For two weeks, I’ve been working on this post off and on – trying to figure out what the source of my feelings are when it comes to why I get so upset about local politics. So I’ve been typeing, re-typing, deleting and repeating. And to be honest, part of me feels like I’m no closer to getting it right than I was when I took my first-second pass three days ago, but I’m still going to give it a shot.
It started with me hating local politics…
Two weeks ago I made a list of 5 things we could do, as humans, to “be better humans” and frankly, I did it because I was a little too riled up about some local bs to properly deconstruct the real issue. And to be clear, this issue is nothing new because while, on a small scale, it pertains whats going on locally, it’s really has no borders. And as I’ve worked to file it down in my brain and get to the root of what’s been really bothering me about all of it – I think what it comes down to is something I grappled with everytime I’ve lived here – and that’s privilege. Privilege, and how it leads people to lack respect for one another.
Now, before I go any deeper, I am not here to say I don’t have privilege. I definitely do. But, I think the problem I’m facing now, as I grow into new phases of adulthood and expand myself into new circles is that I’m seeing people with more privilege and power than me using it in less than positive ways – and it’s maddening because while I’m starting to develop my own power to change it – it’s still just out of reach.
And such is the irony of a girl with power – she often feels as though has none.
Adulting within a Society
Sometimes it baffles me how some adults can act like complete children. Yes, you read that correctly, “children.” And keep in mind, that that’s an insult to children, who in recent generations have actually learned what it means to have privilege and in turn learned to respect one another far more than most adults do now or have in the past. And if you are someone who is easily offended by any part of that sentiment, odds are you might just be one of those people.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that the hierarchy of adults and Adulting doesn’t make sense to me (I was indoctrinated into it after all). I understand that the concept of “respecting our elders” and I understand that it was put in place to keep young people “safe” on a certain level; but for a moment, let’s call it how we actually see it – that particular structure is about controlling people. And let’s not fool ourselves by thinking that most if not all systems don’t work exactly like this.
Look, I get it, I don’t have to explain how society works to you, you live here, you get it. But something I don’t think people “get” anymore is that respect isn’t and shouldn’t be a byproduct of status or age or position or of having power. (read that again: respect isn’t and shouldn’t be a byproduct of status or age or position or of having power) And the reason I don’t think people understand this anymore is because they don’t act like they do. So we’re at this impasse where this seemingly obvious concept is completely neglected and it’s highly problematic.
So (at the risk of dumbing this down anymore than I already have) what is respect to me? Well, respect is something you earn when you cultivate trust within your community. Respect is something you maintain by upholding that relationship in a positive and productive way. Respect is not having a chokehold on local businesses because their thriving might affect you (and your street parking). Respect is not putting your interests before that of others, your beliefs above peoples bodies, and it is not saying you support someone, then saying you disagree with something they can’t change. But most importantly, respect is a two way street, even if, and especially when that street is divided by a single train track. So no matter what side you are on, do better.
Why privilege, why now?
So why am I even bringing this up today? Why am I rehashing things I dealt with weeks ago?
Well, simply put, I’m still a little peeved. A big part of me always will be — but more so I think this is an important conversation to be had. I think it’s important to recognize that it isn’t just politicians and white men or cops or someone’s jerk of a boss – it’s happening in small scales too, in local legislature and in small town organizations and among colleagues and friends. It’s happening right under our noses.
And frankly, from acting like we’re in a version of turf wars by drawing borders and over-punctuating a sign with (!) to throwing a hard-working individual under the bus to save your own a**. From denying a business the chance for a liquor license to “unintentionally” being a bigot, and everything in between I’ve see first hand how people with privilege and power exert it over others – and I’m over it.
So yeah, sometimes it baffles me how other adults can act like complete children and still demand respect, as if it was a one way street.
And thus, the moral of the story is this – if you’re someone that needs to do better – do better, and if you’re someone who’s doing better then aim to do best, because it takes a village and no one wants to be a part of a crappy one.