What We Aren't

The people who hate Spokane aren't the problem; worrying about people who hate Spokane is the problem

Caleb Walsh

Last week I broke a rule I set for myself at the end of January. I promised I wouldn't wade into debates with people who have stridently negative feelings about Spokane.

But then a year-and-a-half-old LA Weekly blog questioning why any band would ever want to play in Spokane made the rounds on social media, and I fell off the wagon. My name is Luke. It's been 10 days since my last angry repost.

I created the rule during the height of Date-Grape-Koolaid gate, when the comments sections of national media outlets overflowed with malcontented former Spokies saying Date Grape was a symptom of Spokane's unredeemable Spokane-ness.

I spent an hour trying to convince someone who had hated living here a decade ago that things were better than he remembered. It didn't work.

A number of other people defended Spokane's honor in smart, clear ways. It didn't matter. Others sprang in to help with pom-poms blazing. Those people came off as rubes. That's fine sir, but did you know we had an Expo? An Expo!

It was awful.

It sometimes seems like we have a citywide case of Stockholm syndrome. We crave the acceptance of our abusers. I know I do.

I don't get angry at these people. I want to take them on a walking tour of the past six years. I want to show them how more people than ever are pushing us all to take risks on awesome, increasingly fringe things, and what a large, enthusiastic and diverse group of Spokies shows up in support of such things.

In some bullied, esteem-sensitive part of my brain, I think I worry that those outsized, obnoxious opinions will somehow stall all the progress we've been making. Not just the cool shit that's happening, but the good feelings I have as a person who is learning to love his city.

In a different part of my brain, though — a part that's more comfortable with who I am and more sure of the direction I want to push my life — I've come to believe the opposite.

The trolls aren't holding Spokane back. Worrying about the trolls is holding Spokane back.

It's a common and self-defeating preoccupation of underdogs and also-rans to try to impress the people who think you're a failure. It's a much more satisfying and liberating thing to pursue obsessively those things you believe in, and trust that you'll find a community of people who appreciates your particular brand of weird.

Spokane has started down that latter road. We're a profoundly strange town in a completely unique place and we're finally beginning to embrace it. We've begun to tell a story that is distinctly and authentically ours, and for the first time since I've been alive, we're actually enjoying the story we're telling.

There's a lot to look forward to. We're going to miss it if we keep looking back. ♦

Luke Baumgarten, a creative strategist at Seven2 and former culture editor of the Inlander, is a co-founder of Terrain and the founder of Fellow Coworking. He tweets @lukebaumgarten.