The Street Fight for Lakewood Hospital

It has been quite a year in the campaign to defend Lakewood’s community hospital. Since exploring my reasoning, back in March, I don’t think I’ve had anything further to say here aside from a small jab at Northeast Ohio Media Group. As I have been co-manager of the Save Lakewood Hospital web site, it has generally made sense to present my observations and experiences there.

Events yesterday have motivated some more casual and personal comments, that can’t really be formatted into detached editorial voice. So, a few updates on what feels like a turning point in the long war…

First, my thanks to former congressman Dennis Kucinich. When I heard that he planned a press conference and community forum to discuss Lakewood Hospital, I was frankly very skeptical, of the timing if nothing else. Nine months into our campaign, I did wonder whether Save Lakewood Hospital would be boosting Kucinich’s profile rather than vice versa. I was very happy to conclude that my suspicions were groundless; I don’t think there is any way that Mr. Kucinich could have made yesterday’s press conference less about himself. The planned program was nothing fancy at all, in fact; he collected documentation of Cleveland Clinic’s fraud and maladministration, spoke in extremely measured fashion about its significance, then presented copies to the several media representatives who dutifully turned up when summoned. Thoughtful, mature, good civic participation.

That, at least, was the formal program. The informal program of certain attendees was rather different…

A handful of people hostile to Save Lakewood Hospital’s goals, adorned in the blue of Mayor Mike Summers’s re-election campaign and astroturf group Build Lakewood, took it upon themselves to heckle yesterday’s event. Their jeering was, to my mind, immature, rude and above all saddening.

To me, it feels like yesterday marked the beginning of a new phase in this argument. The inauguration of organized, negative shout-down-your-opponents sabotage efforts feels like a significant descent from the level of campaigning so far.

I have little doubt that yesterday’s hecklers and their allies see things otherwise, admittedly. Lakewood has long since passed the threshold of acrimony on this issue. Tempers have flared since the beginning, and individuals including some of my allies have more than once parted from ideal standards of decorum. I have regretted this, even as I have understand the frustrations of a primarily “outsider” group that has mostly been up against powers-that-be who can enforce the rules in their favor, and who I would readily agree have in fact been abusing power since before Save Lakewood Hospital existed…

Nonetheless I’m well aware that, sooner or later, everyone in a conflict like this feels their side has endured more slights for longer and is only responding to escalating aggression, never committing it. I think that in this case, Build Lakewood has in fact crossed a new line whatever they think… but then I think they’re generally wrapped up in a false narrative, about the whole issue, ignoring or distorting information that doesn’t fit… and I’m sure they reciprocate this view also. And here we are.

I hope that Save Lakewood Hospital will try to retain the high ground, whatever our opponents think. Again, I don’t believe that I have thus far been part of any equivalent to yesterday’s in-your-face disruption, and I don’t intend to be party to any plan for such, or other tit-for-tat retaliation. Unfortunately, I’m not the whole group, and I’m also aware that even I’m susceptible to tribal side-taking reactions when anger meets anger. Knowing, now, that I may encounter people who (in my perception) will try to pick a fight, I will try to be mindful and resolve on nonaggression beforehand…

I suppose that I will find out if that works. I doubt seriously that yesterday will be the only flare-up of resentment and intolerance between now and the end of the year.

All things in perspective, I suppose. On the bright side, my opinion of Mayor Summers continues to sink lower, but I’m still not expecting to be beaten or arrested for challenging his agenda. Lakewood and certainly the politically active segment of Lakewood is pretty homogeneous, ethnically, so we can (in theory) take off our red and blue shirts and mingle peacefully with no special effort. It’s a real shame that this makes a difference, and that what should be basic universal rights are in practice privileges that I can mostly take for granted.

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