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When being nice is really, really hard

Yes, I wear my BE NICE button whenever I leave the house. Yes, it forms the core of my platform. I want to be Mayor so that I can make Corning a more caring community, one in which citizens look out for each other and their environment. One in which we are all aware of our surroundings, and take action when we see something wrong.

But the last few days have been hard.

My first serious job was working for The Star newspaper in Johannesburg. They had a column called Star Line, a really clever idea to help your average Joe cut through red tape. Basically, citizens would call us to complain that they had been waiting six weeks to have their phone/bath/water heater/whatever installed. We would then contact the relevant organization and ask what the problem was. If the outcome was good, we would publish a positive report. If not, they got some negative coverage. For the most part, it worked extremely well. With one exception. The majority of requests for help we got were from poor (in its broadest sense) blacks who had run afoul of the authorities because their work papers were not in order. And there was nothing we could do. I quit after just a few months and turned to politics. That didn't last very long as I voluntarily left the country (yes, dissidents were deported).

The point is that I couldn't take the feeling of helplessness, the inability to make a difference.

So what has happened recently? On Friday I was made aware of police harassment, if not wrongful arrest and the effect that is having on the family involved. Walking the streets and knocking on doors, I have seen that inequality is as prevalent in Corning as it is elsewhere. I have seen how shabby the city is. I went to a public hearing on Local Law #2 of 2019, amending Local Law #1 of 2015. The hearing lasted less than a minute because there were no comments from the public (all three of them present). I would have commented, but I have been unable to find out what either law is about.

Yesterday my services were summarily dispensed with at an hour's notice, which I didn't get because my phone was muted while I knocked on doors/attended the Council meeting. My comments were not very nice.

I have an ongoing issue with my bank, which is pretty good in most ways. However, they have recently made changes to their automatic answering system and it is now impossible to talk to a representative about an issue that is not one of the four options. You are invited to go to the website for "all other" queries, or to contact the bank between the hours of ....... That is what I was trying to do! I can't talk to them but my phone can - and does - talk to me. Again, my comments are not very nice.

And something else happened over the weekend. Two white men shot 83 people, 31 of whom are dead. And the White Supremacist in Chief had the audacity to address the nation, read (poorly) from a large television screen, and say that hate has no place in America.

So what am I trying to say? Mostly I am venting, but deep down there is the persistent feeling that this is currently not a very nice country.

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