“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth”

By Montecito Journal   |   May 16, 2023

I am glad that “Robert’s Big Questions” are published regularly in the weekly Montecito Journal. The writer is among my most interesting friends (among other things, he’s the widely grinning high-brow guy cavorting about on his unicycle in parades and events around town), and I find it worthwhile to consider how and what he thinks. Case in point: his column of May 11, in which he posits the question: “[Is it] Good to be Unreasonable?”

Robert asks, “How do you respond when you see an injustice? Are you inspired to action? Or do you just try to adapt to it?”

He then asserts: “Most people are raised with a belief that life is unfair, but there will be an afterlife where justice will be served… Jesus tells his followers, ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” These folks, Robert tells us, are the “reasonable” people who will adapt to injustice, believing that “all will be made right by the sky god.” He then asserts, “But the unreasonable person is not going to wait for an imaginary sky god to make things right. They work to make things right here and now.”

Among the unreasonable action-figures of the world, Robert counts himself and Ralph Nader. He writes, “I have had the opportunity of meeting Nader several times and seeing him speak about a wide range of topics. His upbringing was very similar to my own: in a Semitic family in rural central Connecticut. His family was Lebanese; ours was Jewish. For both of us, family dinner conversations revolved around world events and what could be done to make things better. I just assumed that this was normal for everyone. Why wasn’t it?”

Robert is on particularly thin ice here, I think, unless I am missing the relevance of his assertion that dinner conversation in a Semitic family is fundamentally different from the conversation around the family dinner table of folks of diverse beliefs and practices, such as mine.

For me, Robert breaks through the ice and begins to flail when he asserts that, “Most people become activists because something makes them angry,” and that, “‘Taking sides’ is the only way change ever happens.” I am sorry to read Robert’s last lines: “The bad guys distract us with wedge issues. But if we remember what side we are on, we can win.” Here, I am ready to plunge into the water to help my friend get his footing on land.

And so, this:

I too knew Ralph Nader, and I modeled some of my early public interest environmental defense legal work on the efforts of his “Nader’s Raiders” teams. I had a conversation with him on the last month of the 2000 presidential race in an effort to persuade him to drop out in favor of Vice President Al Gore, and I was stunned by his self-righteous (and extremely unreasonable) refusal to do so, thus creating the situation that enabled Bush II to become President.

As a long-time mediation and dispute-resolution practitioner and teacher, I know too that “getting angry” is surely neither the only nor the best way to get to work as an activist, and that “taking sides” is surely neither the only nor the best way to do the work of coming up with just and peaceful resolutions to life’s inevitable conflicts.

According to one of the world’s oldest wisdom traditions, “The way to do is to be.” During my 50-some years as an activist and educator, I have sought to be in love and to do as love does in my work. I have had successes, and I have had failures, none so distracting me from keeping on working for that in which I believe. At my best, I am able to act both heartfully and reasonably, neither angry nor needing to take sides against anyone.

Again, I am grateful for the column and for the opportunity to respond to it.

Marc McGinnes
Santa Barbara

Keep on Truckin’

Mike and many of the hard-working trade employees support and need Irma and her food truck

Recently, I learned that the Mexican food trucks which park down below Casa Dorinda and also up by San Ysidro Creek off of E. Valley Road have been told by SBSD not to come around Montecito anymore because of citizen complaints. 

I beg to differ with these few complainers, and have amassed about 30 something letters of support, so that Irma and her truck and crew may come back to sell food to the workers in Montecito, and also the truck that parked up by San Ysidro Creek. 

Here are some images to prove my cause and she has a hearing with the county on Wednesday, I understand. If I could do one thing before I retire that would help the remaining workers of Montecito, it would be to get these trucks back for lunch hour as they bring reasonably priced food to our locations, which is hard to get elsewhere. Thanks for your consideration, and I’m also going to get these to Montecito Association in the hopes they can affect meaningful change for the good of Montecito’s hard-working employees of many trades. 

Mike Clark, MWD

A table of support

Only One-way for State

At one time, State Street was one of the most attractive and vibrant streets in California. A drive down State was a must for visitors and locals alike to enjoy the Spanish motif, as well as to get a glimpse of the many boutique shops that adorned the street. Equally enjoyable was the convenience of the electric trolleys, and of course, the parades and festivals that make Santa Barbara special.

This changed with COVID, as restaurants struggled to survive and the city offered help by closing off State Street and allowing restaurants to erect parklets for outdoor dining. While this rightfully helped restaurants, State Street became less accessible and the parklets turned out to be eyesores, as well as breeding grounds for dirt and rodents.

With COVID officially over, there has been a great deal of discussion on how to return State Street to an attractive and vibrant thoroughfare. The best suggestion I’ve heard came from a restaurant owner whose main interest is making State Street a world-class destination for locals and tourists alike.

With that as the goal, we suggest the following:

Widen the sidewalks and allow restaurants and retailers to use the space as they do in Paris, Rome, or the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Outside dining in settings with attractive wrought iron fencing, colorful awnings, and umbrellas that contribute to the beauty of our city.

