Saturday, February 16, 2002

Topic topic


Forget the stars, let's talk it out

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        Quite frankly, I don't care if an aging comic, an oldies R&B singer and a retired football player with blood-soaked gloves come to town or not.

        They can think anything they want about Cincinnati. Doesn't matter.

        What matters is what we think of each other.

        Instead, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Plus a plague of paranoia.

        Cincinnati's civic leaders and leaders of the anti-Cincinnati boycott can't agree to sit down and talk with each other. Everyone loses. For now. Victory's still within reach. All we have to do is discuss. And listen.

        This inability to work out differences hurts Cincinnati in two ways. A divided city becomes increasingly polarized. Too many people waste too much time and energy worrying about what others — outsiders working as itinerant performers and wandering minstrels — think of us.

        Excessive complaints bordering on the obsessively paranoid have been registered about Bill Cosby and Smokey Robinson canceling their Cincinnati appearances.

        Paranoia over the city's image took another turn for the worse when O.J. Simpson agreed to emcee a show at Music Hall.

        Bill Cosby and Smokey Robinson bought into the boycott. They canceled their concerts citing Cincinnati's racial climate.

        Bill Cosby stated he would feel “uncomfortable” telling jokes here. Smokey Robinson claimed he could not perform before a community that was “divided.”

        Meanwhile, O.J. — according to the show's promoter — “is promoting peace.”

        Whatever. They can come. They can go.
       

Supreme importance

        Only by thinking everyone's important, only by believing everyone's voice needs to be heard, only by coming together and listening to each other can Cincinnatians solve their problems.

        All of the appearances or cancellations by Cos', Smokey and O.J. are meaningless.

        What means everything is how someone of a different race, background or religion is welcomed when she moves into a new neighborhood. How he is treated when he looks for a job or goes to work. What opportunities their kids have at school. That's important.
       

Homegrown solution

        Certainly, I'm not naive enough to think Cincinnati is not affected by the outside world.

        “Cincinnati is not an island,” Councilman Paul Booth reminded me this week.

        The councilman is a busy man. He's trying to arrange a summit meeting to end the boycott. But he took time to discuss Cincinnati's “image problem.”

        He wants people on both sides of the boycott to stop mouthing off and start talking. He doesn't think that can happen without the aid of three mediators: Martin Luther King III, former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and former President Jimmy Carter.

        All outsiders.

        “What's the alternative?” he asked. “Is what we're doing now working?”

        How sad.

        Cincinnati is a great city. Fortunes are made here by people communicating. In the media. In selling soap. In running banks. In mediating disputes.

        Yet, when it comes to Cincinnati's most vital issues, ones that, if handled properly, could turn this town of exclusion into a city of inclusion embracing and thriving on its diversity, we suddenly fall quiet.

        It's as if the phones stopped working. The post office went dark. E-mail's down. Everybody's got laryngitis.

        We know better. Cincinnati has the communication skills to solve its problems. No outside help is necessary.

        The people at odds over the boycott have to change gears. Instead of just opening their mouths, they must open their minds.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.
       

       



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