I wear a name tag for one of my jobs. I imagine this is the case for many other islanders who would also benefit from more equitable and affordable local housing. When I work, I am not anonymous. And that is fine; that is the nature of a social job. But I feel the weight of my name tag when I read an article in the paper, feel moved to respond to it, and know that I can not.
Last year, after reading a particularly upsetting article in The Journal about the current state of affordable housing, I responded with a letter to the editor. I ended the article as I had to, with my name. Several weeks later, a staff person from the office of Rep. Rick Larsen contacted me by email, I imagine because my article spoke directly, and not entirely favorably, to Larsen. At the time, I felt flattered that my voice had been heard. Now I am not so sure.
In that case, I was basically anonymous. After I replied, graciously yet interested in further discussion, I did not receive response. Ever. And that is fine; Larsen is not my neighbor. I am not worried about offending him and then having to face him in town.
But if Larsen had been an islander, what then? I’ll tell you what — I would not have written what I wrote. This is the same logic that keeps me from responding to other articles or op-ed pieces on affordable housing. This is what the weight of a nametag feels like. I have something to say but I can not say it.
Unlike more complicated issues like affordable housing, the solution to this problem seems much simpler: anonymous op-ed pieces. If our community wants to have an honest discussion on affordable housing, or on any other issue, we need to open the podium to all voices — even those who bear the weight of their nametags. And on this, I will certainly sign my name.
San Juan Island