I find myself dismayed at the rhetoric that has become commonplace in our American culture. There was a time when most of us would at least try to show a level of respect for one another and couch our messages in respectful language. But that appears to be “out the window” for more and more of us these days.
I’m not saying that everyone has gone rouge or off the deep-end, but the preponderance of anonymous commenting platforms, social networking and group meetings and marches has certainly provided a platform for those who are, in fact, angry to express themselves more freely.
And that’s not to say that there isn’t a great deal going on for people to be angry about! Just look at the condition of our housing, healthcare, immigration, environment and distribution of wealth as a few examples of what flares tempers.
And this is not to criticize one side or the other. Despite my personal feelings and leanings on things like housing, immigration and localism, I don’t see why anyone would need to make their point using harsh language or depictions of others.
Two things I have recently come to understand as I search for ways to become a more effective advocate for the things that I believe in:
1- In an article titled “NIMBYs Dominate Local Zoning Meetings“ on the website Citylab in 2018,”…according to a new study by Katherine Einstein, Maxwell Palmer, and David Glick, political scientists associated with Boston University’s Initiative on Cities. People who oppose creating more multifamily housing development tend to speak at public meetings much more often than those who support it…Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of all comments were in opposition to proposed housing projects, compared to just 15 percent in support and 23 percent that were neutral. As the researchers note, this pattern strongly suggests that “the incentives to show up and oppose new housing are far stronger” than for those who support the housing…Overall, the study found that the participants in these community meetings were older and more likely to be white, male, and own a home.”
2. Based upon my own personal observation, typically, the loudest and most intimidating speakers at controversial events, community meetings, online discussions and public hearings on issues around social challenges we are facing are male, over 50 years old and those with “respected positions of leadership in the community,” whether that be a community group leader, coach, active or retired local business person, even church leader. And, typically, those voices are in opposition to creating something beneficial for community members who are having difficulty meeting all of their own needs.
It appears that those in opposition to these community proposals seem more comfortable expressing their opposition on social media, comment sections of newspapers (especially where they can comment anonymously) and in meetings where their supporters show up to cheer them on. They do this even if the end result might be beneficial to their own parents, children, neighbors or local businesses. And the proponents and board members, elected or not, are intimidated by this “loudness.” Just the suggestion that “something might go wrong” based upon unrelated stories and hearsay is enough to squash the voices of those who may be in favor of these community proposals. I have even said it to myself: “What if they’re right and my support of this leads to…?”
I’m not suggesting that two wrongs make a right or that proponents need to meet fire with fire, however I am suggesting that all sides show up at these meetings or online conversations with a sense of passion and commitment, along with defensible facts that are applicable to the issue at hand, lest we continue to be dominated by the vocal angry minority.
Be A YIMBY!!
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The Beacon on community issues he cares passionately about. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org