Is Ocean City changing? That’s a question many have been asking of late, and the obvious answer is yes.
Ocean City is changing and so is Fenwick Island, Berlin, Millville, Salisbury, Ocean Pines and communities across the country. We are always in a state of flux and it has to do with society always in a constant evolution.
Perhaps no place is it most evident than in Ocean City, a true melting pot during the summer season that epitomizes the racial diversity of this area as well as the multitude of cultural norms that seem to be changing by the week. Ocean City is really no different than a big mall — it’s a mecca for people watching and usually a reflection of what is the norm in society today.
Rather than turn our noses at the many different segments of society that come to Ocean City, perhaps we should embrace it more, albeit with a cautious eye and a requirement that those bastions of today’s culture behave within the boundaries of the law and acceptable standards.
That’s why this week’s well-rounded discussion on a proposed decency ordinance being championed by Councilman Brent Ashley served a worthwhile purpose. The discussion has largely centered around baggy pants, but it’s much more complicated than that. It’s about establishing a set of standards to what Ocean City finds is acceptable. It’s murky waters to chart to be certain, and the will of the council does not appear to support a law restricting the type of apparel people can wear on the Boardwalk.
Nonetheless, the conversation was revealing and symbolized what many have on their minds of late. Council President Lloyd Martin was perhaps most blunt about it, referring back to the crime wave in June that is largely linked to the senior week crowds.
“We had a week in Ocean City that was a little unruly … hopefully that is not the norm. I haven’t seen it as the norm in Ocean City … we will get to the bottom of it. We find out who these people are and why they are here. That is what you do. It is not about how somebody dresses,” Martin said. “I want a positive message to be sent out there. I want to show that we are going to address the concerns, do the right thing but not jump to conclusions. We need to do it right …”
Martin is on point and a brainstorming session to reflect on the madness that was this June needs to be balanced with the traditionally family-rich months of July and August and the event-rich September.
What we have observed in Ocean City is reflective of what is happening across this country. People simply do not behave and act in the same manner, and many of us are bothered about how foreign it appears to be. Acceptable behavior is not today what it was five or 10 years ago. Generally, some people seem to enjoy extolling a grim exterior as a means to intimidate. Many people are apt for more aggression during simple confrontations and evidence of that is everywhere around us.
Case in point is last month’s shooting in the downtown area that began with a verbal altercation and eventually led to a man pulling a gun and firing multiple shots at other subjects. Last weekend, a couple men questioned a motorist speeding through a parking lot. That motorist then pulled out a machete and threatened them.
These sorts of extreme reactions spotlight what has changed in our culture. Rather than verbal sparring or a fistfight or a shoving match ensuing in these two incidents, a gun was drawn and a knife was pulled out. That sort of excessive reaction is a new phenomenon.
How the city can address that sort of cultural shift is unknown. It’s probably impossible, but the process needs to start with identifying what exactly the city can address within its power and then determine how it goes about it.
While we hoped that discussion would take place sooner than later, the fall might actually be the best time, but it needs to be when the entire summer as a whole is fresh on the minds of policy and decision makers and concrete data can be used to facilitate realistic options.