I find myself thinking more and more of my eldest brother James. I was the youngest of 3 and the only girl, and he took his big brother duties pretty serious. Growing up in Detroit, there were many bad decisions and wrong turns I could have made, and he equipped me as best as possible to avoid them…even though he didn’t do this for his own life.
I was a pretty timid kid, the peacemaker of the family and the one they seemed to seek some level of approval from. Going into my teenage years like this could have meant a different life from the one I have now. James, however, taught me two very important lessons (of many) that shape the way I look and go about things: never make a decision you’re not willing to own and not to complain if I’m not willing to do something about it.
Those two lessons have helped me make relatively good life decision. I graduated high school, went away to college and moved to different parts of the country to get a better understanding of people and life. I took risks in career, community and social justice. I allowed myself to be an independent thinker without fearing the consequences, which also allows me to think ‘big picture’.
I’ve been a politically active democrat for years, from volunteering in different ways to running for office. This is where the ‘happy troublemaker’ was born. While I got to know and befriend many influential political leaders, I sometimes drew their ire when I wouldn’t ‘tow the line’. There would be candidates and initiatives that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but would be asked to just vote the way they were anyway. The first time this happened, I felt pretty intimidated, but remembered that first lesson James taught me about owning decisions. I can’t blame anyone for decisions that I make, so I better be willing to stand up for those choices for better or for worse.
There are other times where I’ve seen activities I don’t like or felt underrepresented. Complained about it a lot, to the point of my own annoyance. Again, James’ voice would echo in my head: either do something about it or shut up already! So, I started doing something about it. I haven’t always been successful when I take action, but at least I took it!
That brings me to today. While the presidential and statewide elections makes me sad on so many levels, it’s the local activity that troubles me most. I don’t consider myself an expert in politics and elected life, but I understand the concept of ‘majority rules’ and looking at what’s best for the whole (recognizing you can never make 100% of the people happy). I’m not used to living in a city where its city council is so openly divided to the point of disillusionment. How have we gotten from majority vote rules to majority vote rules…unless it doesn’t fit my point of view?
This line of thinking in destructive and doesn’t promote community. How can our representatives promote being inclusive in one statement then illustrate divisiveness in the next? What’s the overall message? This isn’t pointed at any particular representative because, frankly, there are many on the local and state level that are doing this.
I imagine that James and I would have spent a lot of brother/sister time talking about all of this, and he would joke about half of it, give me words of encouragement in my own activities and somehow find a silver lining of inspiration in all of this. Unfortunately, he passed away much too soon back in 2009. I do my best to honor him and the sacrifices he made in his life to give me a better one by being the happy troublemaker he groomed me to be.