Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Common ground?

I'm a big fan of the Trenton blogs, all of them. I read the local newspapers every day eagerly, even though there's way too much not getting reported in Trenton (good and bad news). I love the opinion pieces and devour them voraciously, even though I often don't agree with all them. I'm a big fan of the new forum, even though I don't see eye-to-eye with everything I read there. I love a vocal community, I like information, I like different opinions. It challenges my beliefs, but I think it's a good thing; it helps promote diplomacy, understanding.

I read an article this weekend in Utne Reader about what happens to us when we disagree, and here in the US, we have a bad habit to get really angry at one another. So, I have been trying, after reading that this weekend, to remember just because I disagree with an opinion, it doesn't mean that the person uttering that opinion is a complete right-off (well, usually).

So it's in that spirit I've been trying to write this week, but it's HARD. We're so prone to pissy rebuttals, and demonizing each other simply because we disagree. I've been thinking a lot about how I likened Mayor Palmer to my tantrum-prone niece, Emma, and wondering if I should feel badly about that, or at least try not to make such comparisons again in the future, and after some reflection, I've determined that no, I don't feel badly about comparing Mayor Palmer to a toddler, and well, I might do it again. He's a public official, and he is probably not a complete write-off as a human being, but I suspect he is not an excellent listener.

Angry Emma

Earlier today, I did my rounds of blog-reading, and was eager to read Paul Harris's updated blog, and didn't mind one bit that Paul doesn't agree with me that the Mayor is a tantrum-prone toddler; he actually seems to like the Mayor, or at least, he wants to. I respect that.

But the thing that caught my eye and stuck in my head was Paul's comment on the crowd:
I can tell you I wish more common folk or the base was in attendance at the Mayor's Address. What I saw was a professional addressing professionals, elite addressing the elite. Now of course, there were a good many plain people there, but most from what I could see were folks who had formal education, good jobs, and were not representative of the men and women government is set up to serve.
Sure, I think it would be a great if more regular people got out to city events; it would be fantastic if more regular people stood up for what they believed in, found their voices, etc. But the truth is, a lot of people are content retreating into their own homes after a long day of work, and there's nothing wrong with that. And really, if we all lived in any other municipality, we all could retreat into our homes after a long day, reasonably confident things were okay throughout the land. This is not the case in Trenton.

Even though the group of us who is involved — even on the periphery — in community functions/clubs/associations KNOW that things would be better if more people got involved, it seems to me, "the common folk" — regardless of background — in this great, big, diverse country seldom turn out in droves for anything, unless it is a limited issue something or other with a a Disney character on it, or is a cheap TV at Wal*Mart on Black Friday. And that's their right. It doesn't mean that life should march on without them, or the suit-wearing, college-educated professional sort should get all the gravy. Chances are, the suit/college type ain't gettin' the cheap TVs or the Pooh Bear paraphernalia, and that's their loss.*

Maybe I'm reading too much into Paul's statement about the crowd, because of conversations I was involved with last week regarding immigrants (illegal or otherwise), ethnicity, and race; I might still be a bit sensitive. But is government not set up to serve all citizens? Does Paul mean because I'm the minority in Trenton — white, and college-educated, and have steady (if not good) employment — that government should not serve me, too? I hate that race seems to creep in, all the time, from all sides lately. I'm a sympathetic and fair person, and I can only imagine the challenges that face other ethnic groups. But imagination and sympathy are not the same as knowing exactly what those challenges are, what that really feels like. But I do know exclusionary politics don't work; they don't work in the federal government, and they don't work locally, either.
* I also realize that maybe my life would be so much better if I got that big screen TV last year at Wal*Mart, and could sink into my couch, wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket with Mickey Mouse on it. I dunno.

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