Lions, Dentists, and Liars. Oh, my!

I mean no disrespect to the majestic creatures who roam this earth. I consider myself one of them.

Okay, I don’t mean that last part. But respecting nature, living creatures, and the like? Totally support it. (Although, my engaging in close-combat with certain insect species may undermine this claim). Despite that, there is one sentiment, one wonder, one fascination, that consumes me:

Publication1 (2) I don’t get my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I know I don’t understand hunting as a sport. I can appreciate it has a significant role in the pantheon of human experience. (I mean, ribs?!?!)

But seriously, why is it easier to publicly grieve for injustice when there isn’t a human face involved? Why is it so hard to connect to injustices that happen to those whose faces don’t look like ours?

* * * * *

I get to travel on the periphery of policy-making circles in New York City. While I’m most often grateful to encounter wonderfully smart, driven, giving people on a daily basis, I’m sometimes slammed by the antithetical experience of awful, awful pseudo human beings who have a lot of power and influence.

Earlier this week, I took part in a discussion on cultural placemaking, creativity, and sustainability in NYC housing developments. It was reassuring to consider housing developments as communities, not just warehouses of human misery, as they’re often portrayed in film, texts, and the wider media.

I had occasion to share this experience with someone who marveled that so many people had the time to waste on imagining public housing developments and their residents as anything more than deficits, drains on public coffers, blights on developing societies. How could we, they asked, speak in reverent tones and hopeful language to describe the experience and contributions of public housing – as architectural gems and cultural microcosms? How dare we, they asked, allocate time, effort, and funds to elevate public housing as worthy of public discourse?

I wasn’t speaking to Donald Trump, I swear. Despite my struggle to wallow in the stunned silence that began to envelop me, I fought through the fog. What other choice do we have, but to regard all lives, all communities as essential to society’s overall survival? Shaking my head, grasping for rational thought, I rambled on, We SHOULD elevate discussions of community to the levels of poetry. It’s PEOPLE – the you, the me, the moms, dads, and grandmas of the world. Who are we, I challenged, to presume that public housing, and public housing residents aren’t more than stats and figures? 

Too often, we lump people into boxes: poverty, education, health, success, delinquency, mortality rate, and the like. How can we stand up and look our community members in the face, if we can only speak about them in the didactic prose of actuarial-speak?

I may have had more to say on this subject, but wading in the dangerous waters of the coasts of politics and civic engagement is draining – an emotional and intellectual toll, for sure. Maybe I’ll be better equipped to navigate tomorrow.

Maybe.