Okay, stop. Take a moment. Breathe.
If you identify as a progressive person -- especially if you're a progressive person who is closely involved in progressive politics -- I want you to relax your shoulders and pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a great, big hug.
It's hard doing what we do. And I don't mean fighting the monsters on the right. Sure, dragon slaying is tiring; pulling the plug on the oligarchs, taxing. But I'm not talking about that here.
Here, in this moment, I'm talking about the work we do together. I'm talking about the progressive power meeting...
I've been working from DC the past couple of days -- it's so funny how quickly the pace and feel of this city sucks you back in! Since Tuesday morning, I've been in meeting after meeting after meeting. Always with good people, always for great change.
As you might imagine, I've had a lot of time to reflect the past 72 hours on the dynamics of such meetings. And I've noticed this:
We progressives have a really uncomfortable relationship with power. At the same time that we oppose the consolidation of power in the hands of a few, we encourage the development of power in the hands of many. That's great -- I'm totally on board.
But we also still operate in a world in which people generally react positively to certain displays of power -- call these displays confidence, charge, expertise, leadership, and whatever else fits.
For instance, people generally recognize that strong leadership is a good thing, whether we're talking about a progressive cause or not. But progressives, in particular, also tend to be wary of strong personalities. In my meetings, it was so interesting to watch people delicately try to move the group forward even when moving the group forward was their charge. You might call this delicate balance of push and coax "passive control."
And here's why I find this so interesting. More often than not, even when we all follow the unwritten rules of progressive deliberation, we still see the "traditionally" strong personalities, the "natural-born leaders" as the go-to people in the group. After meetings in which everyone was outwardly respectful of process and people who take a lot of time to get their points across or go "off topic," colleagues of mine would come up to me and discuss working more closely with "so-and-so strong leader" and not feeling all that confident about working with "so-and-so not so strong personality."
In the words of some, "I'm not judging, I'm just saying." Rather, I'm just pointing to what I see is a curious aspect of our political and community culture -- be it LGBTQ focused or not. From our experience of disempowerment at the hands of more insidious, perhaps majority forces, I believe we've grown gun shy towards hard-charging personalities, people who seem like they're going to take over our groups, take over our agendas, and reify our experiences of powerlessness, even if they share our political goals and beliefs. (And even though I still don't like her, perhaps Hillary is an example of one of these people...?)
And, sure, one progressive can oppress another. There are racial, gender, class, sexuality and other dynamics that always play out. That said, I always find it interesting when I feel knots in my stomach, deciding in a deadlock whether it's time to pipe up and suggest we close on the matter, and then afterwards have multiple people come up and commend me for "getting it done."
So what's the deal? Do others find this hesitation, yet ultimate appreciate for strength in leadership and personality to be true for progressive folks? Do you find this problematic, fine, better than fine, or do you just plain not care? If the latter, might I suggest you ask yourself this:
Are you one of those "natural-born leaders," yourself? ;)