While Little Rock spends thousands on the #lovelittlerock campaign, embarrassing our town on a national level, our city still has kids going hungry, homeless people wandering the streets, major problems with gun crime and a school district controlled by the state.
This is our letter back to the city.
Dear Little Rock,
We need to talk.
While the kind thing to say would be: “it’s not you, it’s us,” the truth is: It’s you. It’s SOOOO you.
Look, you’re a great place to live. If you weren’t, a lot of us wouldn’t live here. We’re not just talking about the folks with elderly parents who can’t use the stove on their own anymore and people with ankle monitors that start beeping if they leave the county, either. There are folks with options who actually choose to live in this city. No foolin’.
You’ve got some great bars and great restaurants, a very nice bicycle and footbridge down by the river and some excellent stores. The Clinton Library and River Market are VERY nice. Short commutes to work for most people. But let’s not get the big head here. This is a town that can’t even attract an outlet of Trader Joe’s, but you got wounded enough to create a corny ad campaign, fly an actual airplane towing a banner through the skies of Seattle, hire somebody to run the #LoveLittleRock Twitter feed 24/7, and take out a full page in the Washington Post because AMAZON.COM wouldn’t locate their second worldwide HQ here?
It’s like Larry the Cable Guy throwing a month-long bender on 25-year-old single malt Scotch because he can’t marry Lady Gaga.
While we’re on the subject, let’s chat about that ad and the airplane towing the “It’s Not You, It’s Us” banner over Seattle: As a city full of kids going to school some mornings without anything to eat, did that really seem like a good outlay of cash? Too bad you didn’t print the ad in the Democrat-Gazette. At least that way some of the homeless people trudging three miles out of town to get something to eat because you had the police run them off from the charities that feed them near downtown could use it to line their sleeping bags so they don’t freeze to death this winter. Another idea: print two full-page ads in the Dem-Gaz, one featuring a scowling criminal holding a knife to an old lady’s throat and another showing an unarmed African-American. Use those for shoot/don’t shoot target practice, so this city doesn’t erupt into another Ferguson or Baltimore at some point in the very near future.
Better yet: get out of the ol’ social media war room, take advantage of our relatively uncongested streets and highways, and drive south of I-630 sometime. Go waaaaay south, past the spiffified parts near the Clinton Children’s Library and the 12th Street Police Station. Preferably, go at night, so you can see the blue-light arithmetic of a 22-year-old single mother of two in a 19-year-old car, heading home from one of her three fast food jobs, getting pulled over along Asher Avenue by four patrol units. Roll down your windows and turn off the radio so you can listen for the faint cackle of far-off gunfire that marks the next teenage dropout on his way to the cemetery at the hands of another teenage dropout on his way to Cummins Prison. Then tell us that the biggest problem facing this town is that Jeff Bezos didn’t give Little Rock a rose on “Amazon Presents: The Bachelorette.”
This is not a love letter, Little Rock, though we do love you. This is an intervention. Your mom is here in tears, your ex-girlfriend, the uncle who looks like he wants to be anywhere else, the niece who always smells like pot, the works. We don’t need some intern running a Twitter account to remind us that Little Rock is great. We live here. If we didn’t love this city, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But please listen through the fog that wafts through City Hall as we say: we have bigger fish to fry than some dumb PR campaign that will benefit exactly zero percent of the people who live here. Some of those fish have been waiting to be fried so long that they’ve rotted on the butcher paper.
We love you. We want to help you do better. But get your shit together and focus.