As a daily reader of this newspaper, I am constantly reminded of the dualities in our community: cyclists vs. drivers, pedestrians vs. cyclists, pilots vs. close the airport folks, no growth vs. slow growth vs. grow all you want, unless that growth refers to hedges…in which case chop them down shorter. And don’t get me started on green vs. brown (lawns, that is). If one only responded to letters and articles and editorials published locally it would be nearly impossible to draw any sort of compelling moral compass. You are either this or that, with no middle ground.

On Wednesday, my 16-year-old daughter was sideswiped by a car while driving home. The other driver clearly had somewhere to go and didn’t feel that the road was wide enough for her, so she swerved into the bike lane/parking area to “squeeze” through. When my daughter, the driver of the car that she was pushed into and the driver that caused the accident got out of their cars, they agreed to go around the corner to exchange insurance information. However, upon getting into her car, the instigator of this problem said, “My car isn’t too bad” and sped away, sadly before anyone wrote down her license plate number. My daughter’s car was left seriously damaged and basically not operational. As a relatively new driver, she was on the verge of hysterics. Thankfully, the driver of the car that she struck was kind and patient, even though he was emotionally shaken up as well. As my daughter called her parents about what to do while standing next to a crashed car, another driver yelled at her as she passed, letting her know that she was “blocking the road!”

Honestly, so often we get bogged down with the minutiae. What side are you on? Do you support this or that? Him or her? But at the end of the day, none of that matters. At the end of the day, the only thing that really means anything is what you chose to do when a moral choice is presented. When you see a crying human being going through a difficult moment, do you stop and see if you can help or do you yell angrily as you pass by? When you make a mistake, do you say “I was wrong” and stay to repair the damage or do you run away?

Who we are as a community in Santa Monica shouldn’t come down to whether we voted yes or no on Measure T or if we attended the last SMRR convention. Or whether we ride or walk or drive or fly. When push comes to shove, what matters is what we do when someone needs us to act. As we teach our children, are we “upstanders or bystanders”? Or are we something even worse? Like a person who endangers the safety of multiple people and then runs and hides instead of owning her mistake.

During this holiday season, as we are supposed to seek out what we are grateful for and count our many blessings, not the least of which is living in Santa Monica, we should examine not just what we say but what we do. Can we make a mistake and not hide? Can we disagree but still coexist?

And if anyone sees a white Lexus SUV with damage to its driver’s side, driven by a white female with blond or white hair in her 60’s, feel free to email me at:

Jon Kean

Santa Monica