As a teacher, I have no difficulty speaking in front of a room full of children but adults are another story. I also hate politics. Strongly. For 18 years I was registered to vote but NONALIGNED with any political party. When I moved to where I’ve lived the past five years, I had to reregister to vote. It was two weeks after the death of Teddy Kennedy. Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with the Kennedys. So, I decided the world needed another Democrat since Teddy was gone. It’s like picking a race horse because you like the name. I vote for a person, not a party.
Tonight, I faced two of my greatest dislikes in the world.
Back in December, I discovered a post on Facebook by an elected council person in my town that disturbed me. It might well have been an innocent survey but it was about the community’s relationship with our police department. Seems harmless right? But it got me wondering if the motives were altruistic or looking to bash the department. Was this sanctioned by the council or a rogue operation? And how was it going to be proven as valid data?
I contacted a couple council members I am familiar with and with all the other chaos that is going on in our town, it seemed inconsequential. But this happened in the days following the Ferguson decision. Tensions between communities and police departments are already tenuous. What if this survey and its data created a larger rift? In my opinion, as an elected official such actions also reflect on the council as a whole. But I was given the impression that the rest of the council, while they may share my concerns had their hands tied, there is no policy for policing the actions of other members and anything that might be said to this person might be construed as an attack because said council member is African American.
I don’t care if you’re purple with orange spots, if your actions could possibly be a detriment to my hometown, I’m going to question it. At the time, I was livid. But I’ve had a month to simmer down.
I kept my word and attended the first council meeting of the year. I wasn’t going to speak but as I sat there I started composing my thoughts, reflecting after a month – the deaths of 2 NYPD officers still fresh in my mind. I do not want what is happening in Ferguson and other parts of the county to happen here. As a teacher, I’ve found that the schools where bad things happen are usually the ones who are not vigilant. I don’t want that to happen in my hometown.
So when it was time for the public to speak again, I threw my name in. I read what I had composed, my voice shaking and hardly able descipher my own writing, but I expressed my concern. I was not attacking the council person, although several of her actions may have warranted one. My hope was to encourage them to look into a system of check and balances to curb any conduct from any council member that is a detriment to the city.
It was terrifying. But I did it.
Then a man, a reverend, jumped up to counter my point. He ranted and swore and made it all about race. I was accused of being part of “they” and how “they” were constantly attacking this council member and he wasn’t going to stand for it.
I never approached it as a race issue, but a public safety one. Every resident of this city depends on the police department. Are all cops saints? Hell no, but I will respect anyone who will put the life on the line for mine. As citizens we need to do our best to foster a healthy relationship between the community and the police, not insight unrest and hostility. Especially if you are an elected official. That was my point. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you want to change things then step up and advocate for them but not by undermining the police department. Work with them not against them.
But also, hold each other accountable to work and fight for our city and not conduct their own political agenda.
And so, in this year of becoming a better me, I found a voice I didn’t know I had. It was shaky and did little to hide my terror but it was rational, well thought out and came the heart.
I didn’t know I had it in me.