How to Love Where You Live: Wave Your Sign
No matter the cause, standing up for what you believe in is a powerful way to show you care about your community.
Every week, author Melody Warnick melds research and personal experience to share a new tip, experiment or habit to help you build community and love where you live. You can find links to previous How to Love Where You Live articles right here.
Snow is falling fast as the rally starts, and the sound system isn’t working right. “We can’t hear you!” people yell. “Speak louder!” Eventually a megaphone is produced, and the hundred of us who have gathered in a blocked-off street downtown grow quiet so we can hear as the names of the 17 victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, are read aloud.
My 16-year-old daughter made a sign for March for Our Lives that says, “No more silence, end gun violence.” Classic. But honestly, the signs I love most are the ones that say things like “So bad even the introverts are here,” and “Not really a sign guy but geez.” Because, let’s admit it, rallies are a little awkward. (I’m always like, “Oh, are we chanting now? We’re chanting.”)
Also, politics feel so darn personal these days. Why am I even talking about this when I’m supposed to be talking about loving where you live? Increasingly, politics and place attachment are inseparable. Studies show that we’re more likely to move to a town whose politics match our own. Half of conservatives and 35 percent of Democrats admit that it’s important to them to be in the political majority in their city.
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That’s not just knee-jerk political isolationism. That’s a genuine place love strategy. One marker of place attachment is feeling that “People in this town are my kind of people.” Of course you like a place where three out of four of your neighbors agree with your most deeply held viewpoints. How affirming is that? So we silo ourselves into geographic echo chambers, where enough of our neighbors agree with us that we can smugly ignore the ones who don’t.
It’s easy to see how waving your “Love Kids, Not Guns” sign at the local March for Our Lives rally offers a handy Love Where You Live experiment for the impassioned gun-control supporter. Listening to people I know — a couple friends, plus the state delegate whose hand I shook outside my polling place last November — give knockout speeches makes me feel all kinds of proud of my town. These are exactly what I could call “my kind of people.”
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As the snow accumulates on my knit hat, I have this powerful sense of our own collective efficacy, the communal action that leads to change. Maybe that’s why I recommend taking local political action as a Love Where You Live experiment, even though I know that it’s always a double-edged sword. Marching, rallying, or voting for a cause you care about feeds place attachment for those who agree with you while degrading it for those who don’t. I’ve seen that effect. Red friends in blue communities feel lonely. Blue friends in red communities feel unheard.
But even when we disagree, there’s power in showing up to wave the sign for your cause, with your kind of people — even if they’re different than the signs I show up with. Becoming politically active for the cause you care about means you’re concerned enough about your community’s well-being to try to effect real change. You don’t do that if you’re just “meh” about your town. No matter what your sign says, you only come out in the snowstorm if you really love where you live.