McMullen: Let's keep this notion: City is Sedalia, not Sedentary

April 23, 2012

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about cleaning up the litter that lines our streets. It’s not exactly a stunningly innovative thought, and it’s not a particularly bold stance to take, but it is a thought that makes people nod their heads.

And partly because of that column, some might think that my opinion of Sedalia’s general appearance would be pretty low — but that’s just not true.

That’s the hot topic right now in the Queen City of the Prairies — is Sedalia, as a whole, sufficiently aesthetically pleasing? Are our picket fences nice and white? Are our yards moved to a desirable height?

And there’s even a new committee dedicated to policing the appearance of old Sedville — The Citizens for a Clean Sedalia advise the City Council on all matters of collective visual appeal.

Honestly, though, there was already a group of people who were “for a clean Sedalia.” but they’re just called Sedalians. It makes it sound like there’s a another council that defers to panels like “Citizens for a Dirty Sedalia” and “Citizens Committee for Stunted Growth.”

Some situations just don’t require a committee.

It might just be my well-documented dark red Sedalia upbringing, but I will never understand why anyone thinks that Sedalia is disproportionately displeasing. Yeah, there’s some trash; there are some houses that are slowly but surely being reclaimed by nature, and there’s a street sign near my house with a picture of Al Capone painted on the back of it, but overall Sedalia is not really any worse than anywhere else.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? We have higher standards than anywhere else. Everyone has higher standards than everyone else, as a matter of fact. There’s always somewhere better, and there’s always somewhere worse. But we always hope to do better than better.

Maybe we’ll finally overcome society itself and we’ll reach a new level in Sedalian visual appeal. People will come from miles around to see the golden home of the Missouri State Fair.

They’ll come with their rulers to measure our grass, and they’ll come with their paint sample books to determine if we’ve used the right shade of white. (They require white, darn it, and heaven help you if you’re trying to get away with ivory, snow, seashell, mint cream or even cosmic latte.)

In a human neighborhood, there is always going to be an acceptable level of uncleanliness. Some people see a lawn that is a little too long and start thinking about property values and codes and start feeling indignation that this person isn’t adhering to their standards of Sedalia.

I never have and never will understand this position. Personally, I don’t concern myself with the length of someone else’s grass. What business of it is mine, really?

It seems that we strive to achieve personal individuality while encouraging others to blend in. When everyone’s lawn is the same length, it is much easier for people to notice your new birdbath, or that sign you just got that has your last name on it.

I don’t essentially think that Sedalia needs to be “cleaner,” but I can see where it might need to be healthier and safer. There are properties in town that aren’t sufficiently fit for habitation. That old car sitting in your neighbor’s backyard probably isn’t going to hurt anyone, but that chimney that isn’t up to code just might.

We have to make a distinction between visually displeasing and legitimately dangerous. We can’t wage a war on quirkiness. Sure, that house down the street might be three different colors, but you’d never guess that the plumbing is impeccable and that the people contained within are unbelievably nice.

Everyone wants a better Sedalia. Let’s make it safer, healthier and more interesting — but let’s not fall victim to the people who would like to see the city act like an overgrown homeowner’s association.

What? Are you trying to tell me that you don’t like the beeramid that is slowly growing within plain sight of your kitchen window?