I Hear You



I hear you.

Remember when you pulled me aside at the mullet toss last year and confided that you were disgusted with the city? I listened.

That time you called me up and asked just who was making the calls on council, anyway? Maybe I didn’t chime in and agree, but every word made an impact.

Last month, when you grabbed my shirt sleeve and said, “Hey, can I talk to you for a minute? What’s this nonsense about ‘boys against the girls’ on council?” I know I just nodded, but that night, on my couch, I turned the earful you gave me over and over in my mind.

When you sent me an e-mail in December and told me you didn’t want to stay in Gulfport if the incumbents won re-election? That made me think a lot about what Gulfport looks like to newcomers.

When you told me I wasn’t any good for the city just right then because I was listening too closely to a small group of unhappy people? I didn’t agree at all, but I respected you for telling me to my face, and the fact that you did so made me look closely at my own behavior.

When you gave me an earful about the vice mayorship and asked why some people hated Sam Henderson? When you asked me why no one was standing up to what you called “a small group of angry birds”? When I saw you at an ArtWalk and you railed against the people you said pulled the strings for the sake of doing so? When you had tears in your eyes because you didn’t understand why no one seemed willing to speak up anymore as you watched what you, too, identified as a “small, loud group” use city council meetings and Facebook to lambast the Vice Mayor, the Mayor and the newest councilman? When you wondered why the paper didn’t do anything when someone called one of our readers a “homophobe” when you know he isn’t? When you asked me why I didn’t do something about what you were certain were Sunshine Law violations? When you asked me after city council what happened to the “live and let live” mentality you valued so much in Gulfport? When you shook your head and told me you didn’t want anyone to know you felt this way, but the city had changed and you didn’t want to be a part of it anymore?

When you thanked me for standing up for you, even though I didn’t know I was?

I heard you. I heard all of you. It’s simply taken me a bit to process everything.

Your words, not mine, wrote this column. Everything I just mentioned has happened. You asked that I maintain your confidences, and I will never betray that, but my heart breaks for so many of you who seem beaten down, disgusted, and alone. I want you to see that you are not the only one with these fears who came to me and told me, in different words, the same story. Many of you think I’m speaking directly to you, and I am. I'm just not speaking only to you.

You whispered to me the fears of Everyman. Some of you live in the Yacht and Country Club; some of you rent. Still others own small cottages north of Gulfport Boulevard. You are gay. You are straight. You have children. You never want children. You love your city. You want to be left alone. You fish. You hate to fish. You grew up here. You moved here five years ago. Yours is the voice that guides me. You are the reason I love this little city on the bay. You are angry.

You are scared.

You are not alone.

We are still Gulfport. YOU are still Gulfport. This is our city. Speak up. Stand together. An army of like-minded Gulfportians stands with you.

At least, that’s what I hear.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.