After what transpired in Washington DC this week I’m feeling a horrible mix of emotions: Sadness, disgust, frustration, paralysis, hatred, and anger.
My inclination watching Susan Collins’ speech today was to shout and curse at her image on my screen. I wanted to go online and say bad things about her and people I vehemently disagree with.
The state of our body politic has made it hard for me to focus on local bike news. But since this website has been my main outlet of communication with so many of you for the past 14 years, my inclination is to come here to write something instead of on my social media accounts.
I don’t wade into politics here because my goal is to create an inclusive and productive space here and I’m loathe to introduce such a divisive topic. I also don’t like to take up space on important issues that aren’t on my beat. At the same time, I feel dishonest if I don’t share something here that I’m feeling so sharply and I assume is being felt just as strongly by many of you.
Beyond creating a space to air our feelings and acknowledge the moment we’re all in together, there’s just one thing I want to do with this post: I want to say something about how we treat each other.
Those of you who follow my work know that I care deeply about treating people — even people I disagree with — with respect. That’s why I still read your comments (all 436,038 of them as of 1:30 pm today!) and take time to respond and moderate them as needed. That’s why I’m very careful to choose nonjudgmental words when I describe people and their actions.
(This isn’t to say I’m always an angel. I’ll criticize someone if I feel it’s warranted; but only if I respect them enough to spend the energy to do it. Without that respect, I’ll usually just ignore them.)
My inclination watching Susan Collins’ speech today was to shout and curse at her image on my screen. I wanted to go online and say bad things about her and people I vehemently disagree with. But what then? Would it fix anything? Or would it make things worse? I believe part of the reason we’re at this point as a society is because there’s so much of that hate flying around — especially online. I don’t want to be a part of that.
The systems we’re fighting against have been made stronger because so many of us use our time and energy to fight with each other, instead of against the system that made us angry in the first place. And those who benefit from the current system want to keep it that way.
For my small part in this swirling mess of polarization and tribalism, I plan to resist the temptation to tear other people down. Like I’ve said for years in our comment policy here on BikePortland: Let’s vigorously disagree, but do it with tact and respect for the person on the other side of the screen — or the aisle, or the windshield.
Instead, let’s use that energy to make the system work better.
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