The Problem with "Support Local"
Our city deserves more than cheerleaders.
"How does anyone even get to Dallas?"
It wasn't a question my friend was asking over dinner. It came across more like a statement. It doesn't feel transient here to me, but as I start to mentally take inventory of my social circle, I realize how many are from California, or Florida, or Nevada or Houston.
As someone who has dwelled in these North Texas plains for most of my time on earth, I forget that so many of you came for work or love or for a supposedly growing economy. The latter, especially, makes our city a unique melting pot of the very practical. Many of us are employees of companies who can afford to move staff across the country and wanderers who find reasonable rent appealing. Big fishes who hope to make splashes in our growing pond.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the cultural temperature of this city and those who make it up both because I have been given the opportunity to comment on it and because I am a near constant consumer of the music, the art, the party being produced at any given moment. But lately a new chant has been getting under my skin, and it's time to wrestle with it a bit.
I see it on posters, in hashtags and in social media bios glaring at me. Support Local. Support Local Music. Support Local something else or another thing that is local. Local. Local. Local. It feels so easy to accept that "local" is somehow inherently valuable. Why? Because there are no shipping charges? Valuable because it must be sourced from surrounding stimulus or because it may help define a city cursed with transience? But local isn't noble all on its own, not if it isn't also compelling.
Let me be clear: I am an admitted Dallas apologist. And if you aren't cooking with Brandt, Texas' Vital Farms eggs, then you aren't cooking. So I get the enormous potential of local.
But what if we changed the rally cry? What if in Dallas there wasn't this push to support local first? What if our hashtags united us to call for excellence instead? #SUPPORTINGENUITY #SUPPORTIMAGINATION #SUPPORTCONTROVERSY #SUPPORTSOMETHINGTRULYSTRANGE
That might raise the standard. Perhaps we could make Dallas a place where any great artist could come to North Texas and thrive, making ours a creative destination, instead of a stop on the way out for our friends leaving for LA and New York and even Austin. I know the entire health of a creative community isn't wrapped up in a two-word phrase, but its implication still irritates me.
When I admitted to a Dallas-based editor and visual artist that I get uncomfortable about this idea, HER/HIS response was thoughtful: "I have realized that the only way to make our local arts culture better is by opening up a dialogue with the great arts and music cultures all over the world, so that artists can not only be considered great according to a Dallas standard, but compared to artists both nationally and internationally.
"We live in a global world, so if we want to be taken seriously, we should strive to contend with global standards of excellence in both life and art."