Today, in going through our mail, I discovered that our neighbors' mail had accidentally been left in our mailbox. I will return it tomorrow, unopened -- that goes without saying. However, a quick glimpse at the envelopes as I was sorting their mail from ours left me a bit stunned. To say the least, I did not need names and house numbers to tell what, in that pile, was not addressed to me. "Did you that the ACLU had declared WAR on America?" one enveloped bellowed in large, ornate gold lettering. "Don't stand by while Planned Parenthood takes lives!" ordered another, peeking from between a Christmas chachke catalogue and an order form for imported chocolates.
We have lived next to these very nice people for over two years. They are sweet, unobstrustive people who smile at my children and bring us an obnoxiously large poinsettia every year at Christmas. I have trouble picturing the sweet, distracted, orange-haired older woman and her quiet, sweat-panted husband taking political action of any kind. I have trouble seeing them form any opinion at all. And yet there they are, next door, sending their scant savings to organizations espousing values I find intolerable and abhorrent. I feel like I ought to occupy my own front lawn; do a teach-in for the neighborhood, supported by the other overeducated atheist two houses down, before we drown in a sea of neighbors who think that their mail is normal, that their beliefs would disturb nobody, that they have a hold on "values" -- whatever that might mean.
Or should I occupy the library, which refuses to carry Dan Savage's ridiculously inoffensive "The Kid" but hands out Veggie Tale DVD's and Left Behind books like they were Chiclets.
Perhaps I could occupy our PTO meetings, where everyone knows everyone else from church, and where it is assumed that buying a biography of the sitting US President for the school library would be offensive to most parents.
What amazes me is the juxtaposition of loving kindness and human decency on a human scale with ignorance and intolerance in politics and the public arena. How can my poinsettia-bearing neighbor assume that the ACLU is bent on waging war? Does she have a firm handle on so much as the definition of the term "Civil liberties"? Can the kindly, sweet librarians truly think that a book on open adoption, filed with other adult non-fiction, will corrupt something essential about the community they serve? Can the PTO moms, in their khakis and SUV's and eternal fundraisers really want their children not to know as much about their current leaders as they do about George Washington and FDR?
The sad thing is that I will occupy nothing. I will give in to the librarians and buy my own Dan Savage book. I will sit at the PTO meeting, or skip it, and vote my conscience, but not really make a big stink. I will return our neighbors' mail without a comment, except perhaps a joke at the postman's expense. It is not even cowardice on my part, though there is some of that. I am concerned about my children feeling the cold shoulder from people who are a daily, innocuous presence in their lives. But more than that, it is a frustration and an anticipation of disappointment. I can occupy things till I'm blue in the face, I can shout basic truths from the rooftops. But if I did, I would have to face the blankness on my audience's faces.
I live among people who are not afraid of the New Apostolic Reformation, but are afraid of the ACLU. Who don't know what I mean when I try to explain that not everything posted on the Internet is the truth, even if their teacher at Liberty College says so. That anecdotal evidence and statistical evidence are not equivalent, and that statistics can be manipulated and misrepresented. Perhaps I should stop thinking of occupying anything. Perhaps I should occupy no space in this state at all. Perhaps I should pack up my family and move. It would be peaceful to live among my own kind, with their mail undistinguishable from my own. But is that the right thing for my family? And should that be the price we all pay?