Letter: ‘I believe’ can be the start of advocacy

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Contrast is like a gold mine, always unveiling new riches if you keep digging.

I acknowledge and appreciate the sentiment in Mr. Carl Mumpower’s letter [“‘I Believe’ Isn’t Real,” April 14, Xpress] and offer the suggestion that “belief” and “real action” are born of the same mother. Tangible action that is inspired by values instead of self-promotion is a pathway for authentic transformation and connection. That said, I’ll offer my own epilogue to that letter and also preface that I am not a trained psychologist but have lived 41 years soaking in the experience of life, both good and sorrowful. And, for what it is “worth,” I am a native of Asheville who loves this place, has seen the world beyond it and cares about our region’s future.

I also honor the responsibility of knowing that this privilege of nativism is really only how much you care about a place and your connection to it; it does not bestow on any of us the innate privilege to judge others on their actions, beliefs or how recently they moved to town. In my case, this connection exists for generations before and beyond me through my elders and children. I believe that we choose our own actions and that acting on these beliefs embodies an inspiration that shame and righteousness have no motor to catch.

Words such as “I believe” can be the start of advocacy. Bumper sticker activism may not be proverbial “skin in the game” and may make us feel good selfishly, but can also reflect the beginning of awareness. We should take it for what it is and not shun this open door. This kind of judgment reflects the isolation and fragmentation we see in our world today.

Anytime these feelings arise of judging, of self-righteousness, of “others,” I’d encourage anyone to start with curiosity and ask questions. Exhibit the bravery of vulnerability to understand that perspectives exist beyond our personal horizons. Engaging others is natural to us as humans, albeit in an array of approaches, and it’s our individual responsibility to choose how we do it. We may not always understand where others are coming from, but to assume they are “wrong” or “right” or “less than” without this curiosity is really to give ourselves short shrift in the delight of being connected in this world.

In my experience with community work, I used to get aggravated with ribbon-cutters and 95-yard-line volunteers. After putting in hours and hours bringing a project or initiative to fruition, how dare these folks launch in for the feel-good photo-op at the end? Where was the recognition of all the boots on the ground putting in work by the midnight oil? Then I spoke with a wise organizer who reminded me in a gentle way that it takes all of us.

How would our vision ever come to light if those volunteers didn’t rush in to provide all hands on deck to push across the finish line? How would they get there in the first place if it didn’t make them feel good? How would the political road be paved for the work itself if those ribbon-cutters had not glad-handed in the first place? How would we all be inspired to action if we didn’t “believe?”

This all begs the question: What can those who feel they’re “in the know” do to facilitate opportunities for engagement?

We are all interconnected and whether we choose to believe it or not, our destinies truly are intertwined. Ecology is undeniable. There has been a lot of profit made promoting the opposite. In the clear light of today, when we have the ability to know of events and information around the globe in a heartbeat, the notion that our differences contrast is self-evident. It’s what we choose to do with this knowledge that will impact our individual and collective experiences.

It takes a village, and we are all in this together. I’d prefer to see our bumper sticker subculture as a heads-up instead of taking it as literal activism. Because, in the end, “Don’t postpone joy.”

— Chip Howell



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