Phoenix Rising: Friends, Phoenicians, downtowners, lend us your voices

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In his final column, Ryan Boyd says it is imperative for us to talk to one another. (Sierra LaDuke/DD)
In his final column, Ryan Boyd says it is imperative for us to talk to one another. (Sierra LaDuke/DD)

Is downtown Phoenix undergoing a booming revival of urban principles that will lead it to thrive as a more dense core of activity, or is it losing its way by transplanting outsiders in gated apartment complexes over the rubble of former hangouts of residents?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. But it’s extremely hard to find that out, especially in the national climate.

In national politics, the constant debate about what facts and figures to look at in debate has been escalated to horrendous extremes with a president whose faction has called into question any statement, no matter how minor, that does not fit their agenda.

At a more fundamental level, the long reign of the modern idea of a singular truth has been significantly undermined for often legitimate reasons.

The rise of relativism, the idea that one’s perspective informs one’s view of the truth, was constantly used by conservatives as an excuse for lax standards (which it can be) against claims by liberals that it removes the bias of the often elite members of society who are privileged enough to be writing the research, news and laws (which does exist).

Ultimately, the truth probably needs both these views, but discussing fundamental issues with those who disagree with you doesn’t always end civilly.

Just ask Socrates, the fundamental figure of Western philosophy whose constant questioning of his acquaintances led to him being found guilty of corrupting the youth and sentenced to death.

Was Socrates the victim of a cruel despot? No, he was sentenced by a jury of his peers in democratic Athens. It can happen anywhere.

Could Socrates not run away or plead for mercy? No, for that would disobey the laws and society that he had thrived in and relied upon. Ignoring the parts that didn’t benefit him would not be very virtuous.

Socrates drank the poisonous hemlock for what he felt was his divine responsibility to expand the knowledge of his fellow humans.

That responsibility doubtless existed before Socrates and the many other legendary figures of history and religion, and it continues to exist to this day.

It is as imperative as it has been before and as it will be since this moment in time for us to talk to one another. Polarization is the norm in the wake of such a divisive year for this community which has reeled from the loss of so many landmarks and the changing of political headwinds across the country.

But there is so much that unifies us. Our hopes for a community that includes us, that serves our most vulnerable members with opportunities and adequately rewards the talents of its members are universal.

On Feb. 5, 2009, this publication began its run to showcase what goes on in downtown Phoenix. But it can’t do that without you, downtown’s residents, artists, business people, students and admirers.

You’ve heard the sounds of the birds at the Bioscience High School in the wee hours of the morning, you’ve felt the surge of energy as people unite over similar interests, whether it is a small conversation at a coffee shop or a mega event like the Super Bowl, and you’ve stood with pride or terror as this place changes.

So I, notably not as a journalism student but a proud member of this organization who has committed some “urban sins” in the past, personally invite — nay — plead with you to lend your voices to this humble forum we call Downtown Devil.

The great potential of this community and this forum to influence change should never be forgotten, and quite frankly is probably a little bit easier now that another generation of old geezers like me are gone.

Send your opinions in the form of letters to the editor at news@downtowndevil.com and while you’re at it, bother my colleagues about writing for us in columns.

Contact the columnist at raboyd2@asu.edu.