In the Chico neighborhood where my wife, dog, cat and I live, maybe a five-minute walk away from our house, lives the leader of one of the local Facebook “public safety” groups. She is a very vocal personality who has come out against clean syringe distribution and commercial cannabis.
Just up the street is the home of a local public official whose been advocating for mask-free, in-person learning for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few doors down from him is a former City Council candidate whose ideas on how to address homelessness in Bidwell Park are antithetical to my viewpoint—as well as positions the CN&R typically takes in opinion pieces—on the matter.
I run into these folks, or members of their households on a regular basis. We all live by Bidwell Park, and during walks our paths will cross. We’ll greet each others’ dogs, comment on how beautiful the evening is, stand at the fence and compliment a row of blooming flowers, wave to a porch full of gathered family and friends—normal neighbor stuff.
So far, there have been no screaming matches on the sidewalk. No one’s yelled, “Fake news!” or called anyone an anti-vaxxer, socialist, fascist, snowflake, Trumper, libtard, cuck, or godless commie—though I’d bet some of those terms have passed through some of their heads when reading the CN&R. I know one or two have gone through mine as I’ve considered some of my neighbors’ public actions.
One of my goals as the CN&R’s new editor is for the paper to be a catalyst for healing—be it from COVID, the wildfires, or the various splits in our community. I’ve been thinking about my neighbors a lot as I settle in to this gig and as I consider how I might navigate communicating with a community that is not immune to the left-right political/social turmoil plaguing America.
In a report by the American Psychological Association called “Healing the political divide,” Columbia University professor Kirk Schneider says, “Research indicates that the divisiveness will continue to grow if fear of the other and the wounds fueling that fear are not addressed.”
That is heavy stuff, and would appear very difficult to address.
The article suggests, “One way to mitigate the divisiveness is to physically bring people together.”
Yes. In the detached world of social media, it’s easy to make an enemy. In the real world, it’s much harder for most people to scream “F-you!” in someone’s face.
I’m not suggesting you or I need to respect each other’s ideas. But should we respect the right to have any idea or belief that one wants? Of course. And respect everyone’s right to be alive and to live as an equal to all other humans? Yes, that is required.
So, even though I might think your ideas or actions are wrong, I see you (or imagine you), and I’m going to try and be kind, to listen when I can, and if there’s a dog involved, I’ll ask if I can pet it.