Does privacy exist anymore? Today I had a board member question me about some articles I had posted on Facebook. Sounds like I’m edgy, doesn’t it? Sounds like I’m into porn or….I don’t know what….but something lewd. Well, not so much if I tell you that the articles were about historic preservation. This board member was concerned that I was publicly too much of an advocate of preservation. Well, duh! Preservation is a HUGE part of my job. Preservation is something I believe in with all my heart and soul.
I will admit it, I enjoy Facebook. I post freely about whatever is on my mind at the moment. I stay in touch with classmates, friends, and colleagues. Over the years, a significant portion of my Facebook friends are people I have met through my career. Most of us have similar positions in towns and cities across the country. All of us are passionate about historic preservation and the significant role preservation plays in the economic revitalization of historic commercial districts. Downtowns and other traditional commercial corridors were decimated during the late 20th century. Malls were built, department stores failed, and our ways of shopping have changed. The results of these changes were the loss of was many beautiful, historically significant buildings. Many of those that were not demolished sat, or still sit, vacant. Community resources were directed into more modern, sterile, disposable construction. Many factors have contributed to the problem facing these districts, however there is one commonality shared by successfully revitalized commercial districts – Historic Preservation.
The public craves character. Chain stores, chain restaurants, and strip malls have stripped the character and personality from our communities. It is in these traditional downtown commercial districts that we are able to find the fabric and personality of our communities once again. In these traditional districts, we are able to have a genuine and unique experiences which can’t be found in an Applebee’s or Walmart. Local businesses thrive in historic districts. Local flavor, local favorites, and best of all, local business owners.
Historic Preservation not only preserves beautiful buildings, but preservation increases property values. Preservation is green. Fewer resources are utilized to renovate an existing building than to demolish it and haul it to a landfill. Think about it. Once the old building is gone, it’s not really gone. New construction to replace old is an additional use of resources. Historic restoration is the ultimate in recycling. I could go on and on….
I was told to tone down my posts about preservation on my own PERSONAL Facebook page. I will add here that I maintain and monitor three other Facebook pages that represent my organization. Nowhere on those pages do I allow my personal opinions to be interjected or the opinions of my staff. But my own PERSONAL page, that one belongs to me. Dammit!
This board member was concerned that I was going to offend people who had more of a “knock ’em down” mentality. I was stunned speechless. To make matters worse, this tool of a board member (I can say that here. This is MY blog!) didn’t even have the guts to call me directly with his concerns. He had my board president call me about it. My president is a wonderful person, and she apologized all over the place. She went so far as to tell me that she really enjoyed my posts and felt that she had actually learned a few things by reading some of the article I posted. Yes, I post heinous articles from sources like The National Trust for Historic Preservation and other state and local preservation-based organizations.
After a couple hours of stewing (and a little cursing) I called the board member in question. I told him that I was offended. While I understand the need for discretion, I asked him to remember that my Facebook page belongs to me. I am not ashamed over my stance, my passion, and my belief in the value of preservation. He apologized, but went on to tell me that there were “others” who wanted to see “a few blocks demolished to make way for new projects.” What new projects? I have no idea. There isn’t anyone out there knocking on our doors to build any staggeringly huge project that would necessitate the demolition of several blocks. Maybe this guy is afraid my preservation ethic will scare away that mythical developer. God, I hope it does!
I really don’t get it, and I’m not going to give it much more thought. When I got home from work tonight, I logged into Facebook. I looked at my latest preservation post, and I deleted it. I thought about deactivating my account, but I would miss so many people whose lives I enjoy seeing on my news feed. I would miss the interaction with family, friends, and yes…..business colleagues. I considered deleting my board members from my Facebook account, but most of them have become friends, and I didn’t want to hurt or offend them.
I felt my freedom of speech slipping away, and I realized that this is the time for me to be brave. I have done nothing wrong, yet I was reacting to the comments of one ignorant old man. Attitudes like his are what have contributed to the decline of the commercial districts that have fallen into disrepair and ruin. What if every preservationist hid their passion and their beliefs whenever they were criticized? No, that is not going to be me. I will continue to be a Proud Preservationist.