Let me set the scene for you. When I walk out of my local gym, The Right To Bare Arms, and look into the neighborhood surrounding the gym, I see three flags flying in the wind. One says, “Biden is Not my President”, one says, “Trump 2024”, and one says “Fuck Biden”. I drive to work and in the parking lot I see bumper stickers that say “God, Guns, Trump”, “Straight Pride” and “Waterboard Obama”.
I could run for political office, but I would not win. I am well liked in my Montana community, but I am a not a Republican, I don’t go to church, I’m not legally married to the man I’ve lived with for 14 years, I don’t own a gun, I’m pro choice, and a vegan. But the nicest vegan you’ll know as a high school senior told me while backpacking the Grand Canyon. Annie, I said, how many vegans do you know? None, she answered, but I’ve read about them on facebook.
An employee at work was in a world of trouble for posting a racist comment on social media last year. He was supposed to complete a series of social justice tasks in order to continue working. Instead, he resigned. We were recently discussing this list as we posted the job and I mentioned that I was reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist”, and I imagined the ex-employee had probably not read that book. Several hours later my co-worker, who had obviously been stewing and had taken offensive to the book I had mentioned; went on a tirade. For ten minutes straight he told me that it wasn’t his fault that black people had been enslaved. He shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. That he fought side by side in the military with black people in the army. That they would have died for each other. He worked his way to where he was and they had every opportunity he had. If anything he was the victim. He was discriminated against. There was nothing I could say. I did not have the words for a defense, which was a good thing. Words would have been like salt on a wound. Saying anything would have only made the situation worse. I listened. The best thing I can do is be a person that he respects. A person that has built a relationship with this co-worker. And just like the high schooler who now actually knows a vegan, he knows someone who stands behind the statement “black lives matter”. Not just knows…..but is conflicted by the fact that they know, love and respect a person with such different views.
I was in another conversation with a co-worker who made a derogatory comment about having to “pay for braces for half the kids in this town” (as in socialist health care; as in the state’s children’s health insurance program for low income families). I’m not even sure what the conversation was when this comment was made. My response; ……”first of all, thank you for my daughter’s braces…….. and the shoulder surgery. And; just to let you know both of my children are successful and contributing members to society. They’ll even pay you back, or…… they are more likely to pay it forward.”
In another work related conversation. I was in my office working, while a meeting took place at the conference table outside of my office. Four professionals were discussing the need for a transgender bathroom. Our junior high has a boy identifying as a girl and also a girl identifying as a boy. These four people were brainstorming which bathroom to turn into the transgender bathroom. I could feel the flames coming out of my ears in anger, but I said nothing. Finally, as the meeting broke up and everyone left except my co-worker, I walked into the conference room and said. Here’s a great idea! Let’s remodel the existing bathrooms. Make four individual bathrooms, each with their own entrance, each with a toilet, urinal, sink. Each big enough that it could double as a changing room as well. We’ll call them…..wait for it……bathrooms. Genius.
Even though I feel like I can not make a difference in my republican county by voting, campaigning, or donating money, I can be a person that people listen to. I can be a person that make people think again. But I can only be that person if I have invested the time to be someone they trust, someone they respect. I can’t be an in your face raving lunatic, my way or the highway bitch. I have to be willing to listen and have a discussion in which we both walk away contemplating the others view.
I give a shit. But I do it in my own way. Maybe it’s by not putting up a “Black Lives Matter” poster.
What book am I recommending? “Think Again The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know” by Adam Grant. I’d loan it to you, but my good friend, a republican mormon, is reading my copy.
Read about more great book recommendations and adventures on Wild About Books.