Attempting to understand the city of Fort Smith with all its layers is tantamount to peeling the proverbial onion. However, this Fort Smith onion definitely seems to be on steroids. The layers are myriad and complex. And, as I have noted before, there is no one big understanding that explains why Fort Smith is the way it is but there are many, many smaller understandings that, when looked at individually and then, when looked at as a composite, do begin to explain a few things; things that were perhaps previously somewhat baffling.
For me, the exploration into, and then the identification and articulation of the dominant mindset of Fort Smith i.e., the fort/fear mindset...has helped to substantially diminish the diverse assortment of grievances I have been accumulating and holding against the city in the duration since my return to the city. In other words, I am no longer taking Fort Smith personally. I understand it for what it is and it ain't personal.
Interestingly enough, but no real surprise, as the grievances diminish and drop away, my Fort Smith experience reflects that change. Grievances, it seems to me, are analogous to a strong wind blowing across a body of water. The wind stirs the water up into a murky agitation crowned with a plethora of white caps. Once the wind dies down the water returns to a state of deep transparent stillness. Once grievances are allowed to drop away, what was an aggravating experience transforms into an experience of calm and peace.
Even though I could easily continue the Fort Smith Experience Part 15 sub-series until I use up all the letters of the alphabet and then quite probably go on from there...part 15 (j) was a good place to hit the pause button. And Part 16 is as good as place as any to hit the pause button on the Fort Smith Experience blog series overall. The Fort Smith experience, of course, continues on, at least as long as anyone is thinking about it, but my writing about it, because of choice, will now fall out of that experience.
The city of Fort Smith is what it is and it will continue on being what it is. The city of Fort Smith has, since its beginning as a military fort...a fort that emerged out of a fear of losing control (white man's control)...has, by way of how it has developed and told its story (its his-story), manufactured a construct of self-image or city-image. This artificial self-concept (spawned in fear of losing control) is the dominant, prevailing and generally accepted culture of the city.
I view Fort Smith as being analogous to the person that works at a minimum wage job and continually dreams of being someone broadly recognized as being special, elite, having prestige and being an opinion leader to their peers. Yet, the person is so afraid of losing what little they have, which they have elevated into a status of haughty self-importance, and they are so invested in their manufactured concept of self (including their self-worth) that they cannot bring their self to change their mind and thus change what they do and what they have. In the way this person thinks, if they were to change anything about themselves that would be a public attestation that they had been wrong all along. Because this person is so afraid they must always perceive their self and, believe they are being perceived by others, as being right. So, instead of developing, flourishing and prospering...they cling to and ferociously defend their position and continue telling their stories that validate what they are choosing to be, do and have. Their dreams exist as demonstrations of wishful thinking.
Note: all these expensive studies the city of Fort Smith has had conducted over the years and continues to have done is just one example of how the city defends their position and validates what it is choosing to be, do and have. The studies are a way of keeping things in the future and always out of reach.
There are a few rare individuals that despite the odds against them, arise in Fort Smith and feel that it is their duty, their obligation, their mission to do whatever they can do to make the city a better place to live. Not just for themselves but for EVERYBODY. These individuals, whether they were born here or moved here, have a vision of what can be and the status quo is not acceptable to them. These visionaries are not quitters, their fears don't stop them and they have a certainty that they can change the city for the better. And while these individuals, in their efforts to better the city do manage to bring about some degree of betterment, they fall way, way short of achieving anything close to their vision of what could be. And this is "business as usual" in Fort Smith.
Visionaries are inherently enthusiastic (even if quietly enthusiastic), energetic, purpose driven individuals that do not consider barriers to be stops. The true visionaries of Fort Smith (and they are very few in number), do not understand the barrier they inevitably hit in their attempts to bring Fort Smith into a higher range of existence. They do not realize how deeply rooted this barrier is and cannot begin to conceive how pervasive it is. This "barrier," the fort/fear mindset of the city, that the visionary encounters again and again and again is the veritable woof and warp of the city culture. It is in everything and it is everywhere throughout the city. One cannot escape it. This incredibly formidable barrier IS the city of Fort Smith. It is the extant identity of the city and personally, I see it remaining in full force for many, many generations to come. Of course, miracles are always possible even if they seem remotely improbable.
The interesting thing is, though, that if you were to have a conversation about this "barrier" with a resident of Fort Smith, they, more often than not, would readily agree with what you're saying. And all the while they would be identifying one person or another, one group or another as being the "poster child" representing what is stopping Fort Smith from being doing or having one thing or another. Never, will you hear the person including their self; what they think; what they do as having anything to do with the problem. Yet, if one is looking, if one is really listening...they will witness the person doing exactly what they are accusing others of doing. This, prevailing lack of self-awareness, lack of self-examination as it relates to how one's condition and the city's condition are connected, is an important aspect of why the 'barrier' is so formidable.
Keep in mind: All doing comes from thinking. Experience is ALWAYS preceded by choice. Choice is dictated by the belief systems one knowingly or unknowingly adheres to. What one believes will always be reflected in their experience. If you are in someway dissatisfied with your experience...examine your thinking and your choices to determine the source of why your experience is what it is. The source is never outside one's self.