You should know I don’t give a rat’s rear end about my physical address.
I’ve lived on something called Cinnabar Lane. On Hortense Street. On Sunnyside Avenue. On Alta Cuesta Drive. On Pacific Avenue. On Highland Drive. On Honeybee Circle. And on a bunch of other streets whose only designation was an impersonal number.
And at all those addresses — through all those moves — not once has my family and I ever given so much as a second thought to the name of the street we lived on. I’ve never said, “Highland Drive? I hate living on a street called Highland Drive.” Nor has my wife ever insisted, “I think I like that house we looked at on 28th Street a lot more, but we just HAVE to buy the one on Honeybee Circle. It’s such an adorable name.”
Furthermore, I’ll wager that the overwhelming majority of people in this world don’t care what their street is called, as long as they can call it home.
So then, why have so many folks — for so many years — gotten their undies in a wad over whether or not Ogden City should give honorary names to 24th and 30th streets?
Back in 1995, at the encouragement of community leader Forrest Crawford, Ogden City considered a proposal to give 24th Street the honorary designation of “Martin Luther King Jr. Street.” (Oh, and just so’s you know? An honorary designation doesn’t mean residents have to change their addresses. It’s just a nice little token to honor someone or something. Plus which, we do it all the time with, for example, streets in front of high schools.)
Although the original MLK Street proposal extended between G Street and Harrison Boulevard, then-council member Jesse Garcia realized it wouldn’t pass if he tried to get it east of Jefferson Avenue. He amended the proposal, and it eventually passed the council, 4-3.
A similar thing happened eight years later, when community members tried to give 30th Street an honorary designation for labor leader and Latino activist César Chávez. That one was fine, too, as long as it stayed west of Monroe Boulevard.
The take-home lesson? Keep honorary street names for minorities on the west side of town, and east-side residents are A-OK with it.
This past week, after years of on-and-off wrangling, the Ogden City Council finally did the right thing and approved a proposal extending the honorary designation of both streets up to Harrison Boulevard, with new signage added along the routes.
It’s a shame the council didn’t extend those names all the way to the mountains on the east, but hey, Harrison Boulevard is a good start.
Despite the city council’s welcome decision, there are still a few out there who begrudge this small gesture. To those I say: I’m truly ashamed we share the same community.
Garcia said that at the time César Chávez Street was suggested, one disingenuous council member asked why the city couldn’t rename a street “Brigham Street” after early Mormon pioneer leader Brigham Young. Others have since parroted that argument.
Seriously? I’m not sure if y’all are familiar with this place we call Utah, but we’ve got entire communities named after old white leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may have heard of some of them: Brigham City. St. George. Taylorsville. Woodruff. Heber City. Hyrum. Snowville. The list goes on and on.
What’s more, there are plenty of other towns named for characters in The Book of Can-I-Still-Call-It-Mormon. Places like Moroni, Nephi, Lehi.
And yet, the argument against symbolic street designations honoring two pillars of the American civil rights movement is that we simply don’t have enough LDS-affiliated place names?
Really? That’s your final answer?
Heck, we’ve got streets in Ogden named after some of the worst human beings in history. Backstabbing, slavery-promoting, incompetent presidents who put power and avarice above serving We the People. And yet, what? Some of us think naming streets for civil rights leaders will somehow affect property values on the East Bench?
I honestly struggle to understand why anyone would oppose such a simple, harmless expression of love and respect for our neighbors as the honorary naming of a street. It’s such a little thing, and yet it means so much to those who, frankly, feel particularly marginalized in our current society.
In nearly four decades of marriage, my wife never asked me for the Moon, or to slay a dragon for her. She just wanted me to do the dishes once in awhile, or rub her back, or tell her that I love her.
Simple little things that, more than grandiose professions of eternal fidelity, show that I really do care.
Believe it or not, these two honorary street designations — like doing the dishes — are a simple, powerful way to show a couple of small but significant segments of our population that we care. Basically, such street signs say: “We honor those whom you honor. We recognize your heroes as our heroes.”
Ah, but only to a certain point. And right now, that point is anything west of Harrison Boulevard.
You know, it really is true. I’ve never cared what my street address was.
Because right now I wish I lived on 24th Street above Harrison Boulevard, where I could start addressing all my mail with “Martin Luther King Jr. Street.”
It would be a nice little gesture of civil disobedience.