A Liberal Neighborhood
by Dean Blehert
A Liberal Neighborhood,
middle class mixed with blue-collar and college students,
giant poplars, well-kept and cozy gardens, a pleasure
to walk these shaded streets, people in yards,
tidying, sprinkling, trimming, who respond
if I say hello, may even say it first,
though I do not think that they would speak to
Multi-colored signs in many front yards say things like:
No Human Being is Illegal
Black Lives DO Matter
Love IS Love
And whatever your beliefs or abilities,
Kindness is Everything
Another sign in three languages says:
I’m glad you’re my neighbor.”
Another sign (long and thin) says that anyone of any gender, color, religion, build, belief (etc.), in fact, anyone at all is welcome to live in this neighborhood
[speaking, we must assume, for everyone in the neighborhood].
Obvious quibbles leap to mind (though drowned out
by soothing breezes among the mothering branches):
Would these people really welcome the Charles Manson family
or (for that matter) Donald Trump? What if I said to someone here,
“I voted for Trump?” Would I be welcomed?
Oh, I can think of endless quibbles: Are you accusing someone
of saying that Black lives don’t matter? Are such people
welcome in this neighborhood? [And I know
some of the answers to that one. I can’t even quibble
without quibbling with my quibbles!]
Violation of rights claimed by women, if ALSO violation
of human rights, would be human rights violations.
Is the right to demand the firing of a professor
who, by teaching some sensitive subject (for example,
the details of human trafficking), upsets a student —
is that a human right? Some people think a happy life
or a life free of pain is a human right. They have
the right to think that.
“Love IS Love” — which of love’s many meanings,
including brutal and delusional and self-aggrandizing meanings,
equates to which of love’s meanings?
Ah, but why quibble? I get the point. Nothing ugly is intended
(though I think sometimes one must be unkind).
Calling someone who has done something illegal
“an illegal” is an invitation to treat him as other
than human. I’ve driven illegally fast. Am I an illegal?
Sweetness and light, yes, but isn’t sweetness sweeter
than bitterness and sourness, and isn’t light lighter
than darkness or heaviness? Yet I wonder
if those who post these signs are kind, loving people.
No, that’s not it. At least they challenge themselves
to be kind and loving. Yet their goodness introverts me.
Why am I tempted to quibble? Am I a closet bigot?
If I say, no more quibbling, no more doubting
the basic correctness of the message, yet I am slightly repelled
by the asserted rightness, so much truth (however riddled
with oversimplification) in the service of being right
and making others wrong. Each sign invites me to share
in the comfort of this rightness. Well, why not?
We are human. I thank you for sharing your goodness,
cleverness and rightness.
If your rightness excludes other rightnesses,
can become dogma, as sour as the aftertaste
of too much sugary breakfast cereal,
what rightness cannot? I believe you mean well.
And I love your trees.
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