Some of my friends think I pick on San Diego unfairly. They ask me, Don't all cities have a similar quotient of greed, corruption, mediocrity, deceit, and political blowhards as we have in San Diego?
I won't equivocate. The answer is...yes.
So why single out our city? Because San Diego is unique in one peculiar respect: we practice an overweening reverence for gentility. We lionize propriety. We relish an identity as America's finest, nicest city. But the more orthodox label for our singular compliance is a subject I've written about before: civility.
San Diego is obsessed with civility. The esteemed KPBS spent its capital on measuring the civility of campaign ads during our recent mayoral race. You can encounter civility lessons through consensus-building at USD's visioning sessions or at SDSU's "Envision San Diego" project—or in civic engagement programs through the Equality Alliance... Empower San Diego... San Diego Foundation... Move San Diego.... Or at a return performance of "Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue" at the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement—where academics will talk about Restoring Respect and help you "explore the ways civility can be promoted and restored in public discourse and in future political campaigns."
So many ways to play nice.
That's what sets us apart from other cities—the number of San Diego citizens who swallow the soporific called civility: Don't cuss. Don't tell the truth. Don't criticize public figures when they lie or cheat. Don't make waves. Don't challenge the judgment of the wealthy. Don't pull back the curtains. Don't expose the homegrown pedophile/ wife abuser/ porn purveyor/ sociopath in our midst. Don't question authority. Don't stick to your principles. Don't get mad at politicians who leave us in the lurch. Don't demand robust hearings at city council meetings. Don't give bad press to Republican mayors or city attorneys, no matter how incompetent. Don't say that the emperor has no clothes.
Is there something in the air that predisposes so many San Diego citizens to become patsies and go-along-to-get-along? It's not that I'm blaming the victim. I'm just asking how come we pretend that being nice guys is good for the public health?
Like getting away with murder, it isn't.