»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
WHAT EVERY SEATTLEITE NEEDS TO KNOW
October 4th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

The Seattle Public Library, in conjunction with my ex-Stranger colleague Charles Mudede, recently held a public workshop on the topic of “What Every American Needs to Know.”
Attendees were asked to make their own lists of subjects they want everybody to learn. With Mudede’s presence/influence, the topics nominated veered toward racial justice/awareness issues, past and present.

The event was inspired by, and named for the subtitle of, E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s 1987 book Cultural Literacy. Hirsch listed some 5,000 terms, people, historic events, popular movements, and concepts that ought to be familiar to citizens young, old, and new.

UW instructor Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University and author of the political-activism book You’re More Powerful Than You Think, recently revived Hirsch’s concept, as something to be “crowdsourced” from citizen contributions.

Since the library event, Anika Anand at TheEvergrey.com asked that site’s readers to nominate similar topics that every Seattleite needs to know.

Here are my own nominations, in 10 overgeneralized, inter-related categories:

1. Our history and heritage.

Why the Northwest is more “north” than “west”. The early explorers, missionaries, and fur trappers. The Nordic homesteaders arriving on the land-grant railroads. The Gold Rush and boosterism. How Seattle was “bourgeois from the start” (Roger Sale).

2. Our racial/cultural mosaic, past to present.

The rich indigenous heritage, and the people who fight to keep it alive. The Anti-Chinese Riots; the WWII Japanese-American internments. FIlipino cannery workers. Vietnamese refugees. The black struggle, from redlining to gentrification. Hispanic/Latinx immigrants, and their fight to stay.

3. Our homegrown pop culture.

Seattle black music/art (not just Hendrix). Seattle pop/rock music (not just Hendrix and Cobain). Seattle visual art and artists (not just Chihuly). Self-aware, self-deprecating humor, from The Egg and I to Almost Live. Twin Peaks and the “Northwest Noir” genre. Kids’ TV; drag clowning; neo-circus; performance art. Sports, from the Hawks to the Huskies to the hydros. Gone-but-not-forgotten restaurants, stores, and dive bars. Allegedly “Seattle” things we had nothing to do with (“designer grunge,” Fifty Shades of Grey).

4. Our boomin’ n’ bustin’ economy.

Timber and the original “Skid Road.” Railroads and steamships. The Alaska connection, from fishing to oil. Boeing. The Depression; hydro power as a “public works” project. WWII; “Rosie the Riveter;” Hanford. The Jet Age; the ’70s Boeing Bust. The baby-boomer entrepreneurs behind Starbucks, Costco, and the first microbrews. The early dotcoms’ rise and fall. Washington Mutual’s rise and fall.

5. Techie Seattle and its Boeing roots (really).

How a City of Engineers morphed into a City of Coders. The UW’s heritage in medical technologies. Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s “old Seattle” backgrounds. Why Jeff Bezos and Nintendo set up shop here. Video games as an art form. The “tech bro” stereotype and tech-biz sexism.

6. Our bio-region, its ecology, and threats to same.

The “natural Northwest” relentlessly reshaped, regraded, dredged, dammed, and filled in. Hanford. Trident. Clearcut forests. Depleted fish runs. Volcanoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Climate change and weird weather.

7. Politics past and present.

Prohibition rum-runners; brothels and speakeasies. Labor radicals, and anti-radical “massacres.” ”The 47 states and the Soviet of Washington.” “Progressive Seattle” as an historically white-dominated movement. “Feel-good liberalism” vs. making the hard choices and doing the real work. Why gay marriage and legal pot were easier to achieve than economic or racial justice. The high-end housing boom; single-family neighborhoods; “Livability” vs. “affordability.”

8. “Seattle Nice” and its limits.

Why, personality-wise, we’re more like Canada than California. Nordic stoicism; passive-aggressive distancing. Why you MUST develop and use an “inside voice,” and stop screaming in public all the time.

9. Words and phrases and pronunciations.

It’s “I-5,” not “the 5.” It’s the Department of Licensing, not the DMV. There’s no “S” in “Pike Place Market.” How to pronounce “Puyallup” and spell “Weyerhaeuser.”

10. The (Real) World of Century 21

The future promised at the World’s Fair vs. what we really got. Making a better future, not just a profitable one. Saving our nation from social/political disaster. Saving our planet from ecological disaster. Saving our own corner of the planet from the side effects of its own “success.”


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).