July 7, 2014 § 3 Comments
It was not an innocent conversation.
He is younger, I am a woman. I have lived in the neighborhood more than twenty years; the oldest of the newcomers. He is the newest, and wanting bad, to put his stink on his place, a second home in the country.
It is more or less than a neighborhood beef.
It was civil. Metered. He owns and manages his own business, clearly sees himself as a good communicator, but he doesn’t attend to the nuances. Nuance is my metier, was my profession, is my passion, pricks my curiosity feeds me lures me seduces me, is my drug of choice and I get it and savor it wherever and whenever I can.
Ironically my argument brooked no nuance whatever, needed none. What he had done was wrong. And I’ve come to learn in that instance once said, little else needs saying. Wrong is wrong. But, it still is a matter of opinion. A matter of culture. Of values. Of bearing. Of citizenship. Of how do you know. How do I know. Eeny meeny miny moe. Same neighborhood. Different world.
He said he had the right to have an open campfire on his property.
No question. I said. And lawful. Warming or cooking fires are.
But not the whole story. It is a hot dry July in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record, fire danger is EXTREME, water is scarce, and his property is under Redwood and low hanging Bay trees in the middle of a populated neighborhood. And the afternoon wind was still blowing. Sparks were flying. And one of the neighbors, scared, called the fire department. We all were worried.
In full regalia they came, and left. He is within his rights to have a cooking or a warming fire on his property.
But, had we asked them, if having a fire under these conditions was prudent, or a reasonable risk, they would have said no. He agreed. But thought it was his right to take this risk. We all take risks he said.
But, personal risks which implicate others are no longer personal. Behaviors which can inflict harm on others are inherently a public matter; the rights and good of the many instead of the rights and pleasures of one. The very building blocks of community. Of civility. Of respect.
I said his having a fire was wrong.
He said he had the right.
I said, given the conditions it was wrong, and disrespectful.
He wondered if there was anything he could do to allay my fears.
I said, wait for the rains.
He thought I was taking it too personally. He’d never had a fire get out of control. And he, wanting to be honest said it was likely he would continue to have campfires any time he wanted.
As I expected.
Not an innocent conversation. It is the changing of the guard. A young man unto himself, proud of the sovereignty he has a right to. Me, elder at the outpost, responsible now to the good of the many and the differences between right and wrong.