We’ll try…hmmmm. Doesn’t exude much confidence, does it?
“We’ll Try,” Fall River’s 170 year-old motto, was created as a resolve to inspire a community to rebuild after the great fire of 1843. It gave the city a sense of hope from despair, and a few years later the city did rise again.
In 2013, those same words seem to construe a different meaning in our current despair: apathy.
With one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, and people and jobs leaving here as fast as you can scoff down a chow mein sandwich, Fall River needs to do more that just live apathetically by our motto.
Even the slogan’s brevity sort of defines us as a people: dismissive and lacking enthusiasm. What was meant to give it our all, whether it resulted in success or not, now has mutated into an acceptance of failure with the illusion that we ‘tried.’
I’ll ‘try’ to explain…
Having decades to reinvent ourselves as the textile industry was slowly leaving Fall River, we had done little to nothing except to exact pity for our own failings. As a result, an apathetic culture has been created and has stifled the city’s growth for better part of a century.
So I ask you this question: what have we done?
Take a good long look at Fall River. I beseech you – do you see our civic, economic and elected leaders today making realistic efforts toward success with dogged enthusiasm?
Five years ago the city created the ‘arts overlay district’ to invigorate downtown with the arts. Today, I am still waiting for the arts to arrive.
Yes, we have a current ‘restaurant boom,’ but how long is that going to last when most people do not have the disposable income to keep these restaurants viable? Restaurants and entertainment are a result of a strong established economy, not a precursor to one.
In a city of 88,000 and declining, I have yet to see movie theaters, bike shops, nor bowling alleys – integral parts of an entertainment economic engine – reemerge after disappearing from here a number of years ago. This is telling that the ‘restaurant boom’ might be just an anomaly.
So are we trying, or just throwing caution into the wind recklessly?
Two years ago I wrote a piece in the Herald News about the Quaker Mill site and what it could represent for the future of the city. This parcel of land over 100 years ago had one of the many cornerstones that built Fall River into a giant within the textile industry. With the textile industry long gone and the mill torn down for reinvestment, the investors could have reinvigorated Fall River and its people by placing a new cornerstone to not just help rebuild, but to redefine the city. Anything.
So what do they decide to build? A Walmart. A ‘super’ Walmart. Telling, no?
I reiterate: are we really trying? Is a new Walmart in the best interest for the city? I don’t believe wages earned working here would help feed the ‘restaurant boom’ much, if at all. If it fails to help turnaround Fall River, I can almost hear the words echoing throughout the watering holes of the city, “Eh, we tried.”
And there is our motto: “We’ll Try,” taking on a defeatist tone, but there to comfort us in our time of need.
One can make an argument that we are trying, but in truth we are not succeeding. Fall River can’t afford to keep trying and failing. If you want to succeed, then do it!
If I could make a small suggestion, and I’m not sure how much good it would do, but it’s worth a shot. It would behoove our mayor in the best interest for the city’s future to change our less-than-inspirational motto. Change it into something we all could be inspired by and motivate the community to do better. Strive to be better, and not to be complacent for the lowest common denominator.
If he were smart, as this is an election year, he would both engage the city’s artists with a contest to create a new slogan and logo for the city, and inspire a community creatively and positively.
It would not hurt to ‘try’ it, but the long-term rewards could be great for the city if we were to ‘do’ it.
And if we do it, ‘we’ll succeed.’