Accidental Advocate for the Underdog

Occasionally, I find myself getting all riled up about some kind of public issue. Usually it has to do with inequality or defense of a perceived underdog. Two years ago, I went to bat against our school district because they were throwing children’s lunches away after the student had gone through the line, gotten a tray, and discovered there wasn’t money on their account. Taking a tray and dumping it in the garbage in front of the child is a horrific practice and fortunately, through the channels of social media, and due process, the school district’s policy was effectively changed.

That’s when I started calling myself an accidental advocate. Because, in all honesty, I never know ahead of time when a specific issue is going to stoke a passionate response within me. I’m super chill on most things that go on, but… if the universe conspires at exactly the right moment, I’ll jump in and raise some hell in an effort to ensure that the rights of the minority are preserved and protected.

This latest pet project has been the lifting of a restriction on the sale of liquor on Sundays in my little town. In my mind, it’s such an easy cut-and-dry problem and solution. To put it simply, we have outdated ordinances in our city code, and when our leaders are made aware of them, they are responsible for correcting the errors. But, in this area, there is a strong religious majority, and even though it appears to be a clear violation of separation of church and State, there continues to be strong resistance to removing the Sunday exclusion.

I care.

I care enough to get involved, to speak up.

I’ve joined and started discussions on Facebook, attended city council meetings, written letters to the editor. I even live tweeted the last meeting and wrote a stinging rebuttal to the Mayor when he posted inflammatory and inaccurate remarks on his public Facebook page.

All the while, observing my brain in action, wondering WHY does this particular issue get me fired up. Why did I hunker down to invest time and energy in researching thoroughly the topics at hand? I now know more about Blue Laws, Prohibition, advisory votes, the procedures for passing a city ordinance, and alcohol regulation than I ever intended to know. I’m thrilled that I am still able to use the skills I learned in my Junior Honors English class back in high school to research a topic and present it in an organized manner.

And present my findings, I did! I even got up to speak at the City Council meeting. I’m compelled by the need to present valid, factual information to offset the emotional, fear-based statements coming from those opposed to making changes. I’m driven by the black and whiteness of the issue and the sad reality that many in my community are not interested in moving forward, in being progressive, in allowing others their own freedom to choose – they would rather impose their belief system on the entire community.

It’s maddening, I tell ya.

I even got into it a little bit with my best friend from high school. She was miffed that I pointed at religion, asking me not to place blame there as it was unfair. I explained that when the exclusion exists only on Sunday, with the original intention of encouraging the people to observe the Sabbath day, and that the only reason it hasn’t been corrected is because of the religious majority in my town who want to legislate morality, it is not blame… it is a root cause.

I may have to go to her again and explain that this particular subject was discussed inside the church, on a Sunday, during church services, where members were specifically encouraged to attend last night’s meeting, and some were even coached on what to say! This counts as religious involvement, don’t you think? Also, it’s interesting to note that the Mayor, one of the council members and 4 of the public speakers all happen to be in the same congregation. This is not a coincidence. It is evidence of the religious majority intending to impose their beliefs on the rest of the community.

This ^ is what grinds my gears – a concerted effort, by a collective, to “maintain standards” for an entire community. This is grossly unfair.

Which apparently motivates me to speak up.

I’m also inspired to reach out to more of the people in my community who are not part of the religious majority, as well as to those inside the group machine who recognize this issue for what it is (essentially a non-issue for 99% of the population) to rally a united front to challenge the status quo. There is most certainly strength in numbers. We see it every day in our small community, as it is regularly used to dictate choices for us. I would love to see this strength used for the highest and best of all affected, but alas, it is not.

And if I can’t get what I’m after, I would at least like to understand better. I’ve asked countless questions from the opposition, only to be met with vacant eyes or an automated response that the city council isn’t listening to the people. Beyond that, there is no additional critical thinking. There are no solid, justifiable reasons for opposing updating the ordinance.

I know because I looked for them.

I asked, researched, contemplated.

Most of the opposition are absolutely unaffected by this change. One thing to consider is that I am also unaffected by this change. I don’t advocate for this because I want to go buy a drink at a bar on Sunday. I am the equivalent of nearly all of the opposition: completely unaffected by the change, yet fighting passionately for my desired outcome.

The burning question that remains is, “if this doesn’t affect you personally, then why do you have such a strong emotional response to it?”

And that, that right there, is question with a response I’d love to hear.