The “PAIN” Dealer are not clever or creative. Rather, they are tired and lazy----and drone on like a depressing church chorus! Some of us are really over it!
Because of the constant focus on the negative by media who helps shape public opinion, we are left with a populace that is largely and poorly informed about their own region having anything good happening, or about how they can help make something better by getting involved in their community. It is as though the ONLY objective is no longer to inform, but to sell papers at any cost. Maybe the formula these days is to sell to frightened suburban populations who are irritated with life and need their 'the sky is falling' attitudes and opinions their city validated in ink—-and the results of such tabloidish news delivery styles simply keep the money rolling in.
NOT SO BAD HERE AFTERALL!
No matter what The Pain Dealer or the N.E. Ohio Inferiority Complex says, Ohio is actually a unique and diverse state boasting a lot of natural appeal and diversity---as well as boasting a “smaller, larger” urban appeal, so to speak. Sure we have problems here in Cleveland/N.E. Ohio, but they are not endemic to ONLY here as many seem to think---And maybe it is time for the major papers, instead of continuing on their tired and boring path that creates an ever growing ignorant population, to start hunting for the enriching stories happening daily, which have something socially, economically, and environmentally redeeming to offer in the message. Unless we change our frequent and pitiful attitude about our city/ state, we will never be anything more than what is the limited scope of small thinking--and right now, the thoughts I am talking about which hurt our area are not conducive to bettering it environmentally, socially, or economically.
As alluded to at the beginning of this story, I am currently in Sydney, Australia and have had the opportunity to see many parts of this wonderful city. With all the much touted splendor, however, I have learned that there are a lot of social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the people. Homelessness, crime, neighborhood decline, racism pollution, unemployment, etc--all of which are issues many Clevelanders seem to think are exclusive to their city alone. Still, somehow, it has not seemed to erode the civic pride and proud feeling/attitude people have about their city--And if I were to say to someone here that I have come from (and I have to say New York, because we all know how overrated new York is!)New York to be in Sydney, never would I hear such a reply that asks with astonishment and wreaks of negative vibes, something like we'd hear in Ohio that would say: "Oh, why did you come here?" Same would be if I were visiting a much less touted Australian town. The people are proud of their home and speak well of it and instead ask how I like it, what sites did I see, and welcome me with positive vibes.
Finally, Cleveland/N.E. Ohio can learn much from Sydney in the way of civic pride and what it does for images and perceptions. Generally, the people here are well aware of their fair city’s problems and challenges, yet unlike too many Clevelanders seem to be well informed and aware of all the wonderful attributes of their city, and are glad to be here. I wish I could bottle people's civic pride here, and sell it to Clevelanders in the form of a pill for the quick fix 'change with no effort' they seem to expect too often. Maybe if we had such pride and involvement, we would not possess the kind of populace that allows their city/region to be dragged down by the kinds of destructive elements that have people winding up on Cleveland Dot Com bitching about---but doing nothing else to change a thing in their community! I have shared my ideas about it, but wherever, or however the Cleveland/N.E. Ohio inferiority complex begins, it needs to vanish because it plots Cleveland against a very adamant and diabolical self-destructing foe: Itself!---And holds it back from all that it can be! So then....C'mon Cleveland/N.E. Ohio, I challenge you to begin to shed your negative self-image skin and go out and learn about your region's art, history, culture, nature, significance and role in local and international history, and peoples--Don't be embarrassed to say you're from Cleveland---And don't worry, no one is thinking poorly of you until you give them a reason to!
To footnote this article, I believe there are also many Clevelanders/N.E. Ohioans who do not have the image tainted complex and I would like to include a letter from such a person which was published in the local Cleveland Scene newspaper. Please click below....