History And Community - John Samuel Tieman

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Axar.az presents an article "History And Community" by John Samuel Tieman.

I hate the way we use the word “politics”. Think of the etymology of the word. “Polis”, the Ancient Greek, does not refer to corruption, division, competition, or political parties. It refers to the whole of us, to the affairs of the community. When problems arise, when issues need to be addressed, politics is about discussion, dialogue, compromise. It is not about obstruction, cynicism, violence. Politics is about the we-ness of the community. Politics is about a commonwealth that we value. Politics, in short, is communal dialogue. This is not to say there is no conflict. On the contrary. It is to say that politics is we-ness, and we-ness is dialogue. With the common good as its goal, the dialogue that gets us to the common good – that's politics.

I was recently elected to the City Council of University City, Missouri. U. City is an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. Demographically, my ward, the Second Ward, is truly diverse. Half of my neighbors are Black. Lots of immigrants. Washington University is our neighbor. Lots of students, lots of professors. It's gay-friendly. It's generally middle class. Some older beautiful homes, a lot of post-war houses. Folks are house-proud. People make political choices about living here – it's where you choose to live if you're LGBTQ+, gay married, an immigrant, have a racially mixed marriage, if you're a Hasidic Jew. People are well-read, informed, listen to the news, read the newspaper. Every third person thinks they could be on the City Council because every third person could if they had the time and inclination. We have about 34,500 citizens in total here in U. City. For all our sophistication, in many ways we are just a small town in Missouri.

I grew up here. The Second Ward is the central part of U. City. People say we're liberal, even leftist. One radio reporter called us “The People's Republic Of University City”. There's a yes and a no to that. Yes, our U. S. Representative, Cori Bush, is a democratic socialist. No, you can see Trump signs here. The City Council is nonpartisan. When people ask, I say I'm an independent. Which is true. I belong to no party. In a sense, my one cause is simply this: this is my home. My family has lived in St. Louis since January of 1828, in University City since January of 1928.

I am, by training and disposition, a historian. This is of note, because, following my election, my first major issue is historic preservation.

After decades and much debate, our City Hall Annex and the Trinity Building, known to us old-timers as “the old library”, will be renovated. The Annex will become a state-of-the-art police headquarters. The “old library”, the Trinity Building, will become the home of the municipal court, and serve as a multi-purpose area. This is the largest capital project in the history of University City. Together with our City Hall, our civic plaza will be beautiful.

I respect, honor, and indeed commend those who have worked so hard on budgetary considerations and other matters architectural, pragmatic, and utilitarian. I would add this. This is more than a much-needed upgrade. This is, at its core, historic preservation.

The Annex and City Hall have been here since 1903. The “old library” was built in 1934. They will be here long after we are gone. Why is this important? Because these buildings embody our history. What they symbolize is larger than our one moment or any one person. Together they represent the community, the “polis” as the Ancient Greeks would say, the whole of us. Ultimately, they honor the republic and celebrate a history of democracy at its most intimate level.

We don't erect a multi-story statue of the “dear leader” – at least not yet. In this era of declining democracy, it is well that we honor our history. And not just preserve it. It is well that we use our history, that we meet in it, work in it, dwell in it. If we cannot use our history, it is like we were born yesterday. Like that newborn, who is susceptible to every disease, we become susceptible to cynicism, obstructionism, and division.

For these reasons, I support these restoration projects. I will vote 'Aye'.

2024.06.10 / 09:52
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