Health & Wellness

‘You’re not the boss of me’

Noel Nash, publisher

I am lots of things. Sometimes all at once. 

I’m conservative. I’m liberal. I’m libertarian, and independent. I’m happy-go-lucky, chill, easy-going and feel an inner peace. I’m angry, downright mad, hateful, spiteful and harbor revenge. My doghouse, it’s been said, has several floors. I’m forgiving, regretful, humble, eager to forget and move forward. I’m my own man. I’m just a face in the crowd. I’m focused and strong and driven. I’m lazy, tired, exhausted and unmotivated. Will I even get out of bed today? I’m depressed, sad, worried, scared, uncertain. My mission is clear and focused, organized, my checklist detailed and prioritized. I will be super-productive today. I’m steady, thoughtful, informed, weigh all sides, measured. I’m impulsive, quick to react and speak. I believe this today, and that tomorrow. I evolve. I’m steadfast in my values and core beliefs. Those will never change. I’m open minded. I’m a person of faith, not necessarily religious. I believe in my fellow man. I’m a skeptic. I trust my mother, but when we play cards, we still cut the deck. I’m inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge. I’m weary, and tired of learning new things and changing with new technology. The vibe, diversity and energy of the big city energizes me. The peaceful beauty and pace of rural towns sustains me. 

My hunch is you feel the same way. The categories might be different, but the gee-and-haw of the daily internal struggle likely resonates. 

The real challenge each day when we wake up is how we decide to process those feelings, and how we’ll present ourselves to the world. Which side of the feelings are we giving into today?

I’ve never been “the smartest guy in the room.” I appreciate those who have demonstrated expertise; it tells me they were passionate, dedicated, committed. It doesn’t mean they’re saints. It doesn’t mean they’re always right. But my background and life experience has taught me to listen more than speak – especially to those more informed on a topic. 

Of course, that approach never meant being a wallflower. Speak up as necessary, and do it in a constructive manner. You won’t always win the day, but at least your voice is heard. 

This is part of the social contract we make with each other. At home and at work we communicate in a way that is effective and behave in a way that is respectful.

I won’t blast my music at 2 a.m., and you won’t park your car on my lawn. We use common sense and common decency, because ultimately, we share common values. We willingly sacrifice our selfish predilections to be better neighbors and citizens. We don’t run red lights at 100 mph because “the government can’t tell us what to do.” We avoid that behavior because we don’t want to maim or kill anyone. On the other hand, driving through a red light at a reasonable speed at 2 a.m. in crime-ridden area of town is understandable. No one is advocating for us to be one of Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the sound of the bell. 

These things, like wearing a mask during a pandemic, are not weak. They represent common sense, for the common good.

Pulling down and cutting up plastic safety netting at Holt Park is not akin to dumping tea in Boston Harbor.  

There are plenty of actionable, meaningful ways to express displeasure with societal “rules” and governmental laws. If we’re talking about bravery, courage, upholding democracy and the Bill of Rights, then please show up at a city council meeting, or join one online. Campaign for a candidate or cause. Vote. In short, engage in your community. Been to a library board meeting lately? How about a planning commission meeting? There’s nothing more boring than a water and sewer committee meeting, right? Until you have water and sewage issues. Then, what’s more important? 

Consider two recent situations: 

In the aftermath of last year’s epic snowstorm, people were dissatisfied with the city’s code enforcement requiring the clearing of icy sidewalks and roadways. 

It was all about our collective safety. And that made sense. 

Now we’re in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 100,000 lives. We’re following the advice of public health experts. Our city leaders are, per se, enforcing the codes. And with a light touch. A soft, plastic-mesh netting around playground equipment, demonstrating compliance while avoiding a heavy hand. 

It was all about our collecive safety. And that made sense.

But now there are a few who say that the city has gone too far. Now, it’s all about our individual rights, it’s said with righteous indignation. 

And what bold action results? Petty crime at the city’s biggest park, costing taxpayer dollars to fix and repair soft netting. That’s about as effective as spray-painting graffiti or creating deep-trenched donuts in the grass with a four-wheeler.  

Instead of tossing our community values to the side of the road in the name of — what? tearing down plastic mesh? — do something meaningful. Let’s see a community groundswell around creating a public moment of recognition and respect for our fellow 100,000+ citizens who have died in just a few months? Or the front-line and healthcare workers? A moment when we come together to honor others – not argue about our rights to a playground.

I’m not sure I ever considered July 4 as some kind of national holiday about my rights. 

It’s been a day in my life where we celebrated our patriotism as one team. We celebrate our independence from the king. We celebrate that we can worship, pursue happiness and live as united communities and states in one great, big, diverse country. That was a rare concept in 1776.

Sadly, it seems pretty rare in 2020.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.



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