CLOSE YOUR EYES, and picture Seattle in 2010. It looks a lot different now, huh? It also feels a lot different.
I’ve had several heartbreaking conversations the past couple of years with younger colleagues who wonder whether they’ll ever be able to buy a house here, or whether they even can afford to live in the area and keep working for The Seattle Times. Some have given up and moved on.
I was lucky that things were simpler (and way cheaper) when I started here 20 years ago. But Seattle’s ever-widening gap between the rich and the not-rich-enough-to-live-here isn’t the only thing separating us as we move into an uncertain decade. There are tensions between old and young, between native Seattleites (or those who have been here long enough to consider themselves natives) and our many newcomers. And if you think racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination are things that happen only in other parts of the country, you’re kidding yourself.
A wise man (Jon Talton, whose essay in this issue kicks off our theme for the year, The Great Divide) says the country is more polarized politically than it has been since the Civil War. We don’t have that problem, exactly. In Seattle, the Blue team has a clear numbers advantage over the Red team, but it’s still easy enough to find a debate over how to deal with homelessness, what to do about the opioid crisis or candidates for local government.
This week, Talton tries to imagine what the next decade will look like around here, given our differences, and the ongoing threat posed by climate change. Next week, Ron Judd looks back a century, at the Roaring ’20s, and wonders whether we might learn something from that decade, which didn’t finish nearly as well as it started. During the year, we’ll publish more magazine stories that will explore The Great Divide locally, in its various forms, as well as how to bridge it.
It would be nice if we argued about the latest Mariners trade; or whether Pearl Jam is better than Nirvana (yes); or, heck, even over a good, old-fashioned transit debate. But I’m afraid the world, and Seattle, has changed — in many ways for the better; in others, not. (In fact, that’s another discussion for another day.) But no matter our differences, I’ll just hope we at least can listen to each other, and show a little empathy.