Controversy

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A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying...that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
— Alexander Pope
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Owning My Past

Back in 2013, after witnessing the travesty that is Market St. San Francisco, I made a Facebook post complaining about homelessness there. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than venting my frustration regarding our lack of solutions and raising safety concerns for everyone involved, but intentions and results are two different things. It didn't take long for me to realize that my sentiment was insensitive and arrogant, and showcased some of the worst sides of my personality. As luck would have it, my Facebook post went viral and became a bat signal for local non-profits and homeless advocates to weaponize for their causes.

To say things became a little blown out of proportion is an understatement. ValleyWag drew first blood and a few local papers soon joined the feeding frenzy. Then, guided by a friend who used to be the editor of Mashable, we issued a tone-deaf 4 sentence apology, which only made things worse. This ineffective apology also went viral, and from that point on it seemed there was nothing I could say or do to atone or explain myself. While I wish there wasn't such a vehement backlash to what was otherwise just another individual opinion on the Internet, I also get it.

Honestly, I learned a lot from this experience: about myself, about our culture and – most importantly – about homelessness, addiction, affordable housing, disenfranchised communities, civic engagement, politics and PR. I learned a lot about how governments do and don't work, how federal funds are used and all the wasteful ways they are misused. I learned about non-profits, advocacy groups, and how they work tirelessly to push forward for their causes. I learned about the pain and suffering thousands of men, women and children are enduring, daily, right outside our windows.

Did I put my foot in my mouth? Definitely. Did I learn my lesson? You bet. And has it helped inspire me to do everything I can to make a positive difference? I try more and more each and every day...

 

All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.
— Winston Churchill

 
The most common response I get is that “You didn’t do anything wrong. You just said what everyone was thinking. You’re just not supposed to put it out there like that.”
And while that is true, I still took the opportunity to learn that which was not clear to me before and become a better man from it.
-Greg Gopman