I had a standing offer for a complimentary drink at a fancy bar so I went out last night after work. It was a hellish day at the job I hold onto by a thread, part of a hellish week at same, and it was nice to step into the quiet, air-conditioned familiarity of this upscale, local watering hole, even though I had jeans and a t-shirt on. Though there is a dress code there, they don’t care what you wear too much, so long as you conduct yourself properly. And that I do. I started up a conversation with the people next to me. One guy was in town from another state, a high school government teacher in Tennessee and a big fan of Cleveland. He’s been coming to visit the couple he was with for more than 20 years, once or twice a year, and has watched our city grow and change with an outsider’s eyes. He loves what we have become and fears for our safety in the coming week as much as any of the residents. Being a government teacher, they are going downtown to get some pictures of the Republican National Convention decor that’s sprouted up everywhere. They asked for some advice on best/worst spots and restaurants, and, being the amateur tour guide I am, I gave them some pointers. They shook my hand and were glad to meet me and we had a wonderful conversation about world affairs, Cleveland, politics. This is what our city is really like, why I love living here so. It isn’t because of the sweltering summer heat or the frigid, icy winters, though I do enjoy the change in seasons. It’s the people.
I went home and managed to get outside and see another beautiful sunset just before the light disappeared. I’ve been trying to do that more this summer, to connect with nature and feel more grounded as my life is in turmoil and much of what I thought this year would look like is not taking shape as I imagined. It helps me deal with the changes and forces me to take a few minutes and breathe, the air scrubbed clean by the massive amount of nearby trees, and ground on top of the hill warm and rough when I sit down on it to meditate a few moments.
I’ve felt for some time there should be some small role I could play in protesting the hatred and divisiveness that many people coming into my town represent, but hadn’t found the right fit. I applied to be part of an art happening, but wasn’t selected to participate. There is a peace rally on Sunday, but I have my son, and do not feel comfortable taking him downtown – he is reckless and careless and heavy to carry if we have to run somewhere quickly. Many places I know to escape anything bad that might happen will be closed or overrun with people so it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. But now there is an opportunity, albeit a small one, and so I will carve my space out with a friend and we will make a statement together.
I cannot defend my city, I cannot convince large groups of people to change their mind who judge others and have hate in their hearts. But I can stand up for what I believe is right, I can demonstrate love and represent my city proudly, even if only for a short time. I will do so on Wednesday, in front of the Westboro Baptist “Church” representatives.