Let’s imagine you are shopping for a new place to live. You want a walkable neighborhood, meaning that you can walk to a drug store, a grocery store, a bank, a library, a movie theater – the essentials of urban living. You find a neighborhood, find a dwelling place, the vibes seem OK. You move in.
Your new place seems pretty good. It’s not ideal, but then few things are. You’re a stranger, but you soon discover that most of your neighbors moved here because they had friends or family already here. They ignore you. You join in some neighborhood activities, but in between organized events, no one calls, your doorbell doesn’t ring. Eventually, you offer up an open house for your nearest neighbors. People come! They mix with enthusiasm, they linger. But after they leave, your phone doesn’t ring; your doorbell doesn’t ring. Hmm.
As you sample the various public activities, you find a few that interest you. You attend and join in the conversation. You begin to learn more about your neighbors. You learn that they are not exactly what they claim to be. They claim they are all about inclusion, that they seek out diversity, but the diversity they seek does not include the likes of you. What will you do now?
Will you pull up stakes and look for a different neighborhood? How far would you have to go to find one where your sort would be welcome? You could go back to your home town, but you’ve changed in ways that it hasn’t. You could move to Canada, but it’s changed, too, and now it’s worse than your new neighbors. You could find property in the country where you wouldn’t expect your doorbell to ring (but it did!), but you have health concerns that couldn’t be met there.
Maybe the problem is you, not the neighborhood. Well, not maybe: it is. You actually are hoping for a neighborhood of adults, similar to the neighborhood of your childhood, where adults were curious to learn more about their neighbors without immediately sorting them into my kind and not my kind. I remember a remarkably inclusive neighborhood where my blue collar parents were invited to mix with the hoi poloi (they generally didn’t). Jews and gentiles mixed regularly. No, my neighborhood wasn’t racially mixed, but people had serious conversations about issues of the day including serious ones such as how to sort the town into two high schools in a way that didn’t create a ghetto school and a privileged school.
I know a handful of adults, by which I mean people who are curious about what other people think. They want to learn why someone has an opinion that is at odds with their own. They admit that people with whom they disagree have some good points. Inclusion to them includes people with ideas that challenge them. If you are reading this, you are probably one of these people that I view as adults. Thank you for at least being curious if not actually open to my point of view.
As for my dilemma about where to live, I don’t know what to do. This is a good place for my husband. If I followed my mom’s example and died before my husband, I’d want him to be here. But it’s not a good fit for me. Society in general is so thoroughly sorted today that there may not be a good fit for me anywhere. I’m not confident that I could find a place where I fit, and I probably couldn’t afford to move anyway.
I have a few good role models here; people who likely share some of my views but just never share them publicly. I’m doing my meditations today on whether I need to give up, shut up, and join them. They have somehow found a way to be here without hoping to find any personal support here. Could I do that without descending into madness? I might have to. Wish me luck.