With the farewell of President Obama and the upcoming inauguration of the newly elected president, I would like to offer some hope for the future. I’m going to offer you that hope through the lens of my city, Philadelphia. The city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.
First, please put aside your biases and your preconceived notions of my hometown of Philly.
You have to ignore the media representation of a great and proud city and its people. You’ll have to disregard the old, tired, clichéd stories. The story you’ve heard over and over about the fans who booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus at an Eagles game, it happened way back in 1968. This is 2017. It was almost 50 years ago. It was a different time.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some of what you’ve heard about Philly is true. It is a blue-collar city. This is a hard scrabble northeast kind of town where people work hard, play hard, and party hard. We do everything hard, it’s what we know. Even the rich residents of the city fit the mold— yes, there is plenty of money in Philadelphia. Take a look at our growing skyline in downtown. Now, this is still a city of neighborhoods; Uptown, North Philly, Frankford, Center City, Chestnut Hill, Northern Liberties, Feltonville, etc. the list goes on and on. Philly is the fifth most populous city in the U.S, with a population of over 1.5 million people. Anytime you put that many people into one space, there are going to be some problems. It’s inherent in the struggle. Yes, the struggle is real here.
Nonetheless, so is the love. From our athletes—both our professional and our children’s sports teams, to our food—world class restaurants, our famous water ice, pretzels, cheese steaks etc., to our city, our families, and our own individual passions—Philadelphians love hard. They’ll pitch in and help their neighbors. They’ll feed the homeless. They’ll transport the whole city to their football, basketball, and baseball games. We want to win. They’ll check in on the elderly. We give back here. If you’re from Philly, no matter where you go, you’re always from Philly. And yes we travel, there’s a little Philly in most major cities across the country.
It’s also a city with a collective group Napoleon complex. We always feel as if we are the overlooked, so when one of us feels disrespected, they’ll put you to sleep. It’s our downfall, our tragic Shakespearean end. There seems to be no in between here. We are either on 1 or on 100, but we’re working on it. We’re still growing as you should be. Hope.
How does Philly work? RESPECT!
I’ll use my son’s baseball team as an example. There are three coaches. One black and two white guys. One is a cop. He’s a white guy, tatted up, with a bald head and a Puerto Rican wife. One is a corporate executive and charitable fundraiser emcee. One is a corporate trainer. The team itself consists of white kids, black kids, Asian kids, mixed race kids. The parents run the gamut from every socioeconomic background. The parents are married, single, gay, straight, male, female, moms, dads, and grandparents. We’re all over the place. Hopefully as you would want your kids’ team to be. This team knows what it is to just put your head down, play, and overcome the obstacle it faces. Philly made.
Along with the fact that there are no a**hole parents (that really helps), it works because of Respect. Each person on that team has respect for every other person, teammate, coach, or parent. Even for every opponent although they don’t have respect for them.
That’s why Philly works. There is a certain amount of respect that endures here. I don’t have to agree with you to respect you or respect the fact you hold certain beliefs. Philly is a place where a Christian man and a Muslim man can sit and watch a football game, eat cheese steaks, and drink a few beers in peace while rooting for their team. Though racism still exists here, with each new generation, it gets smaller and smaller. This is a judgment-free zone. Well, not exactly. Here, we judge you on your actions, not on your faith, your family, or your income. We judge you for you.
No, every person here is not legit—there are douches here too, but that’s what happens when you have this many people living in one city. We can see the fake from a mile away. As my mom once told me when I was young: there are a lot of people sitting in those pews who won’t make it to Heaven. We may be a little too up front and in your face for some people’s taste, but at least you truthfully know where we stand. That truth is why we are unafraid of our differences. We know every white person isn’t a redneck devil. We know every black person isn’t an ignorant thug. We are not afraid to sit down and have the tough conversations. There might be a lot of yelling and screaming, but we are not afraid to get it done. No, we are not where we need to be, but we are striving to get there. Again, hope. We are who we are, and we don’t hide from problems, nor do we lie and say they don’t exist. If you don’t want the truth, raw and uncut with no chaser, then don’t come here. It might burn going down, but you can’t address a problem if you don’t admit there is one. To quote G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.”
In closing, embrace each other, pick each other up, and protect each other.
If need be, don’t be afraid to tell each other the truth. RESPECT each other. Enjoy each other. Learn from each other. Challenge each other, and push each other to be better. We don’t weed out the weak. We find the weak and make them stronger. That’s what we do here. We give each other hope. Philly stand up!