Make State Street a one-way street with a dedicated bike path. Add to this the return of electric buses for easy access to local businesses and, most importantly, bring back the parades and festivals to State Street that make Santa Barbara a destination for people from all over the world.

Expensive? Yes. Worth it in the long term? Absolutely!

George Lilly

It’s Not Fair

How violence has changed the landscape of the county fair…

“Mom, can you please pick me up? Now?” my very sage 13-year-old texted me from the county fair last night. “I think this might be a good time to leave.”

This was the first time she and her friends were allowed to go to the fair without a parent, and my anxiety was already at Defcon 2 before they even left. The parents had all agreed that a 9 pm pick-up was more than late enough, in spite of the protests to the contrary.

Which was why I was so surprised to get her text at 8 pm.

My daughter and her friends told me they had started noticing swarms of kids all dressed similarly in baggy pants, chains around their wastes and necks, flannel shirts and vans. “Your brother and his friends are at the fair?” I asked. I am sure she rolled her eyes at me, but that is kind of how they dress.

As our kids have grown up in a very “woke” town, in a very woke age, she was loathe to say what she really meant, which was that the groups of kids looked like gang members. Not wanting to judge or seem racist with her assumptions, but that is exactly what they were. Rival gangs who we later found out, had agreed to meet at the fair. In the kids’ area. To fight. The police on site quickly broke up the hundreds that had gathered but there were murmurs that they were going to try again at 9 pm. To fight. In the kids’ area. Seriously?

Then the girls saw someone from outside the fair slip a gun under the gate to evade the metal detectors that are now sadly commonplace at these events. The girls immediately left, reported what they saw to the police and went to wait at the school next door for their parents to pick them up. I commended them on their quick-thinking, as well as their decision to stay out of harm’s way, rather than to stick around to witness the impending drama.

There are so many aspects of a fair that unsettle me. Not just in the “I might pee in my pants, it is so scary” kind of thing, but the fact that the rides themselves, unlike permanent installations at amusement parks, are taken down, transported, and reassembled at each location makes me very nervous. And my fears are warranted.

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital: “A study by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy found that, over a 20-year period, there were more than 27,000 injuries to kids under 18 serious enough to be treated in hospital emergency departments from mobile rides, like those found at fairs and festivals.” So, there’s that. The throngs of strangers, that in my hypervigilant, neurotic-mother state trigger images of stampeding clowns. And, of course, the violence. Each year, the fighting seems to get worse. And the jeopardy rises exponentially once weapons are involved.

On the way home, my somewhat shaken daughter unintentionally synthesized the experience by saying, “There were balloons popping everywhere. Mom, I don’t want to hear balloons popping and be worried it’s a gun.” 

I know, love. Nobody does.

Deann Zampelli

Literal Literary Impact

Did you know that the Santa Barbara Public Library offers early literacy classes to over 20,000 participants and supports over 600,000 patrons per year? 

As a finance professional, I’ve always appreciated the fact that we can learn and enjoy a great book for free at our library, but in a time where Economic Equity is front and center, I couldn’t feel more grateful to see our public library stepping up and increasing their services to better support our community. Last year in particular, the library hosted a series of evening online classes on How to start a Childcare at Home Business in Spanish. The six-week class resulted from a collaboration with Women’s Economic Ventures, and I had the pleasure of facilitating it. Once the class ended, we met in person at one of Eastside’s Library Stay & Play weekly gatherings to learn more about how participants benefited from the resources, growth, and connections that they were able to nurture through the library. 

Before getting involved with our Santa Barbara Library, I had a very limited notion of the impact that modern libraries can have in our communities, and today if I had to describe the library’s impact in one word, I would say: equity. Public libraries are one of the last public spaces where all are welcome, all are equal, and all can learn free of charge. Thank you to everyone that works to ensure that libraries continue to open doors and help create a more equitable community for all.

Irene Kelly, Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation Board member 

Come Bonsai with Us

The Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara will hold its annual show, sale and demonstrations Saturday and Sunday May 13 and 14 in the Fellowship Hall at Trinity Lutheran Church, 909 La Cumbre Road at the corner of Foothill Road. Admission is free and open to all who may be interested. Saturday and Sunday hours are 11 am to 4 pm.

There will be a professional show of Club Members’ trees in a variety of styles. There will also be a sales area for trees, pots, tools and other related bonsai items, as well as a silent auction for special items. Bonsai demonstrations will be held on both days
at 1 pm. 

Club members will be available to answer questions on the art of bonsai and there will be a free bonsai problem clinic. Attendees are welcome to bring in trees for advice. A beginning workshop will be held in early June and attendees can get further information and sign up at the show.

For further information about the show, contact Ernie Witham at erniesworld.humor@gmail.com or 805-453-5336; to know more about the club, please contact Club President, Jeff Sczechowski, at bonsaiclubsantabarbara@gmail.com.

Ernie Witham  


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