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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where One Stands Depends on Where One Sits

I write this entry as a father to a son.  As you go through life an essential thing to grasp is that embodied in the phrase “Where one stands depends on where one sits.”  This is always true though were one sits is not always obvious.

In the South during the Civil Rights movement, not every white was opposed to the termination of Jim Crow laws.  Of course, some were, including prominent congressmen of the South.  But some like my parents; though they were Southerners (my father grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, my mother in Arkansas then northern Florida) were seated in the Christian teachings of the Methodist church.  Thus, their stands on civil rights were very different from some congressmen with their vested interest in white only voting and the status quo.  My parents saw in Martin Luther King, Jr. a fellow Christian, not an agitator.

I would like to point out that when you were growing up, you and I, though one family, still “sat” in very different spots—you were in the role of a son and child, I was in the role of parent and adult.  By the very nature of things, we could not always see eye to eye.  Sometimes you would get frustrated with me; sometimes I would get frustrated with you.  Because of where we sat, we occasionally had very different points of view.

I suggest that you consider how this plays out in your present situation.  There are inmates in one role, and the prison staff in another.  To a large extent, how you “see things” depends on where you sit.  If by magic you could change places with a staff member tomorrow, no doubt you (suddenly finding yourself as a member of prison staff) and the staff member (suddenly finding themselves as an inmate) would find many of the ways you view things changing to align with your new positions.  For example how you respond to the following statements may undergo change:  “The prison staff is unreasonable.”  “The inmates are unreasonable.”  You may find your responses to these and many other viewpoints dramatically changing—where one stands depends on where one sits.

The relationship of management and labor is another example.  Despite monumental efforts to create an “on the same team” concept, there is some inevitable division of interests.  A lot of how one sees things depends on where one sits—in management or labor.  So, son, I would ask that you consider this principle when navigating life and especially when you are tempted to view those in another role as “pea brain stupid.”  Just ask yourself, if I were in their role, would my thinking be much different?  Or is this mainly a case of “Where one stands depends on where one sits?”

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