It’s American to Welcome the Weirdos

In a previous post, I mentioned how Emily Hauser directed me to a revelatory article on introversion by Jonathan Rauch. One of the things I like about that piece is that it says to the planet-dominating extroverts, hey guys, it simply can’t just be about you. We have to figure out how we’re all going to be okay together (and in the Rauch piece, specifically it was about how intros and extros can get along in a relationship).

Maybe that’s what spurred Emily to write this, but it’s not mentioned. Either way, it feels really related: the idea that part of the very core of “America the concept” is that we take all kinds, and we strive to find ways to intertwine without getting tangled:

What we’ve been saying for the last six decades, with more and more people listening as the years fly and crawl by, is that all of this belongs to all of us. We all get to say what society is and does. We all get to set and then move the boundaries of what’s ok. We are — all of us, even (often) the straight, white dudes — rethinking and reshaping the social compact itself.

This strikes me as a fundamentally American thing to do — wasn’t Independence the breaking of one compact to build something new? Isn’t our very Idea rooted in an ever-expanding circle of rights and interconnected responsibilities? Our system is flawed, positively riddled with imperfections, but it’s structured to allow us to continuously fix those flaws. It’s fundamentally American to do so.

Now, introverts don’t need a civil rights movement, per se, we’re not oppressed. But we are dampened, and much of that is our own fault. I mean, we’re introverts after all! I guess what I’m saying, and what I see reflected in Emily’s writing here, is that there are many ways in which a dominant group can — even unwittingly — shut out another group, and that the onus is on all of us to correct that. And that’s whether we’re talking about politics and civil rights, or if we’re talking about one-on-one relationships and day-to-day, mundane interations.

One’s decibel level and quantity of communiqués should not determine one’s value to society, culture, the workplace, or within a relationship.
This is the work we do concerning the traits that continue to roil society and separate us (race, gender, sexual orientation, able-ness, religion, etc.), and thereby demand social and political change to bring things closer to fairness, to equalibrium.

Here’s an example of an “other” on the more subtle scale, not “oppressed” in the political sense. It’s been within my lifetime that being a “geek” was without question something to downplay, a label you did not want, but we saw what this “type” of person was capable of (in technology and the creative arts), and now it’s becoming a badge of honor. Most people didn’t want “geeks” around, seeing them as universally risible. Not anymore. We’re bringing them in, culturally, but it took the work on their part first to show their value, to claim social territory.

And this is an American thing to do, to recognize and foster the potential value of all types of people, seeing their difference from ourselves as a benefit — and it’s also probably an American “bootstrappy” thing to do to put a lot of the responsibility on the “others”. Even though we have failed and continue to fail in so many ways to live up to “The Idea,” and indeed the very folks who came up with The Idea failed too, we’ll keep trying.

So listen up, normals. Be nice to the weirdos in your life. Your country needs you.

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