There’s some turmoil happening in my town of Scarborough right now as things have begun to unravel. Hundreds if not thousands of people are going to be signing petitions over the next twenty days to have school board members recalled. From the article: “The ‘Road to Renewal’ Facebook group says its main objective is to force the resignation of the superintendent and the reinstatement of the high school principal.” Wayne and I will be among those signing the petitions. If you’d like to learn more about why, you can see my Facebook post here.
In church last Sunday the sermon was about Jesus turning the tables in the unholy marketplace in the sacred temple. There’s nothing angelic about turning a blind eye to injustice in the name of a false peace. I’m not talking about personal relationships in this post but rather policies and processes of governing bureaucracies.
This all got me thinking about the times I’ve stood up to formidable “foes” in my life. More times than not I’ve been the underdog.
As an example, in 2010 when the state of Maine became one of the first to mandate that all customers have their analog electric meters swapped out with a new “smart meter,” I single-handedly (after canvassing to get the required signatures) took on my utility, Central Maine Power. What prompted my initial concern was that I read a few news stories about smart meter fires occurring on homes with older wiring. I made contact with the fire departments named in the stories to get the official reports. At the same time, I read the local job description for the meter installers that my utility’s contractor was hiring: no experience or licenses required. What?!
I contacted the Maine Public Utilities Commission with my concerns through their formal channels, and it became clear that there were questions worthy of “discovery.” What followed was months of technical conferences and public hearings. I was questioned and challenged by their attorneys during those hearings. Because I knew that I had legitimate safety concerns that didn’t affect just me, I knew I was in the right. It wasn’t that *I* was right. It wasn’t about me. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we keep our egos in check, big or small.
There were important and meaningful changes that came as a result of my prolonged research and presentations. A big one, besides better oversight of their contracted employees, is that it influenced the PUC determination that utility customers would have the right to opt-out of a smart meter (for a fee).
I want to share some of the things I’ve learned about trying to create positive change when it seems impossible:
Maintain your poise and composure. That doesn’t mean you won’t be nervous, nor does it mean you won’t stumble. If you are prone to being a klutz, verbally or otherwise, own it and be able to laugh at yourself in the presence of those with whom you disagree. Then, once in private, you can work on your coordination (or sense of humor), but only in the spirit of self-improvement and not self-flagellation.
Openly acknowledge that you may be “small” in stature/power while “quietly” demonstrating the might of being in the right. People can argue with words but a calm and assured approach can be disarming. The size of a fight doesn’t necessarily correspond with measurable material assets.
Appreciate and pay attention to the people you meet in your path. I’ve made some wonderful connections and friendly alliances along the way.
You can’t keep from being baited into pointless bickering if you don’t learn to recognize what your “favorite” bait looks like. Put another way, are you prone to become emotional if someone questions your integrity? Are you easily distracted by a sexy side argument that has no bearing on you reaching your goal?
What I’ve learned is that oftentimes those foes were comprised of people, some really wonderful, a minority of others not, employed within a dysfunctional system.
We’re not sure how things will unfold in our town, but I can say that from what I’ve seen so far, the vast majority of people living in Scarborough are full of integrity, passion and want what’s best for all. I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in a brainstorming session with community leaders and consultants on how to best facilitate civil discourse. I’ve been talking more with my neighbors. Already there are many positives! Also, look at this moving video created by the high school students who love their principal, Mr. Creech. We stand with Creech and with what is right which is to let him stay.
What about you, dear readers? Do you have any suggestions or experiences to share with “turning the tables” in your life?