Despite zig-zagging around the geese poop, my run around the lake was like reading a love letter. I admired the luscious nature, the busy hum of life and business, and the feeling of being a part of something bound together by a rich history. Then, a bit of reality: the remains of a broken car window by the curb, a shuttered business, a homeless man sleeping under the bench.
I got a lot of love for my last op-ed, The Oakland Diss (thank you for your kind words). But I also received a lot of flak. I was called “delusional” and “naive.” I got emails asking me if I had ever even seen “the real Oakland.” My thoughts were even dismissed by SFist with an “uh-huh, sure” pat on the head.
It’s easy to say that these people are just missing the point. But as someone who has been the victim and witness of violent crimes, and has seen how much neighborhoods have been punished by Oakland’s most persistent flaws, I can’t dismiss any of it because I get it. Let’s be honest, these are real and important issues. But we, as members of the Oakland family, can’t throw our hands in the air and give up. With love comes commitment.
Whenever we hear about a child fallen by a bullet or a family robbed of their hard-earned possessions, it makes us mad. We’re mad not because we are fed up with our town, but because we are fed up with the stewards, our leaders.
The people hired to take care of Oakland are often only taking care of themselves.
I was involved in the mayoral race in 2010, so I got to see the drama between power brokers in vivid, up-close detail. I respected our town more for it, because despite all of these folks fighting their own turf wars, and refusing to sacrifice for the greater good, our town kept fighting. But the truth was undeniable: While they looked after their self-interests, Oakland burned.
And it keeps burning. That’s where my dismay comes from. I look up to our leadership, present and past, and just shake my head. No one acts out of courage. No one cares beyond their own nose. While they try to look good and fight over the scraps, the rest of us see Oakland crack and decay. Our town is being dissed (truly dissed!) by those whose job it is to nurture it.
I love Oakland, and say this with heart in hand: we can do better. We need to keep our leaders accountable, everyday. It’s not easy. We have our own daily struggles, and sometimes we can’t even fathom adding another grain to our burden, but that’s what it takes. Love for Oakland means that we celebrate it, yes, but as loving family members we also have to tug the ears of its leaders from time to time and say, “Now now, we can do better.”
Jaime Zepeda is a proud Oaklander who doesn’t mind geese poop around the lake. He’s a project manager for a consulting firm in San Francisco, and writes random musings on his blog: jayrzee.wordpress.com.
You Tell Us is Oakland North’s community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
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