It’s a privilege to be able to write an opinion column every couple of weeks. Whenever someone tells me that they read something I wrote, even if it’s the only time they’ve ever read my viewpoint, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am. And how ridiculous it is that I of all people should be able to insinuate my 15,000 words a year into people’s homes.
It’s always a privilege, but it’s not always easy. My job is to have an opinion, to explicate it eloquently, and to allow it to go on the record. I’m supposed to take a side, and being a fallible human being, I sometimes get it wrong. Even more often, my perspective is completely valid, but my side loses whatever battle it’s engaged in.
It’s difficult to stand up for things on a regular basis and know that sometimes you’ll get knocked down. It’s disappointing to pour so much of yourself into a cause and lose. So communities of advocates and activists talk often about what to do when we’re behind the eight ball. We walk the walk when it comes to self-care. We do well in supporting the other members of our tribes. These things are important because we all know it takes a toll.
But we fall miserably short when it comes to caring for our broader community. We all know how to handle it when “our side” loses, but we neglect to have real conversations about what we owe to the people around us when we win.
We don’t talk about how to make sure the concerns and needs of the people we’ve argued against aren’t now lost. We don’t make a habit of getting together with opponents over coffee to remind ourselves that we have far more in common than we’ll ever disagree on.
As far as I can tell, we really don’t make it a part of our advocacy strategy to do anything at all to mitigate the damage done to our community by our work on hot-button issues.
So let’s. Frankly, I don’t see how we can claim to be people who want a strong, inclusive community and not consider how to counteract the unintentionally divisive effect of some of the advocacy we do. When we do to take up that practice, the ways we choose to heal our relationships with neighbours will no doubt be as diverse as we are. After all, what’s required is a willingness to connect as people who are more than just composites of perspectives on issues.
I might invite the guy who said ranked ballots are a joke to my next bowling night and catch up on how his kids are doing. Not to check a box and pat my own back about what a good little advocate I am, but because he’s a kind person and a fun guy. And, as with most people I butt heads with on civic issues, we have more in common than we’ll ever disagree on. If I don’t remind myself of that, then I let being an active citizen become a detriment to a community I value.