Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Popping Bubbles

I spent a little time outside the Bubble last night. The "Columbubble", that is. My daughter had a rehearsal in Towson and I found myself killing time at the Putty Hill Panera and thinking how rarely I leave Howard County these days. Trying to get from Columbia to Towson at six in the evening is a serious disincentive--how grateful I am that I no longer have a daily commute.

Anyway--bubbles. In addition to the Columbia kind, I've been thinking of the kind of Bubble that blogger Tom Coale wrote about this summer.

The Bubble is "us". It is the 500 to 800 people across the County that pay attention to hyper-local politics, talk about hyper-local politics, and can name at least three members of the Board of Education (if we were a club, that would be the pass-code). We pay attention to each and every move a candidate makes and will look at campaign literature more than once after it arrives in our mailbox. If you're reading this, you are at the pinnacle of the bubble - you cannot get enough of this stuff.

This post, along with Ian Kennedy's response, challenged my views on the election and my part in it more than anything else that has been written in the last year. In fact, after I read it I felt myself at a dead stop. How much of my writing was Bubble-chatter? Did it have any broader relevance? After all, being in the Bubble is

...not always a good thing...The Bubble distorts things. It makes you see things that aren't there. It builds confidence in places of great doubt. And it is most deceptive around election season.

I've been thinking a lot about another piece, too. This editorial from the Howard County Times truly irked me when it was published following the primary. "Howard candidates would be wise not to ignore the storm clouds", they stated.

Humph! I remember reading this and being annoyed by what I found to be a rather patronizing tone. It came across to me like Dad sitting behind his newspaper, offering tidbits of wisdom without actually putting down the newspaper to see what was going on. "They don't live here!" I thought. "They don't really know what it's like."

Now I re-read it and think, "ouch." Although I'm still not too keen on the tone, I see that familiar suggestion that perhaps politicians and their supporters are too immersed in the Bubble to see clearly. Ian's words come to mind:

I obviously still care deeply about our community and our opportunities but what I've found myself doing is trying to separate my work and my ideals from my emotions. The bubble makes that hard. The bubble asks you to pick sides; to engage in small matters that seem big because the bubble is a grind; the bubble is non-stop.

The results of the election were a big smack upside the head for many inside the Bubble. For me, it has been necessary to take a step back and rethink my part in all that. For others, rebuilding the Bubble is the first priority.

And so it goes.


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