Sorry gang, it’s just me this week, Laura is on assignment. Our IYRTP this week looks at the Pretlow, Jeb Bush’s plan to deal with Saddam Hussein, India from space, and finally a remembrance of one of Ghent’s most interesting people, with a tribute song from Skye Zentz. Read on…
So apparently in the span of time since the last director of Ocean View’s Pretlow Library left to run the Slover library downtown in September and now, the place has gone from idyllic seaside reading room (or whatever) to Mos Eisley. Reports include incidents of assault, drug use, prostitution, and other behavior that we don’t talk about with children in the room.
While I feel like the description of the area between the library and adjacent park and shopping center as a “golden triangle” for criminals and transients alike is a bit extreme, it’s important for local leaders to continue to closely monitor the situation and make sure the library is safe and welcoming to all its users. Many local residents rely on our public libraries not only for reading materials, but also for access to email and internet services; we’re also on the edge of the summer vacation season, where flocks of children will be coming to the library on hot days to avoid the heat and maybe get some summer reading in.
I was glad to read that Councilman Tommy Smigiel, whose ward includes the library, is aware of the problems, and I’m looking forward to see what kind of response he will lead in the Council. It’s a little disappointing that Councilman Andy Protogyrou’s response was to heap blame on the recently-replaced library administrator–we all know that nothing fixes a problem faster than an elected official throwing a city worker under the bus, right?–instead of recognizing a broader problem. And Councilman Barclay Winn, in whose superward the library sits, said he doesn’t know what’s going on at Pretlow, but wants someone to do something about whatever whenever.
While it’s good that city leaders are looking into the issue, it’s a little disappointing that their main goal seems to be just getting the bad elements out of the library. Local residents should wonder where it will go once it’s gone from Pretlow.
As we know, Jeb Bush is running for President, or at least is about to formally announce he’s running for President. And as if the possibility of having another Clinton vs Bush election wasn’t enough, we also get to rehash the decisions that led us into the Iraq War. Bush said over the weekend that, knowing what we know now, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq—and further claims (in the most zinger-y way) that Hillary would have done the same thing.
So, let’s take the second part of that first. Nothing takes us back to the bad old days of Rumsfeldian “unknown unknowns” like taking a true fact of history (Hillary Clinton voted to allow the use of force against Iraq in 2003) and standing it on its head to make the answer work to your advantage (pretending that Clinton has not spent the last ten years repudiating that vote in public). This is exactly the kind of rhetorical gymnastics that convinced people that Osama bin Laden was airbnb-ing in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, planning 9/11.
But secondly, aren’t we at all worried that the (possible) GOP frontrunner is unwilling to take on board everything that we’ve learned since the invasion—the bad intelligence, the underwhelming size of the invasion force that led directly to a thoroughly destabilized country awash in weapons, the foothold given to Iran in the new Iraqi government, the ongoing alienation of the Sunni population (the first time and the second time) that put the country into civil war (twice), and the destabilizing impact all these have had on neighboring countries—just because it was his brother who did it? I guess you have to admire that kind of loyalty, but that’s no excuse to put someone like that in a position to make the same mistakes over again. Especially when the people who pay the price are our brothers and sisters, not his.
Interlude: The World is Amazing
OK, not really (but Starship Troopers is a fantastic bad movie).
If you’re born in America, or somewhere else to an American parent, that’s enough to make you an American citizen—and that’s something that sets us apart from a lot of the world. In fact, out of 194 countries, only 30 allowed what’s called jus soli, the unconditional right to claim the citizenship of the country in which you are born. Most of them are in the Americas. This right is guaranteed to us in the 14th Amendment, which was partly designed to ensure the constitutional rights of freed slaves after the end of the Civil War. With the immigration debate continuing and no end in sight, The Atlantic has again shared their citizenship quiz, posing the question, What if we didn’t have the right to citizenship by birth, but had to test for it, like you would a driver’s license? Would you pass? (Full disclosure: I got a 71, “Citizenship attained, with distinction.”)
Normally, at the end of my part of the column, I would tell you all about this week’s New Non-Fiction Film at the Naro and urge you to go see it. And you should—it’s a wonderful film about social photographer and human rights campaigner Sebastião Salgado (show is Wednesday at 7:15, and forum speakers include Erik Neil, Director of the Chrysler Museum, and local artist Tom Crockett). But this week I need to take a break from that and share with you some of our community’s pain and joy that’s unfolding this week.
I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with Ghent Confessions. You may also know that one of the site’s admins, Joe Porfert, passed away suddenly last week. But Joe was so much more than an admin to one of the funniest and most interesting local interest sites out there. I’ve been astonished by the number and variety of people who have been affected by Joe’s death. Joe and I grew up attending the same church, and while he was about ten years younger than me, I knew him, and his parents (his dad Harry lent me his bootleg copy of Animal House when I was like 15, introducing me to a film that basically blew my mind). Over the past week, hundreds of people from all over have shared their memories of Joe and collectively mourned his loss online and in-person. Ghent’s own chanteuse, Skye Zentz, wrote this incredibly moving song in Joe’s memory. A collection was taken up by Cogan’s to buy Joe’s mom flowers on Mother’s Day. I have no idea how much was raised, but I know it was huge.
Joe was a reader, a thinker, and a doer. He was the kind of guy who would organize his friends to go clean up a local battered women’s shelter, or stop you on the street to talk about what book you were reading at the time, or just come by and have a beer with you if you were sitting on the porch at Stella.
Come to 80/20 tonight starting around 6:30 to share your memories of Joe (or, if you didn’t know him, hear stories about him) with others in the community. Bring a book or two to leave behind in the new lending library that Jamie Summs is setting up there in Joe’s memory. 80/20 was one of Joe’s favorite places, and he would be happy to have so many of his friends in one place.
Joe’s funeral will be at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Friday at 3:00, but get there earlier because the house is sure to be packed. Joe will be celebrated and remembered.