I would like to label myself. I will try to arrange these labels in as close to their order of priority in my psyche as possible. And with each label, I will try and briefly explain what the label means to me.
I am a human. I strive to be a good human, and choose to believe that the vast majority of my fellow humans are also good. Almost 6 decades of life has done nothing to change that belief.
I am a female human, a label which complicates things instantly. At the hands of a babysitter’s foster son, I learned that the world was not a safe place, and that is a terrible thing to learn at 5. I began to navigate a world in which sexism, harassment, molestation, and misogyny were all commonplace behaviors. No, not all men exhibit these behaviors. But ALL women have dealt with these behaviors, and I believe they are a truly crappy way to treat one’s fellow humans. I have come to believe that no one besides me should have control over my body and be able to tell me what to do with it, whether they be individual person or government.
I am a married human. I have had the great good fortune to find a partner to love and walk thru this life with. We share laughter and meals and sunsets and thunderstorms and yardwork and sci-fi and sex and reach for each other first when life goes wrong. There is trust and honesty and warmth and respect. Roger is my home. I believe all humans should be able to have homes with the partner of their choice.
I am a human family member. I am a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, stepmother, and stepdaughter to people I love without question. I strive to be there for them, and believe they do the same. I am incredibly grateful for this. When we gather, there is affection and laughter. But all families have (or have had) their issues, and mine is no exception. We are all complicated, flawed, and make mistakes, but I just assume that we are all doing our best, and I believe that’s a pretty good thing.
I am a friend to other female humans. These are women I turn to when I am broken, or when I need a break from the world, and whom I also love without question. They have sustained me, held me, challenged me, and generally helped make me a better person. I want to be as good a girlfriend to them as they are to me. We don’t always share the same beliefs, or agree on various issues, but I believe I am safe with them, and they are safe with me. This is profoundly comforting.
I am a friend to other male humans. Working in a largely male environment for many years gave me a perspective I might not otherwise have had. It allowed me to see them, and for them to see me, as simply people, trying to do our best in a difficult world. There is trust and respect. I am grateful for their friendship.
I am a human child of divorce. But I was fortunate, as were my parents, I suspect, in that we had the support of family on both sides, in the form of my mother’s and father’s parents and several aunts. When my teenage parents’ marriage did not last, they both had the support of their own parents. Housing on various occasions and monetary support were provided. And they were involved in my sisters’ and my lives. We saw them regularly, and visiting them gave me a window into what a better life might be. But I also know my mom needed food stamps to stretch her child support while living with her parents, and we lived in public housing for some years, and I saw my mom stretch hamburger too many ways to mention. So, I believe families need support. I don’t believe poor people want to be poor. I’m quite sure my mom didn’t want to be.
I am a human of mixed racial heritage. My mom didn’t know until she was 27 or 28, and I’m pretty sure she told us shortly after, so I would have been about 11 or 12. My great-grandmother was a black woman, whose family was from Georgia, and before that, unknown. She married a white man, an Irish immigrant, in New York City, where they raised my grandfather and his brother and sister. My grandfather had previously been married to a black woman and had a son and daughter during that marriage. After that marriage ended, he eventually met and married my grandmother, the youngest daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. After at least one miscarriage, they had my mother, who was their only child. When my mother was about 3 years old, the family moved to Bethel, CT. This was the early 1940’s. My grandfather’s light complexion allowed him to pass as a white man. My mother tells me she had questions as she grew older, but nothing was confirmed until my grandfather decided to share his secret. Because for all those years, he had been going into New York City regularly to visit his son and daughter. My grandmother knew, and I believe my grandfather’s children knew of us, but we didn’t meet until the early 1970’s. My point with this label, is that while, because of my own fair complexion, I have not experienced racism directly, I know that racism in this country is why my grandfather made the choice that he made. I believe that he believed he was protecting his wife and daughter in a perilous world, where the very color on one’s skin puts one in danger. I’d like to think he gave up his secret when he felt the danger had passed. I fear he may have been wrong.
I am a human citizen of the U.S.A. I believe I am incredibly fortunate to have been born in this country. I believe both that this country is great now, and that it needs to be better. We need to accept and respect each other’s differences while striving to find the common ground that surely exists by virtue of the simple fact that we are all first and foremost human. I also believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow citizens. We are all in this together, by simple virtue of proximity. I don’t believe that any of us can, or even should, go it alone. But if we want to make our lives better, we have to have a government composed of humans who are beholden only to their human constituents.
I am a retired police officer. I became a police officer because of all of the labels above, and I stayed a police officer for 27 years. I believe in the courage, honor and integrity of the vast majority of police officers. This is no abstract belief. It is one grounded in extensive personal experience. But I also know that there are flaws, both in individual officers, and the governmental systems which use police departments for purposes other than to protect and serve. Police departments need to screen and test their personnel before giving them a badge and a gun, and continue to do this, along with intensive training, throughout their careers. Police work can be enormously damaging to the psyche. As I said at my retirement dinner, “We hear too much, we see too much, and sometimes, we smell very bad things.” But we as citizens also need to prevent our various local and state governments from using police departments (by requiring them to enforce unjust and/or onerous laws) to fund governmental budgets. That is a function which has nothing to do with protecting and serving, and everything to do with oppressing disadvantaged citizens.
And finally, I am a liberal. Or progressive, if you prefer. I don’t care. It is because of all of the labels above that I can only believe in progress. Evolving, changing, and hopefully, moving forward to a better time and having made a better place. I believe in our government as a force for good, whether on the local, state, or federal level. This belief goes hand in hand with my belief that we citizens need to hold our government’s metaphorical foot to the fire periodically. Our government should be by and for the people. Our representatives should answer only to the people, and all of them, not just a few. With public funding and a shorter election season, I believe this is possible. The influence of special interests, largely corporate, must be reduced. Perhaps, when this is done, the government could better go on about the business of governing better. It would be a lovely beginning.
I do not believe in demonizing humans who don’t agree with me. I am not afraid of black or brown or Muslim or LGTB humans. I do not believe the apocalypse is near. I do not believe everyone needs to own a gun. I am not afraid of male humans, or police humans. I do not believe that helping people to achieve a better life, whether by immigration reforms, food stamps, health care, education assistance, etc, is a waste of resources. I believe in investing in people and giving them a leg up when they need it. I believe it’s the best way to make this a better country.
I believe we will find our way. Maybe we should do something we all had to do in kindergarten. Just take your neighbor’s hand.