Those Rooted Here Most Vital to Growth
Among a world of critics are the die-hards who just don’t give up
“Judge not lest ye be judged” is something most of us have probably heard. Same with “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” as Jesus says in the Gospels. So, why do we criticize one another so much? For most of us, it’s probably because we’re doing it from a place of love, because we want the other person to be better.
But what happens when that “other person” we want to “be better” is the city or state that you call home? Or the elected officials you voted for?
Is being critical one of the worst kinds of negative thinking, talking and acting, where you’re just projecting all of your insecurities onto others? Does all of that criticizing make it easier to place blame somewhere else (or on someone else) for why your life isn’t all that you had hoped it would be?
Or is criticizing rooted in something else altogether? Are we called to be critical, for example, as good citizens?
The Supreme Court seems to think so. “Public discussion is a political duty,” the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be “uninhibited, robust and wide open” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
And our founding fathers thought so, as well, based on their own experience, that a well-informed public discussion is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.
The hope of the critic, plain and simple, is to inspire change through helping people rethink what seems obvious or assumed. If someone has a criticism, it’s often because they want to give feedback on what you’re doing for them (or to them). A voter offering criticism to their city councilman, for example, is an opportunity for the city councilman to learn more about the constituent, and how to possibly convert them into a more satisfied one (even though, yes, some folks seem like they only want to complain).
But talking about how our community is taxed too much, how some of its elected officials are corrupt, that government spends too much too foolishly, or that our city is littered with trash, isn’t because those complaining hate our community, or our state, or our country – in fact, it’s the opposite. And they have realized, as it is often said, “Life is a fight for territory. When you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want automatically takes over” – and that’s the fighting spirit at the heart of the critic.
Still, too many people take this criticizing “business” too far. I mean, the way some people talk about the city or their state – who in their right mind would want to even live there?
You see, it’s one thing to criticize from a place of love, and it’s something altogether different to be caught in “stinking thinking,” which is when we allow ourselves to be gripped by negative thoughts and emotions, making us feel defeated, discouraged and depressed. And “stinking thinking” can do that, indeed. After all, we are what we think about, just as it says in the Bible, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7).
And it turns out, the same principle is true for the places we call “home.”
In his book “Who’s Your City?” demographer Richard Florida divides people into three categories — the mobile, the stuck and the rooted. “We tend to focus on the first two: the mobile, who can pick up and move to opportunity, and the stuck, who lack the resources to leave where they are,” Florida says. “But we cannot forget about the rooted—those who have the means and opportunity to move, but choose to stay.”
And it’s those who are “rooted” – who choose to stay – that are essential to the success of any community; they are the ones you see who won’t stop being “critical” or fighting for what they want, because they know too well that life is a fight for territory, and they won’t be silenced by those who don’t. And thank God for that.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.