Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fair criticism?

To start off, as of yesterday (May 14), it's been one year since we left the house for the last time as we headed down to Maryland for Heather's graduation. I can't believe it's been that long already and had hoped I'd have a more permanent situation in place by now, but life is what it is. I certainly can't complain too much about my current situation, though. While I'm hardly living a life of luxury, I do have a nice place to live and my needs are met with people I love and care about. That said, I'm hoping a full-time job is on the horizon, even if it isn't a teaching job so I can move on to the next stage of my life. Of course I still think about the house and the whole situation with moving, but I find they are becoming fewer and further in between. Part of the problem is living with so many reminders. Much of our stuff is still in boxes in the basement, so every time I or Mom needs something that we haven't unpacked, we have to go searching down there or in other boxes. Every time I have to go searching through the boxes, it's just a reminder why so much of our stuff is in boxes.

Anyway, that was on my mind the last few days but that's all I have to say about that. Another thing I've been thinking about concerns a lot of criticism I've been seeing from friends and strangers about Ohio in general. It was troubling to see so much of it, so I started thinking about the criticisms I've laid out about Idaho and Utah on this blog and in my discussions with people. Was this a case of "what goes around comes around" and just getting a taste of my own medicine? I really thought about this and analyzed what people were criticizing about Ohio, how I felt about it and why, and what my criticisms of Utah were and why. What I came up with is that, no, this isn't a case of karma at all. Why? Well let me explain!

The biggest reason the majority of criticisms I see of Ohio bother me is because they are almost always about things that cannot be helped, most often the weather. No amount of moaning and groaning is going to change the climate, make it sunnier, warmer, less rainy, or less humid. The weather is what it is. Yeah, we all complain here and there, but some people it seems can't find anything else but bemoan a cloudy day (but are largely silent on sunny days...hmmmm). If you're going to put a lot of energy into criticizing something, at least make sure it's something that can actually be changed! When was on my mission in Arizona and New Mexico, I didn't enjoy the desert at first. Too dry for my taste, hardly any green, and to be honest, having the same weather virtually every day got boring! I definitely learned to appreciate cloudy days and RAIN! When it's cloudless for 2 months straight and it's 100 degrees, for someone like me it lacked variety and interest. I got used to the whole climate and desertscape of course, but in the end it made me appreciate the green here in Ohio and in the east in general. Even now, when we have rainy days here I say I enjoy them because that's how things grow. Sure is nice not having to worry about irrigation! That's not to day I didn't enjoy short-sleeve weather in January! :)

While Utah's desert climate is something I don't particularly care for, it is the least of my criticisms and is far more secondary than anything. In fact, I always enjoy the mountains, especially when they still have snow on them. As for the weather, it's really not a whole lot different than Ohio since, while it is still desert, it is around the same latitude so temperatures are similar. As I started thinking, no, my main criticisms at Utah are all culturally related. In other words, they are things that could potentially (and in my opinion should) be changed. Remember, having lived in even harsher desert climates than Utah, I hardly have the same criticisms for Arizona and New Mexico as I do for Utah. Why? Because Arizona and New Mexico largely had cultures that were close enough to what I was used to (though still different...there is definitely a difference between west and east in this country!). As I have explained many times, it's not all of Utah culture that bothers me, it's the parts that are so intertwined with LDS doctrine that too many inside and out cannot recognize the difference between cultural traditions and actual doctrine. Arizona had a smaller version of that with many of the Mexican immigrants and the Catholic faith. It was very hard for them to separate what was actual Catholic doctrine from culture as they have become so melded.

There are definitely things about the culture here in Ohio that people don't like. For some it's too conservative; for others it's too liberal. Some complain it's too slow, too boring, too political, etc. Most of these criticisms are valid (based on one's experience), though at the same time they are hardly unique to Ohio. With Utah, and Idaho to an extent, much of the cultural problems I have are because I am the same religion as so many out there, so I guess I expect certain--and higher--standards from members of the Church, particularly in how we treat each other. Indeed, it's much more of a Utah LDS cultural problem than just a Utah cultural problem (remember, I have many friends who are Utah residents and natives!). It's not so much a problem because of Utah, but more because of the high concentration of members and the history of isolation in the late 19th century which allowed many of these cultural meshes with doctrine to really develop and take strong root. In other words, it could've happened anywhere. I would imagine it would've happened in Illinois had the Saints not been forced out, though it would've obviously been different since the Nauvoo area in the late 19th century wasn't nearly as isolated as Utah was.

To close, let me reiterate: yes, too much criticism can be a bad thing, but if you're going to complain, at least make sure it's something that could actually be changed if the right person or people heard you or that you could change yourself. Nowhere is perfect; everywhere we go we're going to find things we don't like about certain places and certain groups of people. The key is understanding not only what we feel by more importantly why we feel that way. If we can't rationally understand and explain why, then perhaps we're just being overly critical. On the other end, in hearing criticism we need to understand the why and lend a listening and sympathetic ear. Maybe the person would benefit from some "local advice" on how we deal with this or that (which is why it doesn't bother us as much) or maybe it's something we've never even considered and now have an additional viewpoint! Critical thinking is key!!


Anonymous said...

What kind of criticism (other than the weather) have you heard about Ohio?

Jon said...

The politics (too conservative or too liberal), the roads, the schools, the people, "it's boring", and ESPECIALLY the economy.