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Camp Meeker Beat - December 2016

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Camp Meeker Beat - December 2016

by Tom Austin

Welcome to December! I hope you had a happy thanksgiving. This is one of those months where I am tempted to wax philosophical. There isn’t a lot of hard news coming out of Camp Meeker, and by gosh there’s a national election to pontificate about. I’ve been wallowing in Facebook the last week or so, and to be sure there are a lot of unhappy people out there. Even the winners seem unhappy! But even though I could say a lot, I’m not going to. You’ve been subjected to enough. Maybe it’s a good idea to take some quiet time to recharge the batteries. There will be plenty of work to do after the New Year. We will be welcoming a new Fifth District Supervisor in Lynda Hopkins. Let’s welcome her to her new job and open up some lines of communication! 

Yes, I know you’re probably tired of that race too. I was getting metric tons of campaign mail from both candidates, and there was some mudslinging in there. Make no mistake; politics is just as much a street fight at the county level as at the national. Take a deep breath; it’s over for a while. Now it’s time to get to know our new Supervisor, let her know our concerns, open up avenues of communication – and if necessary, hold her feet to the fire. Or as Patrick Swayze so memorably said in the classic movie “Roadhouse”: “Be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice.”

Perhaps that might make you a little uncomfortable. If you live in Camp Meeker you’re probably (statistically speaking) a gentle, bohemian hippie type (if you’re not, just go with me on this for a minute). You think people should just get along, and that we can mediate our disputes with sweet reason and gentle persuasion. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be if that were true. And don’t get me wrong – I’ve worn my share of tie-dye in my time. I know all the words to “Kumbayah.” It’s a beautiful thing to be peaceful and gentle and consensus-seeking. 

But my experience in the world tells me that Patrick Swayze had a point. Kwai Chang Caine walked the earth speaking softly, but he also carried a big stick – or fist, or foot, or what have you. Sometimes sweet reason does not carry the day, because there is not enough of something to go around – money, land, fresh water, time, access – and unless you stand up the spoils will go to them what gets there firstest with the mostest. 

So how does a gentle bohemian soul traffic in the ways of power without being corrupted by it? I wish there was an easy answer for that. It’s just as hard to be a saint in the country as the city, it turns out. People are people all over. It comes down to knowing how to assert yourself, for me. There is a continuum of human behavior, from abject submissiveness on one end to aggressive dominance on the other. Both extremes are counterproductive; submissives get walked over, and aggressives end up alienating their important relationships. In between these two poles lies assertiveness. This is where you speak up for yourself and ask bravely for what you need, even if it might not please the person you’re asking. This is not easy for most people, because you risk angering. You risk rejection. And this might be counterintuitive, but presenting reasons and persuading is not very effective at getting what you want – unless what you want is a debate. 

Sometimes persuasion doesn’t work. You don’t tell a car dealer fifteen reasons why he should sell you the car at your price. You make an offer and be prepared to walk. That’s how it is in politics too; we’re not going to get what we want by saying pretty please. You have to be prepared to offer consequences. The only way to do that is to be organized and strong. To be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice. 

Here’s wishing you a joyous holiday season! Be strong.