Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hey Milwaukee, let's trash the inferiority complex

Milwaukee skyline
Jim Bauer

88Nine's Executive Director Glenn Kleiman was having a great time at Bay View Gallery Night last week. But then came a comment that he couldn't let pass -- without his response, below.
The neighborhood is alive. Restaurants are packed. Live music is spilling out of bars onto busy sidewalks. Art is on display everywhere – even in a barbershop. Makers are selling crafts under small tents.

This is Bay View Gallery Night and Bay View Jazz Fest. And even the weather is beautiful.

But then my friend introduces a dark cloud. He points to a crowd enjoying live jazz and delivers the dreaded line: “This doesn’t look like Milwaukee, does it?” His point: Milwaukee isn't really this vibrant, this cool.

First, let me answer the question: Yes, it does look like Milwaukee. Because it is Milwaukee.

But let’s get to the real issue -- the lingering feeling (among some) that Milwaukee is not hip enough, not sophisticated enough, not whatever enough.

Isn’t it past time that we get over this?

I’m not ignoring our city’s serious problems. In fact, Radio Milwaukee’s mission is to be a catalyst for making this a better place. So, we all know Milwaukee isn’t perfect. (What city is?) But let’s trash the inferiority thing.

We’ve got way too much going for us. I won’t list all the good stuff. That feels like defending something that doesn’t need defending.

Maybe it takes a transplant to appreciate what we have. My wife and I moved here more than 30 years ago for a job in TV. I figured we’d stay for about three years, then move to a bigger market, as TV people tend to do. But as our family grew (two daughters), we realized we had found our home.

I’ve met many people not originally from Milwaukee who love living here. But I also know natives who love the city.

Maybe some of us feel we need a stamp of approval from some alleged national tastemaker. Why? Are we really going to depend on some superficial external validation to make us feel better about ourselves?

We don’t need to apologize. We don’t need to explain why we’re really different than an ancient stereotype based on a sitcom. (Is that really how an intelligent person forms an opinion of a city?)

And we don’t have to put down Chicago – or anywhere else -- to feel better about our city. (Although it’s fun to beat the Bears.)

We just have to believe in Milwaukee ourselves.

Photo by Jim Bauer