Striving for the Best, but Not Always Being or Finding it
By Robin Jovanovich
For over twenty years, The Rye Record has done its best to cover the people, institutions, schools, businesses, and organizations of this community.
Unlike Facebook, we’re outward-looking. We profile the good work of many, celebrate the special achievers, promote volunteerism, and essay to be a force for good.
And unlike most of social media, we edit what we publish, wrestle with words, and appreciate wit and irony.
Anyone who reads what we publish knows that we are proponents of: restoring rather than razing old houses; a tree ordinance with teeth to prevent clear-cutting, pet adoption rather than purchase; and common-sense decisions by local and county government and schools.
I am a Rye mom — but not one who posts on the Rye Moms Facebook page — as well as a Rye grandmother.
On the rare occasions I go on Facebook, it’s to see the recent posts and photos by my much younger siblings. I have six smart and sport-star nephews and one amazingly talented and graceful niece.
But as someone who reads two national newspapers six days a week, I am all-too familiar with the dark side of social media.
About ten days ago, I started receiving calls and texts — dozens of them — from concerned friends and good acquaintances asking if I’d seen the comments about The Rye Record on Facebook and Rye Moms. “Should I read them?” I asked, surmising that they were less-than-positive.
My response to most of the negative and less-than-helpful comments is that I wish any of these people had taken the time to call me before asserting or insinuating that I or any of the contributors, or The Rye Record itself, is racist.
We are contacted by unhappy readers every week and in almost every instance a good conversation ensues. We engage in a real dialogue about real issues in our community — and we have issues like any other community.
Is Rye a diverse community? Compared to Westport, Connecticut and Manhattan, where I grew up, the answer is emphatically “no”. Should Rye have public conversations and workshops on the subject, “absolutely.”
But is the best way to start that conversation through Facebook? Absolutely not. There is no editing on Facebook and there is also a propensity for the negative.
So, when I entitled a photo feature on the annual Japanese cultural program organized by Rye’s public elementary schools, “Almost Japanese”, was I making a racial slur? And when we published photos of Halloween Windowpainting last October, did we purposefully omit the young artists who were Japanese?
I hope that the answer to those two questions is obvious. I will add that “Almost Japanese” is the title of a slim but memorable novel by Sarah Sheard that I have read more than once.
There is no social virtue in posting a complaint, or worse yet, rushing to judgment that something is racist. That’s a serious charge and deserves more than a comment on Facebook.
When we want to improve society, we need to get at it directly.