Thursday, January 3, 2013

Know the other guy's place

This blog is about knowing more about where you live – to know your place. The idea is that by knowing your place, you’re more likely to appreciate your place and to work toward stewardship of your place. It’s also about using place making as an economic development tool.

This past holiday break, we did our usual, wonderful, family visits. Our visits take us to quite contrasting places: a now 4th generation family farm in farm country where the farms are getting ever larger (‘tho not our family’s), to sprawling suburbs (including aging neighborhoods and newer neighborhoods that even have restrictive covenants), to a walkable, livable downtown area of a smaller town. Each place has its merits. We know each of those places; some were our own places at previous points in our lives.

It occurs to me that in addition to knowing your place, we should also get to know each other’s places, since in our family, place seems to be correlated to political leanings. Given the polarized politics we seem to have gotten ourselves into as a nation, maybe by knowing each others’ places, we can partly come to see things from the other guy’s  perspective and appreciate each other’s viewpoint. Where we’re from and how we have interacted with that place provides some insight into why we think the way we do. At college, ‘where are you from’ is often the first question new acquaintances ask one another (soon followed by ‘what’s your major?’) It’s not just small talk. Knowing someone’s background – i.e., their place -- and interests helps us know them. By getting to know each other, we may even come to realize that all those people who disagrees with us politically are not necessarily just idiots.  Well, not all of them anyway. 

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