As students, we have a limited perspective on the Ithaca community. There’s a lot about Ithaca we ignore, fail to recognize, or fail to appreciate. It’s easy to get mired in simplified clichés: Ithaca is . . .complete the sentence.
One of those clichés boasts that Ithaca is “ten square miles surrounded by reality.” In other words, it’s a kooky, free-thinking alternative to conventional America. But Ithaca is, in fact, connected to all the realities of this country, whether we like it or not.
As many of the articles in this issue point out, Ithaca doesn’t always live up to its progressive reputation. It’s still plagued by problems found throughout the U.S. including racism, poverty and corporatization of the economy.
Some things we can blame on circumstances beyond our control. For example, as Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center points out on pg. 24, New York State Law prevents Tompkins County from establishing a higher minimum wage. But some of Ithaca’s shortcomings we have the ability to address.
Segments of Ithaca’s population may be living out some sort of progressive ideal, but there are plenty of Ithacans who don’t have access to the same ideas and information. How do people living below the poverty line afford to buy organic food? How can a single mother working two minimum wage jobs be expected to take part in political activism? How many of Ithaca’s activists are consciously working to include marginalized groups in their campaigns? Part of what is holding Ithaca back is the divisions between rich and poor, black and white, alternative and mainstream, town and gown.
Ithaca has a lot of potential as a place where positive ideas can become Ithaca-reality. People here are passionate about their ideals, but to cite another cliché, this group of Ithacans “thinks globally and acts locally.” The problem is that sometimes we need to think locally as well. Dealing with global issues like climate change or the war in Iraq on a local level is important, but recognizing problems in our own community is a sometimes harder but equally important task, one that may require us to change our own ways of thinking and living.
In this issue we ask you to look critically at the many realities of the Ithaca as a community and not as a stereotype.