KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speak Up for Yourself

Two things will always make my fur stand on end in relationships, whether personal or business: dishonesty (both lying by commission and by omission; see George W. Bush & Co., for example) and lack of assertiveness. My colleague Dick Margulis, in discussing the latter issue, writes:

As freelance consultants we are not servants to our clients. If you put yourself in that position relative to your client, the client will devalue your services, impose on your time for favors, pay slowly or short, and generally treat you like a bathmat. Make it an adult–adult relationship, not a parent–child relationship. In an adult–adult relationship, you, as the freelance, are empowered to help the client behave in a less entitled manner. Try it. You’ll like it.

It’s not just some freelancers who act this way. I see it in certain older relatives, whom I’d expect, by virtue of their long life experience, to stand firm when sales clerks or bosses or personal physicians try to treat them as powerless children. I see it in their adult son, who, in his mid-forties, is just now realizing that his boss of 13 years doesn’t own him. I see it in friends my age who describe intolerable issues in personal relationships but do not stand up for themselves and their needs.

I see it in fellow Americans who stew about the mess this country’s in but are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being called unpatriotic.

My husband (Ed) and I bought the house we live in from his parents more than a decade ago. A couple of decades before that, they'd installed a 30-foot flagpole in the front yard, and they often flew the American flag from it.

When Ed and I took ownership of the house and his parents moved into the apartment we built into the downstairs, we continued their tradition of flying the flag, but we added a world peace flag (with the word peace in many languages on it).

When Bush stole into office the first time, we flew the American flag upside down for a week as a symbol of national distress. And then we took it down because we were ashamed of what we could see that Bush, who hides behind the flag, was beginning to do to our country and to international relations. Just after 9/11, when there was a nationwide frenzy of flying American flags, we flew only the world peace flag because we were very afraid of what Bush would do in the name of 9/11 and we didn't like the way many Americans were using the national flag to show a sort of national machismo. Our American flag won't go up again until Bush leaves office.

About 2 months ago, we ordered a custom flag—yellow with black lettering, 3 feet by 5 feet, and not cheap—that reads: Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!

Some think I should be afraid to fly such a flag. But I’m desperate for America to change course, so I’m not scared. And the older I get, the less I care what others think of my political stance. (Of course, it helps that I live in a middle-class suburb instead of in a nation under siege by foreign soldiers [think Iraq] or by rebel nationals who kill people for taking political stances.)

But most of all, I fly that flag because I want an adult–adult relationship with my government. If it treads on my boundaries, I speak up. I wish you would too.


Dick Margulis said...

You go girl!

Ever since WW II, we've been on a steady swing toward individualism, narcissism, and perpetual adolescence. We've turned into a nation of golden retrievers begging our masters for permission. It's time for the pendulum to start swinging back toward the communitarian ideal of an educated, adult citizenry governing itself for the benefit of all.

TFLS said...

Courage comes in many colors and many forms. Yours, it seems will be on display in yellow and black. Remember to post a picture of it flying. You might get some flack for it - so please remember to be careful. Bush's intolerance of any opposition had given voice to people who previously would have been ashamed to have their prejudices on view for all the world to see. They not only get away with that - they get away with violence as well - so tread lightly, my dear; at least until you see what the reaction is. I wouldn’t want you or any member of your family hurt.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Well, FLS, no reaction at all from the neighbors in the last couple of months. And hey ... we've been the neighborhood rebels for a good many years now.

We fly a rainbow-striped banner from one of the front windowsills that reads: We the people say NO to the Bush agenda! Mail carriers, overnight couriers, and pizza delivery people alike compliment us on it and say they agree with it.

The only time anyone's shown anger about our display of politics was about two years ago near Christmas. Every year, the local firefighters deck out a few fire trucks, and one firefighter dresses as Santa. The trucks slowly drive through the neighborhood, sirens blaring, while Santa and some elf firefighters toss candies to any kids who go outdoors to see them. On the Santa miniparade two years ago, all the firefighters were smiling until one of them caught sight of our rainbow banner. Then a bunch of them began gesturing angrily toward our house.

We hope that they'd show up speedily should our house ever catch fire. We also hope we never have to find out.

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