Good fences, good neighbors | Guest View

By Samantha Butler | Apr 04, 2018
Samantha Butler

Robert Frost wrote that “good fences make good neighbors” in his 1914 poem “Mending Wall.” One hundred and four years later, how can we be good neighbors and protect Edmonds from the divisive chaos dominating our computers, smartphones and television sets?

We can start by pausing for a moment before we comment on the aggravating post that lies before us on our newsfeed. A little verbal discretion can go a long way to keep relations civil between people on opposite sides of the fence.

It’s hard though to refrain from pointing out the stupendous ignorance of some people. The compulsion to prevent others from being led astray by an erroneous opinion post can be overwhelming. Just yesterday I succumbed: I had ingested far too many hours of Facebook commentary without adding my opinion to the fray.

Then, pushed to the breaking point, I chose to correct my pastor on a comment he’d made about garage space. Because smoke does not stay in the smoking section, I took issue with my pastor. Over a comment he made about garage space. Big things are wrong in our society but I’ll explode over the toothpaste being squeezed from the middle.

If good fences make good neighbors then what is our fence? How do we stay true to the vision we have for Edmonds? I believe the answer lies in a mixture of restraint and respect.

Unfortunately for our city, it’s hard to stay quiet when you’re undeniably in the right. I grew up watching television in the 1970s and 1980s. The bad guys swaggered and bullied until the good guys laid them out with one punch and everybody cheered.

At the end of every episode the bully ruefully rubbed their chin as they were led away by the cops. Justice was served. I too want to serve justice. I suspect we all do, given the comments I’ve read; I suspect we all truly believe we are the good guys, knocking out the smug opposition with a one-two click of our keyboard. Clever insults and word play win the day.

Even the trolls are doing their part to win whatever battle they’ve got going on. Then we wait for our villain to rub their chin ruefully while our friends “Like” our victorious blow. The problem is that the opposition won’t stay down. Because they’re the underdog who doesn’t know the meaning of quit.

They’re the Karate Kid, according to them, and we are Johnny Lawrence of Kobra Kai. Our news network of choice is John Kreese, by the way. (Look it up for some nostalgia.)

And it’s all fun and games until someone takes out a real bat in real life on Highway 99 and gets arrested for a hate crime. Until someone “jokes” out their car window about how they should’ve run me over when they see the political bumper sticker on my car. (I’ve since convinced my husband to leave politics off our bumpers.)

We in Edmonds need some fences. They may not stop us but at least they’ll slow us down. We as a city are appropriately concerned about protecting our environment but our social climate is being polluted by righteous anger that seeps into our hearts through our screen life and explodes onto others in local parking lots.

Edmonds is a wonderful place to live. Just drive down Main Street from 9th Avenue to the water on a clear day and you will feel like you’re on a movie set for an idyllic small town. Let’s not make it the set for the first scene of a disaster flick.

I’m going to attend a PTA meeting at my children’s school this week where we will discuss the issue of school safety. I don’t know what will happen when terrified parents come together with different solutions to the fears that have plagued us since February 14 most recently and for many of us long before then.

I’m nervous that the school library is going to turn into the OK Corral with everyone wearing white hats. I have hope too because of something I witnessed on our school’s PTA Facebook group page last night. Someone mentioned the school walk out and someone else responded. Things got tense.

The street cleared and there was an ominous whistle. Then… they both remained respectful. What these two parents, both loving and committed to their children’s welfare, communicated to each other was essentially: “we disagree on the solution but I admire your backbone and wish you peace.”

There were no clever insults, no accusations of villainy, just two parents in grey hats navigating our grim new reality. Good fences make good neighbors.

Samantha Butler lives in Edmonds with her husband and two children, where she writes as well as runs her own cleaning business.

 

 

 

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